Stanhopea Orchid Blooms Again

Mid-July last year George’s glorious Stanhopea stevensonii orchid bloomed for the first time. An epiphytic (plants that grow on other plants rather than rooting in soil) species orchid native to Colombia, each flower spike produces two large flowers. This year there are SIX flower spikes, and the first opened this morning!

Stanhopea stevensonii orchid

The rest of the flower spikes, in varying stages, should open over the next week.

Stanhopea stevensonii

You can see why they’re sometimes called upside-down orchids: the flower spikes grow downward and the flowers open facing down.

Stanhopea stevensonii orchid

A wonderful passage from Robert Lauri’s blog, Stanhopea Culture, describes the elusive scent:  “The fragrance of this Stanhopea is difficult to describe and smells sweet but rather chemical-like.  The fragrance is similar to sweet grass with trace amounts of fresh pine needles.” The strong scent helps attract its pollinator, the male euglossine bee, to the flower because it doesn’t bloom for long.

Stanhopea stevensonii

This is a video of George showing and talking about the orchid.






Joss Paper Print

A friend gave me a fat package of Chinese  Joss paper for my birthday. I’m sure you’ve seen the paper before – it’s very popular with collage artists. This scan doesn’t show the wonderful shine of the gold in the center.

Joss paper

You know my first thought: oooh, what am I gonna print onto that!? In printing on any new surface there are a few things to figure out. First, is this stiff enough to go through my printer without a backing? If not, I’d tape it onto a sheet of typing paper. Second, will the quality of the print be good enough? If not, I’d treat the surface with an inkjet coating like inkAID or Golden Paint’s Digital Ground.

I always try the quickest and easiest way first, which is to send it through the printer without coating it, and without a backing sheet. Then the fun part, figuring out what kind of image will work on the surface. I chose this new photo-painting I did of a stunning ladyslipper orchid that George grew for me.

Ladyslipper orchidI slid the paper into the printer and crossed my fingers that it would be sturdy enough not to crumple up. Phew — it went through with no problem at all!

Joss paper ladyslipper orchid

I like the effect – the background really dropped out, leaving mostly just the flowers and the dark border. The quality of the print could be improved by coating it with inkAID or Digital Grounds, but I was surprised at how close the color is, and the fact that it’s not as sharp as the original doesn’t really matter for this image, I think. I shot a photo holding it sideways to catch more of the glimmer of the gold. The fact that the border of the image lined up almost exactly with the edge of the gold was a lucky accident. I estimated where to place it, but didn’t measure exactly – which I would do for a more planned-out piece.

Joss paper ladyslipper orchidThe package my friend gave me also has some sheets with silver in the middle, so I’ll try that next! What creative projects are you working on these days?

Pop Goes the Orchid

George proudly announced to me a couple of weeks ago that an orchid he has been nurturing in the garden sent out two flower spikes for the first time. Meet Stanhopea stevensonii, an epiphytic (plants that grow on other plants rather than rooting in soil) species orchid native to Colombia.

Stanhopea stevensoniiA friend said they look like a ballerina’s feet, and I agree! They’re quite large, about 3 and half inches. You can tell from this photo that the flower spikes grow downward out of the bottom of the basket. For that reason, this wikipedia article explains, they’re sometimes called upside-down orchids.

Here’s a closeup.

Stanhopea stevensonii flowerThen we waited … and waited …  George was afraid they weren’t going to open, and I had to hold him back from peeling one apart! Patience paid off, and nearly a week later bloom day arrived. It was worth the wait! The flowers are spectacular.

Stanhopea stevensonii orchid in bloom

We weren’t there when they opened, so we didn’t get to hear the “pop” that can occur when the flower emerges.

Stanhopea stevensonii orchid in bloom

This is a view from beneath. The flowers are very fragrant, but I was having trouble pinning down what the scent was. This great passage from Robert Lauri’s wonderful blog, Stanhopea Culture, says it well:  “The fragrance of this Stanhopea is difficult to describe and smells sweet but rather chemical-like.  The fragrance is similar to sweet grass with trace amounts of fresh pine needles. Some individuals have described the fragrance as being similar to moth balls, but I have not detected this fragrance in fresh flowers.”

Stanhopea stevensonii orchid in bloom

According to an article on a German orchid website, the strong scent helps attract the pollinator, a male euglossine bee, to the flower because it doesn’t bloom for long.

Stanhopea stevensonii orchid in bloom

Here’s a closeup of the flower from the side. And finally, the proud orchid whisperer with his newly emerged babies:

George and his Stanhopea orchids

What spectacular flowers are you growing in your garden?

In Praise of My Orchidist

You crossword puzzlers know the word for a man who’s excessively fond of his wife is uxorious, right? But what about me, a wife who really digs and is proud of her wonderful husband? Says Oxford dictionary: “the only candidate is the invented word maritorious, from the Latin word for a husband, maritus. But it’s extremely rare: the 20-volume historical Oxford English Dictionary has only two examples, one from 1607 and one from 1978.”

Anyway, that’s me – all maritorious for my husband George, and wanting to boast about his latest accomplishment – getting elected as president of the San Francisco Orchid Society.  In honor of the new Prez, take a look at some of the fantastic orchids he’s been growing.

Epipactis orchid

Stream orchid (Epipactis gigantea) is a California native that George planted near our pond so it gets plenty of water. This is a close-up; I’m always amazed at how complicated the tiny half-inch flowers are.

Thunia orchidFrom tiny to, well, large! This Thunia began blooming a few weeks ago and it’s still going strong. The flowers are each about four inches long, and they dangle from a sturdy bamboo-like stalk that stands more than a foot high. Thunias are from the Himalayas, and they grow quickly.

Dracula orchid

And a stunning Dracula (meaning little dragon) orchid. Dracs like it cool, so they’re well-suited for the micro-climate of our shady front garden. This Dracula chimera is one of the largest Dracs; the top of the flower is a bit larger than an inch and the sepals hang down nearly five inches. George won an Award of Merit in 2011 for one of his Dracula orchids. Click here to read my blog post about it. 

Masdevallia caesia

This dramatic flower is a Masdevallia caesia that George dubbed “Mr Stinky” because, well, use your imagination. It’s pollinated by flies, and a smart little spider settled in this plant last year to catch some.

Want to see more of George’s orchids? Here are a few of my posts:

Euchile Citrina orchid. 

Cymbidiums in the Winter Garden.

Orchids in Autumn. 

George Cultivates Vanilla. 

Are you an orchid lover, or are you lucky enough to be married to one? What’s blooming in your garden right now?


Orchid of the Week: Euchile citrina

George’s orchids bloom year-round, so I barely have time to take photographs of all of his amazing flowers, but a special one bloomed for the first time this week and I just had to show it off. This is Euchile (Encyclia) citrina.

Euchile citrina orchid

Common names include the Daffodil or Tulip orchid, and in its native Mexico it’s also called Limoncito (Little Lemon). George mounted it on a piece of driftwood with the flower growing down. This shows the mount and pseudobulbs (the internodes at the top, common to epiphytic orchids like this one).

Euchile (Encyclia) citrina

Here’s the proud orchidist.

Euchile citrina orchid

And a real plus for an orchid: it has a wonderful fragrance. This week’s “Best in House” award goes to the Euchile citrina!

Euchile citrina orchid

Kraft Tex Envelope Purse

Ah, isn’t a thrill to get your hands on a new art product? Playing around to figure out its best qualities, how to use it with other products and with your images and designs … doesn’t that get your creative juices flowing?

I got a roll of natural color kraft•tex, from C&T Publishing (black and white coming soon). C&T describes kraft•tex as a “tough, touchable new paper that combines the best of leather and fabric.”  You can sew, and even wash it!

I’m a bit mail-art obsessed recently, so I decided to make a clutch purse in an envelope design. Rather than print directly onto the kraft•tex I wanted to try it with Transfer Artist Paper (TAP). Transfers usually work best on white or very light backgrounds, and I thought I’d check out how well the natural tan color of the kraft•tex would take a transfer.

I spent a blissful day last weekend photographing orchids at the Pacific Orchid Exposition, and got a striking closeup of a paphiopedelum, which I altered for a painterly effect. I thought the rich colors would blend nicely with the kraft•tex. This is the image:

Paphiopedilum orchid design

I re-sized it to fit onto the front of the purse and flipped horizontally so it would transfer with the orientation I wanted – this matters most for text, of course. To fill the rest of the sheet of TAP I designed a kaleidoscope from the original image and tiled it to transfer to the inside of the purse. This is the single tile:

Paphiopedilum orchid kaleidoscope

Next, what about the back? The four flaps of the envelope overlap, so I didn’t want to use a single image. I took a portion of the original image, resized it smaller, and tiled it onto a full sheet.

Paphiopedilum orchid sheetFinally it was time to transfer! TAP works best at the highest iron setting that the surface you’re ironing onto can withstand, so I set it on linen. Taking the front piece first, I cut out closely around the image, placed it face down onto the kraft•tex, covered it with parchment paper to protect the iron, and slowly circled around the entire piece with the iron.

Paphiopedilum envelope front

I was very happy with how it turned out, so moved on to transfer the inside piece.

Paphiopedilum envelope inside

Small details and lines in an image never show up as well in a transfer as on a direct print, but I have come to accept that as the tradeoff for the ease of using a transfer rather than treating a surface for a good direct print.

Finally, for the back, I cut pieces of the TAP sheet roughly to size and transferred them one at a time to each flap.

Paphiopedilum envelope back

Drum roll please .. here’s the front of my kraft•tex Paphiopedilum Orchid Envelope Purse!

Paphiopedilum envelope purse

And the back:

Paphiopedilum envelope back

I’m plotting what kind of closure to use. Probably something involving fabric. Stay tuned!

Oh – and I’ll be demonstrating TAP and Lutradur (and, it turns out they want me to also demo kraft•tex) on Saturday March 15th at Flax Art & Design in San Francisco. Free! Click here to read my blog post with all of the details.

Have you used a new art product lately? Please show and tell!

Orchids and All That Jazz: Pacific Orchid Exposition 2014

The Pacific Orchid Exposition, hosted by the San Francisco Orchid Society, is the largest orchid show in the United States. This year POE takes place at Fort Mason from February 20 to 23rd. Click here to see complete details and for directions.

Pacific Orchid Exposition

POE is an opportunity for orchid societies and vendors from all over the world to exhibit and sell wonderful plants and growing supplies, and for orchid and nature-lovers from beginners to experts to see and purchase an extraordinary array of orchids. Here’s George at the 2012 Diablo View Orchid Society display.

George at the DVOS orchid display at POE

Throughout the weekend there are several lectures and culturing demonstrations. Experts lead docent tours that are regularly scheduled during the show.


SFOS Vice President Steve Beckendorf leads a docent tour

To make it all happen, the San Francisco Orchid Society (SFOS) depends on the gracious work of many volunteers.

DSC_3227b small

This year George is helping recruit and organize volunteers for the Plant Hotel and Security. The Plant Hotel is where we store purchased plants so attendees can walk through the exhibits. Security volunteers take tickets at the front doors, stamp hands of folks coming and going, and check on plants leaving the show to make sure they have been properly purchased. Security volunteers also roam about to make sure no plants are stolen.

POE Plant Hotel

Each shift is short, most last only two to three hours. So – what do you get for your time? Volunteers have unlimited entry to the Show from Friday through Sunday. Volunteers only have to pay for their own parking. If you’re interested in volunteering for Security please contact George at; to volunteer for Plant hotel, email Mary Gerritsen at

You can also sign up to volunteer through the POE website by clicking here.

George's Best in Show

This is George at the 2008 POE, when his Pleurothallis restrepioides ‘Dragonstone’ won “Best in show” and “Best in class”.

Hope to see you there!

Springtime in January

Good weather guilt has set-in big time. Sunny dry days are swoon-worthy in summer, but hard to enjoy in January because of our drought fears and Weather Channel warnings about snow storms in other parts of the country. But, as I showed you in my earlier post Cymbidiums in the Winter Garden, the garden sure is happy.

Here’s another cymbidium orchid to add to last week’s bouquet.  One barely-open Sussex Dawn Concolor peeks above multiple closed buds on the same stalk.

Cymbidium Sussex Dawn Concolor

What else is blooming? It is the right time of year for Scoliopus bigelovii , aka Slink Pod, Brownie or Fetid Adder’s Tongue (that’s a lot of names for a tiny plant), to come up. George and I always take a walk in Muir Woods around New Year’s to see the Slink Pods, but heard that because of the drought none had bloomed, and we thought it would be too sad to go. Click here to see photos of our last year’s walk, with many more Brownie photos. These Slink Pods are in a pot in the garden. George gave them just enough water so they’d come up.

Slink Pod

It’s definitely early for the brilliant pink puffs to appear on the ornamental plum tree in our front garden. The honeybees love the flowers.

Honeybee on Ornamental Plum Tree flower

Another small but wonderfully dramatic flower is open, this is Billbergia Nutans, a bromeliad.

Billbergia Nutans flower

And finally, a few stalks of paperwhite narcissus, also small but powerfully fragrant.

Paperwhite Narcissus

Is it blooming springtime or shivering winter where you are?

Cymbidiums in the Winter Garden

As most of the country freezes, we’ve been warm and dry here in the Bay Area. It’s hard to enjoy the nice weather while our friends shiver and we watch as the days without rain careen toward drought-warning records. But the silver lining – our garden is happy, and George’s cymbidium orchids are blooming like crazy. This Tracyanum is overflowing its pot with tons of flower spikes.

Cymbidium Tracyanum orchid

Here’s one of my favorites, Cymbidium Final Flame. I love the large red flowers.

Cymbidium Final Flame

This yellow beauty, Arcadian Sunrise ‘Patrice’, has been blooming for at least a month!

Arcadian Sunrise 'Patrice'

And last but not least, Cymbidium Evening Star ‘Bethlemen’.

Cymbidium Evening Star 'Bethlemen'

Is anything blooming in your garden?

Orchids in the garden

It’s Bay Area autumn, warm weather in the afternoon with rich glowing light. And a bonanza of orchids blooming in the garden. Many of the cymbidiums have flower spikes, but this yellow one has them all beat. It opened about 2 weeks ago and is still going strong.

Cymbidium orchid

This Tracyanum is also a cymbidium. I love the designerly lines.

Tracyanum cymbidium orchid

And I just noticed this gorgeous red treasure. When I described it to him over the phone, brilliant George reeled off the name: Odontioda Charlesworthii ‘Mishima’.

Odontioda Charlesworthii 'Mishima'

What’s blooming in your garden?