Thursday, May 20, 2010

Down Under Dendrobiums

Brian Gerhard of Down Under Native Orchids visited the Orchid Society of Greater Kansas City (OSGKC) last Sunday and gave a talk about Australian native dendrobiums. (The image on the right is a kingianum drawn in 1850). Gerhard and his plants have received many awards, including a recent CCM for Den. Tie-Dye (which had about 90 spikes and 700 blooms).  He's an expert and -- despite one glaring flaw -- he gave a lively, educational, and engaging talk.

I have one Australian Dendrobium in my collection, but it's a hybrid so I didn't feel like raising my hand when he surveyed the crowd because I feared I would open myself up to mockery.  I've seen tables of flowering Den. speciosum-gracilicaule x specio-kingianum at Ontario Orchids during a visit to Vista California, and I have a sense of how wonderful these plants can be.  So, I tried to take good notes because maybe, one day, I'll have enough growing space.

Brian called for care and consideration in watering Dendrobiums, giving familiar advice with unique urgency and practical details.  For instance, most Cats and Catts readers know that it's important to give deciduous Dendrobiums little or no water or fertilizer during the winter, but Brian insinuated that too many growers are too short with their winter rest.  We should be patient.  We should relax.  I've also heard the "water in the morning" advice countless times, but Gerhart punctuated the point, painting afternoon watering as a grave sin to the genus.  I will admit to occassional afternoon waterings but, the next time I'm tempted, I'll visualize a confident Australian telling me, "Just forget about it, mate.  Go have a scotch."  Finally, in my beginner's opinion, Gerhard gave golden cultural advice about keeping your growing pots above the flat surface of a table and on a screen that will allow airflow below the plant.  This advice conforms to my anecdotal experiences that orchids like the wind beneath their wings. I'm going to adjust my growing space accordingly.

So, what was the glaring flaw?  Well, Gerhard is a skilled public speaker who knows that, despite all our unwavering seriousness about orchids, many orchid-related presentations are enlived by images of local color.  Toward this end, Brian had several pictures of snakes and kangeroos to spice up the plant pics.  But I failed to see any cats.  Don't the Australian native cats deserve photographic attention?

Despite the lack of kitty photos, it was a solid talk.  You can see a few minutes of it (from orchid blogger Jami Parkinson) here:


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