Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cymbidium Season

There is a season for everything.  In my garden, now is cymbidium season.   While the rest of the plants are just beginning to awake from their winter rest, these outdoor orchids are putting on a spectacular show. 

Cymbidium flowers have an incredibly long life span. When left outdoor under a protected area the blooms can last from four to six weeks depending on prevailing temperatures and available moisture. Based on my experience, they can outlive their desirability. With clean water, cut flowers have a vase-life of two to three weeks.

Cymbidiums prefer being outdoors where they can get bright lights but away from direct hot sun, gusty winds and frost.  Here in our Zone 9 area, night time temperatures still come close to freezing at times and the ornamental pear tree (Bradford) that provides a protective shelter in the summer is still bare at this time.  And although these orchids can withstand some frost, we usually move them into the patio for protection during the cold months of January-March and also for a little cover from direct sunlight.  When they are done blooming they go back where they can get as much sunlight as they can while temperatures are still below "scorching-levels". This arrangement works well for me since the patio is right next to the dining room window; we get to enjoy the flowers more. It is alright to bring the orchids indoors when they are bursting with flowers but they need to go back outside as soon as possible in order to keep the plants healthy and strong. Generally, I prefer to cut the flowers and leave the mother-plants outside. This way, next year's bloom is not compromised.

It is obvious from the pictures here that I need to learn the discipline of staking.  Staking is a process. It is not a one-time activity.  Success in staking can be achieved when the process is started when the spikes are short and then tied progressively higher as they lengthen.  Staked flower spikes look stately and elegant but the natural bent-look of their unsupported counterparts gives the appearance of freedom and playfulness in the cymbidium.  So it is a matter of preference.

  The name cymbidium comes from the ancient Greek word "kymbe" meaning hollow vessel - referring to the cupped base of the lip.  For that reason, cymbidium is also referred to as the boat orchid

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Spring Flowers Meet the Rain for the First Time

First Flowers:  Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera

After a record-breaking period of no measurable precipitation in our area, the rain has finally come this year. Between yesterday and today, some four inches of rain (and counting) has already blessed our soils.  For the first time this year, the soil is getting close to saturation within the root zone.  It is beautiful to see the leaves of the plants glisten under an overcast sky.  The colors of the flowers look more intense in the rain.  Even with just two rainy days, so far, signs of accelerated activity among the plants are now visible.

The plants seem to be singing in the rain right now.

HortiCOOlture - The Mutant Cactus

Fig. 1   Hibotan:  Gymnocalycium mihanovichii var.friedrichii 

Mutation happens when there is a sudden change in the DNA sequence of a gene which contributes largely to the diversity among plants.

Hibotan or Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii var. friedrichii) is a mutant cactus. This mutation is characterized by the absence of chlorophyll in the plant.  The colors of the normal Gymnocalycium range from green to greenish purple, but their mutated counterparts - lacking the green pigmentation - exhibit bright colors in yellow, pink, creamy-white, orange, or red. 

Plants are by nature autotrophs - capable of producing their own food through the process of photosynthesis. However, the absence of chlorophyll, a key component to photosynthesis, disqualifies the mutant cactus (Hibotan) from being a self-feeding organism.  On their own, they will not survive for more than a week since they cannot produce sugars for nourishment.  However, in spite of its inability to photosynthesize, the absence of the green pigmentation resulted in clear vivid coloration of the plant that mimics the vibrant hue of flowers.  Indeed, the colorful part of the Hibotan (Fig. 1) is not a flower.  On the contrary, it is a handicapped plant that is grafted to a physiologically functioning plant for nutritional support.  The composite plant with brightly colored scion on green stock creates an appearance of a cactus in bloom (Fig.1).

It is not a flower -- it is a chlorophyll-free cactus attached to a green stock.

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