Saturday, August 14, 2010

Orchids in a tropical garden

DBKU Orchid Garden , Kuching, Sarawak.

Orchids produce flowers that can last for weeks and even for a whole month. For that reason they are being loved the world over. In a tropical climate like Sarawak where there are no distinct seasons, orchids can be grown the whole year round. They can be very prolific and vigorous provided the necessary conditions are observed when one indulge in cultivating them for home gardens. How would you display them so that you and friends enjoy its showy, exotic and lasting flowers? Imagination, love and thoughtfulness about their habits and character are essential to have them proove their attractiveness.

Orchids have many uses apart from giving us much aesthetic pleasure. Orchids are grown for medicinal and culinary reasons. The well -known Vanilla Orchid ( Vanilla planifolia) produces vanillin used to flavour chocolate, ice-cream and cakes. The bulb of Arethusa bulbosa, a Japanese orchid is a good remedy for toothache. In many countries the orchid nurseries and gardens are important places to visit for tourists and orchid enthusiasts who come from far away destinations. Orchids arrangement make delightful table pieces, bouquet, corsage or 'bridal guard'. It is a thing of beauty that always brings us joy. ( Inset: Laeliocattleya 'Dorset Gold')

An orchid garden display setting at the DBKU Orchid Garden, Kuching.

Displaying orchids in towns or residential areas require a little bit of understanding on the requirements of these unique plants. Generally, species collected from cool altitudes do not grow well in hot lowland regions. Thus the environment may need to be modified by locating them in shaded or cooler areas of the garden. Other species can be displayed in a rockery concept as shown above and below. The Spathoglottis species are terrestrial or ground orchids and growing in limestone hills they are suitable specimens for garden rockeries. The most common of the Spathoglottis species is the Spathoglottis plicata and since they have been in cultivation for quite sometime, they are now available in colours of yellow, pink, purple or mauve and white and also combinations of yellow, orange and purple.

Spathoglottis plicata in various hues - yellow and purple, placed amidst rocks and an artificial stream for its modified environment.

Cut tree trunk acts as supporting structure for the orchids to get attached .

Heavy flowering of the "Golden Shower" (Oncidium 'Goldiana' ) on a 'dummy tree'.

Orchids can de displayed on a 'dummy tree' which is constituted of a few 'branches' made from hardwood species like our local "Belian" timber which is the hardest wood in Sarawak. The belian is not subject to rot despite being exposed to full sun or embedded in earth and could last many generations.

Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi with healthy roots.

Beautifully grown light purple Dendrobium orchid on a 'dummy tree' of belian wood wrapped with coarse coconut husks.

Suspended 'Belian' posts are useful when we need to move the orchids often to various locations around the house or garden. Like planting on dummy trees, the roots are attached to coconut husks or flattened stems of tree ferns and best fastened using nylon strings. Avoid using wires for tying because they rust and could be harmful to the roots and pseudobulbs. Select suitable orchid species that are epiphytic as they have roots that are well modified to enable them to hang in the air like the Oncidium species above. Oncidiums have flowers in a spray and it is the tiny golden 'dancing ladies' that make them attractive. Now Oncidiums are hybrided and come out in many new colours of rosy pink and purple from the familiar yellow.In Sarawak the most commonly grown hybrid is the Oncidium 'Goldiana' or "Golden Shower". There are also miniature oncidiums in the market. Oncidiums perform better in bright environment and some can take to full sunlight.

Big clay jars are ideal for large- sized orchids, above and below set in an orchid enclosure. The shelter is usually lined with netting to prevent the plants being scorched by direct sun rays.

Phius tankerville
Phaius orchids have large and attractively coloured fragrant flowers. They have large plicate leaves. From its thick and erect spike which arise from the pseudobulb are a series of 10-20 flowers. Note the shady and cool environment in which it thrives. Having them in large pots make re-potting less frequent.
Once caught in the fever and depending on one's interests and willingness to be challenged, orchid growing can be life-long hobby. Through trial and error, much money and ingenuity one can very slowly become an 'expert' on cultivating them. The interest can blossom into a semi-hobby or semi-commercial pastime because you can sell orchids and perhaps the income can self-sustain the maintenace expenditure and the purchase of more orchid types.

" A thing of beauty is a joy for ever;

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing."

( John Keats)

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