Friday, September 30, 2011

Trip Report: Ruben in Orchids

Before embarking on our trip to southern Florida, I scoured the web, looking for planty places to visit. I knew I would be visiting the wonderful Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, for the IAS show and sale, but I also wanted to visit some nurseries while we were in the area. I am always coming across plants that are sold on eBay or other sites from nurseries in the Miami area. Also, I was particularly interested in finding some places that sold certain genera of orchids and other places that sold Aglaonemas.

Ruben in Orchids
Sea of orchids at Ruben in Orchids

One of the places I found that sold Encyclia orchids is Ruben in Orchids, which is located in the Redlandsssh , Florida - south of Miami. The owner is Dr. Ruben P. Salueda, who has a long history hybridizing Encyclias and Cattleyas. I sent an email and found that they would be open while we were there. I was excited!


We had a little trouble finding the place, thanks to Miami's genius idea of naming all of their streets with numbers - in both directions. What I mean is that this place was near the intersection of SW 184th and SW 224th. Do you see why this is confusing? In addition to using numbers for all the street names, they use both cardinal directions.  It should be S 184th and W 224th.  That would make sense.  Anyway, finally we discovered that east-west roads are called "streets" and the north-south roads are "avenues."  That's helpful to know, but there are also exceptions to that rule.  Every once in a while one of them is a "court" or "drive."  Anyway, we did make it there, as referenced by the pictures.

Epidendrum of some sort - possibly E. pseudepidendrum.

Ruben's wife, Claudia, showed us around the place.  She told us they have only been in this location for about 4 years, which is astounding, considering how settled they look and how much maturity there is in the place and the landscapes.  You would have guessed they had been there 20 years or more.  Their love of orchids and other plants is evidenced all over their property.  The backyard has orchids hanging in the trees, some attached to the trunks, others hanging in baskets.  There are vanilla orchids and dragon fruit cacti climbing up the trunks of all of their palms.  Beautiful plants everywhere.

A beautiful peach-colored hybrid orchid growing on the back porch. Sadly, not for sale.  Christie and I both loved the colors on this one.

They even have African reef lake cichlids in their pond up by the house. Amazing!

African cichlids happily living in an outdoor pond

Needless to say, I was in heaven. I was surrounded by orchids - and many of them were Encyclias.  This place wasn't set up for shoppers really.  It was a grower's greenhouse.  So prices weren't clear - or even a tag to know if the plant was for sale or not.  But I had a wonderful time perusing the rows of orchids and seeing all sorts of things I hadn't seen before.

One happy guy!

Beautiful pendant blooms of Cycnoches chlorochilon - at least that is what it was labeled. It doesn't match the photos here, though. I think it could be Cycnoches dianae.

At the last Oklahoma Orchid Society meeting I attended, the talk was given on the genus Cycnoches, which is unique among orchids. Most orchids have both male and female parts on every flower, while Cycnoches have separate male and female flowers, though they can be on the same plant and even on the same raceme. It's fascinating. And we got to see one of these in person at Ruben's. It was a really nice specimen in the prime of it's bloom.

Somehow I didn't catch the name on this one and I really wish I had. It is awesome!

Epidendrum Mabel Kanda x Encyclia cordigera - I think.

I ended up purchasing two really nice Encyclias from Ruben in Orchids - Encyclia tampensis and Encyclia plicata.  The E. plicata was in bloom with really tall bloom stalks.  We enjoyed them for the remainder of our vacation and then had to clip them off before getting on our plane to fly home.  Maybe next time we'll be able to fly.  Of course, I can only imagine how much money I would spend if we drove and had lots of room in the car for plants...

Hybrid orchid - probably a mix of Encyclia and Cattleya.

Before we left, Claudia told us we should visit R.F. Orchids, which was "just down the road."  I was shocked, because I had heard of R.F. Orchids and had no idea they were in the area.  It's a good thing I didn't know, because I might have gone there, rather than Ruben's place.  And I'm really glad I visited Ruben's.

Blooms from the Encyclia plicata plant I bought.

Driving around the Redlands we discovered that this is orchid territory.  There were literally stands on the side of the road all over the place with signs advertising "$6 orchids," "$7 orchids" and even "$1 orchids."  We checked out several of these places on our way to R.F. Orchids, some of which had some really good deals.  More on that soon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meeting plant friends in person

Being a person with a relatively uncommon passion, I have friends that are spread far and wide.  Very few of my plant friends live near me, with the exception of people in the Oklahoma Orchid Society.  My friends that have a passion for aroids live in different corners of the country, and also outside of the US.

At the IAS show last week, I got the opportunity to see some of my aroid friends that I had previously only corresponded with through email.  Not only did I get to see these people in person, but we got to wander around in the IAS show and look at all of the amazing plants together, siphon through the pots and decide what we were going to buy, walk through the amazing Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens and point out everything we saw with people who were genuinely as interested as we were.

Derek, me and Taylor at the IAS banquet
Banta, me, Derek and Ron Weeks
Calathea pavonii that Banta showed me
Albert among the Anthuriums

Taylor Holzer and I have traded plants and emails for a couple of years now and we have a lot of passions in common: aroids (Philodendrons, Anthuriums and many more), prayer plants (Calathea, Maranta, Ctenanthe, etc.), orchids, aquarium fish (especially cichlids), aquatic plants.  Taylor is a great guy and it was really cool to chat plants with him in person.  I'm glad that we both made it to the show this year.  Taylor attended the show last year, but this was my first time.

Derek Powazek is a new friend to me.  We have traded plants and emails for the past 6 months or so.  He is a fellow blogger and lover of a wide variety of plants, including aroids and orchids.  He is also a really great photographer.  He lives in San Francisco and made the very long trek (flight) to Miami for the show this year - also his first IAS show.

John Banta (known simply as Banta, to aroid folks) is a legend in the IAS.  He and I spent a short time chatting about our shared love of Calatheas and we took a walk through the gardens to find Calathea pavonii, which he has graciously offered to share with me, from his own collection of Marantaceae.  John led one of the talks on Saturday afternoon, which dealt with a project that Banta is leading a new project to collect data on the viability of aroid pollen with age.  If we collect pollen from our plants for use in pollinating other plants, how long can we store it before it is no longer any good?

Albert Huntington is the current Vice President of the IAS and does a ton of the legwork of the society.  He is in charge of the website and does a really great job.  Albert is always the first person I go to when I have questions about the IAS and, in this instance, when and where to be and all that good stuff for the IAS show this year.  During the show he was running around taking pictures, helping at the cash register, recording the auction sales and doing who knows what the whole time, making sure everything went off without a hitch.  We got to have dinner with Albert and discuss all sorts of fun things.

There were many others that I have emailed and finally got a chance to talk with at the meeting.  It was a great time and I am so glad I got to go this year.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Trip Report: Florida native Encyclias

Our Florida vacation started with a bang, when we spent two nights camped in a chickee hut in the northern part of the Florida Everglades.  Our little hut was on stilts in a swampy area on Seminole reservation land.  Directly next to our hut was the entrance to a boardwalk running about a half mile (by my estimation) through a cypress stand.  We went out on this boardwalk twice and really enjoyed it.  It easily landed in the top 3 activities on our trip.

Christie at the entrance to the boardwalk, sporting her very appropriate alligator shirt
Along the walk we encountered several alligators, some large and some mid-sized.  The largest one was camped just outside the back pier of our chickee hut.  Yes, our chickee hut had it's own boardwalk leading back to a picnic table. That's how cool this place was.

Our chickee hut from the front
Our chickee hut along the back walkway
Anyway, the alligator behind our chickee hut was probably easily an 8-footer.  We were just about sure that he was fake since he wasn't moving, but the next day we noticed he was in a slightly different position.  Christie has a theory that he had just eaten a large meal (the people who stayed in our chickee hut before us) and so he was just resting (and waiting for the next careless chickee renters to fall in).  We saw several alligators along the boardwalk, including the one pictured below.

One of the larger alligators watching us just a couple feet away.
Wandering the boardwalk

From the boardwalk you could see trees covered in Tillandsias.  It was almost comical at some points to see how many Tillandsias were coating the trunks or hanging twigs of the trees around us.

Tillandsia madness

Large Tillandsias

More Tillandsias
From what we learned, the area we were in would be on the northern part of what is considered the Everglades.  The Everglades is a large region of subtropical wetlands that gently slopes downwards as you go south.  So the entire area is slowly draining towards the sea.  It is not really a swamp, since the water is moving and not stagnant.  However, by observation, there are small pockets where water is motionless and I think the boardwalk here was built over one of those stagnant and swampy areas.  This may or may not have an impact on what plants grow in this area.  I imagine there were no fewer than 5 different species of Tillandsia.  I'm sure a Tillandsia nut would have been able to pick them out, but that is not me.  Also, we probably saw 4 or 5 different species of fern.

Really nice fern
An interesting lanceolate fern near the water line
We did see some other animal life, besides gators.

Nice butterfly. Just when you think it's going to sit still, it starts to move again...
White Ibis - Eudocimus albus
White ibis (Eudocimus albus)
When we had just about reached the end of our trek the first time, I noticed the first orchid perched on the side of a tree - an Encyclia.  As we retraced our steps on the boardwalk back to our chickee hut, I began to see them all over the place.  My eyes just had to become attuned to look for them.  Without seeing any of these plants in bloom I can't definitively identify the species, but as far as I understand, only Encyclia tampensis grows in this area, so it should be that species.   Encyclia tampensis is common enough in Florida to be known as the "Florida Butterfly" orchid.

The first Encyclia sighting!

Encyclia (upper) and Tillandsia (lower)

Baby Encyclias spotted along with resurrection fern
Encyclia size comparison
The next morning when we went on the same boardwalk through this stand, I started seeing even more.  I quickly noticed that one of the larger Encyclias had a seed pod perched on a thin bloom stalk above the plant.  Then I began to notice other Encyclias with this same seed pod.

Boardwalk in morning light
Encyclia with seedpod.  Look closely in the upper left.  It is green and shaped like a little football.

Encyclia with more visible seedpod
It was great to see these plants growing in their natural habitat and in such prolific numbers.  I was actually able to cross an item off my bucket list by seeing these little orchids growing in nature.  Collecting these plants is illegal and I was happy to uphold the law, only photographing the plants and taking pleasure in the fact that they are doing so well in their natural habitat.

Photographing the Encyclias
Yes, I could even touch them! This is one happy guy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Plant Find: Several Salvias

The Salvia genus, commonly called Sage, consists of somewhere between 700 and 900 species, including perennials, as well as tropicals which are grown as annuals.  Many Salvias are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.  Lately I've been adding several Salvias to our gardens.  They are great for our climate because they tolerate the heat and bloom throughout the summer.  For me, the tropicals aren't quite worth growing, although there are some really neat colors available in these varieties.  I might try some of the more tempting tropicals in the future and overwinter them in the greenhouse.

New dark pink Salvia, photographed earlier this year, when it was still pink.
We planted Salvia greggii 'Pink Preference' in the corner garden and it came back and bloomed again this year.  It is kind of a magenta pink color.  We got a couple new dark pink Salvias this year (above), but I don't know their name.  We planted one in the new brick garden and one in the corner garden.  It's weird but those same plants now look like they have solid red blooms... I would say it was just my flawed memory, but I have pictures (above and 2 pics below) of the same plants with different color blooms.

We also planted a new, light pink Salvia, whose name I don't recall (but it could be Salvia coccinea 'Coral Nymph').

Light pink Salvia. This has grown really fast this summer, even in our extreme heat.
This light pink Salvia has grown incredibly fast this summer, all the while everything else we have outside has been struggling to survive.  We had more than 60 days this summer with a temperature of 100 degrees or more.  The previous record was 50 days in 1 year.  So we blew it out of the water this year.  I'm guessing these Salvias are more than just heat and drought tolerant.  They must enjoy it.  But wait, you might not believe this.  Shortly after we planted this light pink Salvia I noticed some little plants coming up from seed in the corner garden nearby.  I started to yank them and then I realized the leaves matched the big Salvia, so I let them be.  I haven't seen anything seed and germinate this fast, but now those little seedlings that I let be have grown into mammoth plants just like the parent!

Three Salvias in the corner garden. The Salvia in the back is the original light pink plant and the one on the right is the one that came up FROM SEED earlier this summer.
Light pink Salvia blooms

We also got a Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' (also called Brazilian Sage) which is my favorite.  The blooming bracts are truly black and the blooms are very blue.  These are striking colors that you don't see very often.   It has been growing on the front porch in a decorative pot all summer.  I was afraid it was not hardy, so I didn't want to plant it in one of our flowerbeds.  Also, since it's my favorite, I get to enjoy it a lot more sitting on the front porch.  But I learned that it is actually hardy, so now I am looking for another plant or two so that I can plant it in the corner garden and also overwinter one in the greenhouse for security.  Unfortunately, the heat really took a toll on this plant.  Just when I realized it was dead, I was given hope by a seedling coming up in the pot.  Just like the light pink Salvia from the corner garden, this plant has quickly matured and now has blooms on it!  Unfortunately, I don't have a good picture of our plant, so here's a link to see a really good bloom picture.

One of the more common Salvias for the perennial garden, is also a blue/purple shade.  This one is Salvia farinacea.  It has distinctive bloom stalks with white buds that are nice enough even before the flowers open.  See the picture below.

Salvia farinacea
Finally, I'm going to throw in two non-Salvia.  One of these plants is similar in growth habit and form and neither of the two is significant enough right now to get their own post.  The first plant is the Saliva wannabe, Plectranthus.  We had one of these a couple of years ago and I really liked it for the dark green foliage, bloom color and heat tolerance.  It's a neat plant and is staying on the hot front porch for now.  It did really well for a long time and then started giving in to the heat recently.  If it is still alive here in a couple of weeks, I'll bring it in to the greenhouse to keep it over the winter since it is not hardy here.  Since ours has not done well with the extreme heat this year, I have to use a link to pictures here.  This might not be the exact variety that we have, but it is very close.

The other non-Salvia is the common Texas Bluebonnet.  Sadly, this little plant did not like our hot and dry summer.  We have a neighbor that has a bunch of this growing in their front yard along the curb.  I might get some seed from them and try to grow them that way next year.  The color of the Bluebonnets are really impressive, not to mention the neat foliage.

Texas bluebonnet - photographed earlier in the season, before the heat wave!

What is your favorite variety of Salvia?  Is it tolerant of heat and drought?  How about the cold hardiness?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Orchid gifts

My parents-in-law were out of town for a month while my father-in-law was cycling from Seattle to Los Angeles.  While they were away, we were in charge of keeping their pups and orchids alive.  Mission successful: all survived.

One of the orchids came into bloom just before they came home, Eulophia streptopetala.  My mother-in-law bought this orchid while she was in California last year at Santa Barbara Orchid Estate.  She purchased this particular orchid because of it is native to Ethiopia, the country from which we are adopting.

Eulophia streptopetala first blooms.  Sorry the picture is out of focus. Once again, this is on my camera phone and I couldn't tell it missed the focus point.

While I was excited about the orchid blooming for the first time, they were back at the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate again.  They brought home three new orchids, two for me, in thanks for taking care of the orchids!

Lockhartia oerstedii
Lockhartia oerstedii

Lockhartia oerstedii_spent_blooms
Lockhartia oerstedii spent blooms

The first orchid has a really unique growth habit.  It is a species orchid, Lockhartia oerstedii, from central America.  When I looked up the description of this plant I learned a couple new botanical vocabulary words.  The first is imbricate, which refers to the overlapping leaves which look like roof shingles or reptile scales.  A second word is caespitose, which means densely clumped.

Cirrhopetalum makoyanum
Cirrhopetalum makoyanum

The second orchid is the species Cirrhopetalum makoyanum.  The Cirrhopetalum genus is closely related to the Bulbophyllum genus, and many of the plants are still labeled with that genus name.  It has a very distinct inflorescence, which is made up of several flowers arranged in a semi-circular pattern that look like half to 3/4 of a daisy.  You can see a picture here.

Ornithocephalis iridifolius x Zygostatus alleniana
My mother-in-law's tiny hybrid orchid.  Notice the size compared to the penny!

The last orchid is one that my mother-in-law bought for herself.  It is a tiny miniature (Yes, I think it is appropriate to use both words) mounted on cork bark.  And it's even in bloom.  Check out the penny for size comparison.  Pretty incredible, isn't it?  I'm really liking these little mounted orchids.  They are easy to care for - assuming you don't mind watering them regularly.  You don't have to worry about the roots rotting.  And since everything is right there on display, you can tell if the roots are healthy or not.  Also, it's more appealing to me than a plant in a pot.  And you can hang them in all sorts of places.  The list goes on and on.  Can you tell I like these things?  I have a post on my mounted miniatures coming soon.  This hybrid is known as a "primary hybrid," which means both parents of this plant are pure species.  Anyway, if you've read through this entire paragraph hoping to learn the name of this plant, here's your reward: Ornithocephalis iridifolius x Zygostatus alleniana.  If you were reading the paragraph hoping for some other reward: sorry, that's all you get.