Tag Archives: Growing orchids

Orchids in the City Part 1

Normally you would not expect to find orchids growing and thriving in the heart of the city.  The scene below does not very suggest that there is the right habitat for orchids, yet growing on the hill side are about ten to twenty different orchid species.  These orchids have been planted here.

Vale park

This is a small site in Vale Park, next to the Torrens River and just off Ascot Avenue.  It is a public site, with many cyclists and pedestrians passing it on a daily basis.  To cater for the public there are small paths that wander through the planting.

Vale Park Orchids

All the orchids are marked out with small signs which give tell the name of the plant and show the leaf and flower.  This made it very easy to find the orchids.  Surprisingly, not many of the orchids have been dug up.  This is because it is a public place, and the community wants to protect it.

When I visited the site yesterday, there were a few species in flower, and many in leaf or with buds.  There were a lot of Caladenia latifolia (white form – also known as pink fairies) in flower.  I only saw one plant which had the normal pink flowers, all the rest were white.

Another species that I saw was Pterostylis curta.  There were quite a lot of these orchids in flower as well.

Other species seen, included Diuris orientis, Diuris behrii and Diuris pardina, Glossodia major, Leptoceras menziesii which was in bud, Thelymitra pauciflora and Thelymitra antennifera, and Diplodium robustum.

What is unique about this site is that they have focused on restoring the under-story, which includes successfully establishing some native orchids which have been increasing in numbers.  Often it is very difficult to reintroduce orchids. However in this project, there was an existing woodland before planting.  One orchid was successfully pollinated within a week of planting, indicating that the correct pollinating wasp was present.

This project did have a few difficulties to overcome when it started, such workers inadvertently spraying the orchids, but now the weeding is left to the Vale Park Our Patch group.  There is another site at Gilbert Street, in North Adelaide, and I will leave that one for next week.

If you are interested in seeing this site, there will be an open day on the 14th September from 10am to 3pm.  It is on Ascot Avenue on the Vale Park side of the Torrens River.  It will be interesting seeing how this site develops over time.

Growing terrestrial orchids

Some of my readers have asked whether it is possible to grow native orchids, or where they can get some to grow.  The unfortunate fact is that many of the orchids have not been propagated, and those that can be grown tend to difficult to keep alive.

Being an orchid enthusiast, and loving to see these flowers, I have tried to grow some of them.

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An orchid in the pot does have the advantage that you can choose the background…

Acianthus pussillus

...and sometimes allow you to take shots that are not possibly in the wild, as these orchids don’t grow in open areas, and are very small and difficult to get underneath them!

The unfortunate fact is that most of the time, it has not been entirely successful.  All the orchid growers say that it is easy to grown orchids, but… have you seen their greenhouses?  Virtually they are running a laboratory for growing orchids, with the right sunlight, and the right amount of water, and these aren’t usually cheap to set up.  Here is an article about setting up the right conditions for growing Epiphytes.

There are several species of orchids that I have never seen in propagation.  These include: the Hyacinth orchid (Dipodium sp.) or any other species that does not have leaves including the Cinnamon Bells (Gastrodia sp.), everyone’s favourite the duck orchid (Caleana major or Paraceleana sp.), any of the swamp orchids (Spiranthes and Cryptostylis) or even the bearded orchid (Caladenia).

Caleana major

Sorry, you can’t grow these! 😦

The difficulty behind growing orchids makes it even harder to re-introduce orchids into the wild, and stresses the point that it is important to protect the remaining bushland.  Unfortunately, because Adelaide is relatively flat most of the land has been cleared for agriculture, but there are still a few pockets of native vegetation left, and quite often these are threatened by weeds

But it is important to remember:

No part of an orchid can be collected from the wild!

So if you are really desperate to try growing orchids, start with one of the easier species like one of the green-hoods (Pterostylis nutans or P. curta) or a Microtis sp, except its flowers aren’t very obvious.

Terrestrial orchids won’t normally be found for sale in nurseries.  There are a few specialised growers in South Australia, and around Australia, so if you are interested, it probably would be best to contact your local Australian Orchid Club!  Often they will also provide information on the conditions you need, and will be able to help with any difficulties that are faced along the way.

Orchid shows can be a chance to see some of the orchids that the growers have succeeded with, but usually they show their best specimens.  Here are a few pictures I took at the Native Orchid Society of South Australian’s meeting in spring, so you can see what the “professionals grow”.  (This is the only time you will see me using a flash – indoor photography 🙂 )

My observation is that the orchids that are propagated tend to have larger flowers than those in the wild, but that is probably due to the growers providing favourable conditions for them.

It is now the beginning of March, and I was very delighted to find that my Microtis are up already. (They are a desperate attempt to hopefully keep some orchids alive for a few years.  I’m told they grow like weeds!)

Microtis leaves

Already up!
Hopefully they survive the season, don’t get over/under watered, eaten…

Orchids in odd places

Orchids generally prefer to grow somewhere like here:

However, I have found some orchids in some very different places.  For instant I’ve been areas that have been cleared and later planted out.  You must realize that orchids cannot cope with that much disturbance.  However I’ve seen orchids there, native Australian orchids and they have not been planted either.  There is a very logical reason.

Often these sites have had a layer of wood cuttings placed over the top of them.  The orchids have entered these clippings most likely as seed, and the seed germinates at the new location, and yes, you have some orchids.

The most common to do this is the onion orchid, Microtis arenicola.  This is probably one of the most common orchids.  This one also enjoys regular watering!

Another hardy species which does this is the Pterostylis pedunculata or the maroon greenhood.  This orchid was found very close to Adelaide’s CBD, and I’ve seen pictures of it growing in someone’s front lawn.

Both of these species are just coming out now.

Here is an orchid which did not realize that it was in a tennis court.  This is Dipodium roseum, the hyacinth orchid, a summer flowering orchid, which I will probably discuss in more detail closer to that season.

Then of course, there are those orchids which I have no idea why, or how they end up where they are.  Below are some leaves of Thelymitra (sun orchid) and Glossodia major (Blue Cockatoo orchid) growing in a tree.