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.






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?

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

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?

Sobralia Orchids Galore

Much excitement in our garden this weekend, where the Sobralia orchids are finally blooming. Found throughout Central and South America, Sobralia are among the tallest orchids, and their flowers range in color from white through yellow, orange, pink, purple, and red. The flowers are notoriously short-lived and ephemeral, with some of them remaining open for only a few hours before withering.
Sobralia orchidThis beauty opened yesterday and is already beginning to fade. The light purple flower is about 6 inches tall by 5 inches wide.
Sobralia orchidThe yellow Sobralia bloomed this morning. The flower is about 3 inches tall by 4 inches wide.
George with purple Sobralia orchid
Here’s the proud grower, who wanted me to let you know that San Francisco area orchid expert Bruce Rogers hybridized both of these orchids.

Orchid happiness


The Pacific Orchid Exposition in San Francisco (at Fort Mason this weekend) is the largest orchid show in the United States.  George and I have gone nearly every year since he started growing orchids. He also volunteers and, most years, he displays his orchids with one of the several local groups of which he is a member. This year he’s the president of the Diablo View Orchid Society (DVOS), so he’s showing at their display, which he and a few other people from the group put together.  Here he is in front of the booth.

George at the DVOS display at POE

Check out the glorious orchid at the right, it’s a Pleurothallis restrepioides ‘Dragonstone’ – one of George’s orchids that grows best outside, at least in our climate. It usually lives on our front porch – which is sadly empty while the orchid is at the show. In 2008 it won a “Best in show” and “Best in class”.  It has since been through a hail storm and snail attack, but this year it still won a second place ribbon.

There were so many amazing things to photograph, and almost as many photographers. It thinned out later in the day and I managed to get some photos that I liked. Composition can be difficult at these shows because a lot of the displays have the flowers jammed in. I look for a plain background. Here’s one:


I love ladyslipper orchids – they’re so ‘designerly’ with their lines and spots. This is one of my favorites.

Ladyslipper orchid

George loves to preach the gospel of orchids and and let people know how to take care of them. We met a couple who flew out from back East just to see the show. They used to live near the town in Massachusetts where George grew up!

George at DVOS display

This is another one of my favorite orchids of George’s, a Scaphosepalum antenniferum. I like it because it’s kind of strange. The photo is a closeup, it grows on a long stalk, and this part of the flower is less than 2 inches across. I wrote a blog post about it last August.


One of the best displays at the Show was of pleurothallid orchids. I loved this one, another closeup – the widest part of the flower is less than half an inch.

Pleurothallid orchid

Finally, another ladyslipper that George grew:

Ladyslipper orchid

The show is open today, Saturday February 25th, from 9 to 6, and tomorrow from 10 to 5. If you missed the show, or live far away, look for a local orchid group – they often have shows or meetings where you can learn about growing these amazing flowers.

George’s winning Dracula orchid

I’m so proud of my orchid whisperer husband! George just won an Award of Merit (80 points) for this amazing orchid from the American Orchid Society at the San Francisco Orchid Society meeting.

Dracula amaliae 'Hestia'

It’s a Dracula amaliea ‘Hestia’.  This is a shot of just three of the blooms, the incredible plant has blooms nearly all the way around, I counted ten, and I’m sure there are some still hiding in the thick foliage! This same plant won a slightly lower award in 2009 – a Highly Commended Certificate, with a score of 78 points.  Click here to see the 2009 official AOS judging record and photographs.  I love the description they give: “Two flowers and two buds on four inflorescences; sepals cream overlaid maroon on reverse appearing tan interiorly, heavily tomentose with tan-tipped glandular hairs; petals minute; caudae maroon, well presented; substance firm; texture felt-like.”

Dracula amaliae 'Hestia'

This is a photo I took of the entire plant in 2009.  The Dracula likes partial shade and cool to cold conditions, perfect for the weather we’ve been having.  And click here to see another of George’s award-winning Dracula orchids, a Dracula diabola ‘Andina’ which won an HCC (79 points) in 2010.

Big name, tiny flower

A wonderful new orchid just bloomed in George’s garden.

Scaphosepalum antenniferum orchid

Scaphosepalum antenniferum orchid

Small  flowers, less than a half inch tall and wide, on a long stem, more than a foot high, and a long name: Scaphosepalum antenniferum. George is the first to admit that spelling is not one of his strong points, but he always gets these complicated orchid names right.  This is a closeup front view of one of the flowers.

And this is a side view.

Scaphosepalum antenniferum orchid

Scaphosepalum antenniferum orchid

The name antenniferum is from the Latin antennifer, “antenna-bearing”, referring to the appearance of the tails.

It’s a species orchid that’s native to South America, found in the cloud forest where it’s always cool — which may be why it’s so happy in El Cerrito this summer, where we’re having much lower than normal temperatures!