Monday, November 14, 2011

Hilltop Hints

Cute Kitties Posing with Fallen Phrag Flower
I mentioned in the last post that I was like a kid on Christmas when my Phrag. Eumelia Arias bloomed. It was a big event in the Cats and Catts house. I took it from an aspiring seedling to its full glory, and the timing appeared to be perfect. Dick Wells from Hilltop Orchids visited our orchid society on Sunday and I intended to show him the success I've had with one of his hybrids. So, of course, the flower decided to fall off Sunday morning. Drat!

I didn't get to show off my Phrag. (well, I brought the fallen flower), but the visit was outstanding nonetheless. Dick Wells shared his vast wisdom with us, gave a potting demonstration, and talked specifically about cultivating Phrag. kovachii hybrids. Here are some highlights:

Rice hulls are the New Perlite The cost of perlite is soaring, leaving orchid vendors searching for alternatives. Rice hulls dry out at a nice and even rate, and Hilltop has had great success incorporating rice hulls into their standard potting media. You can purchase their mix here. Also, sells bags of rice hulls.

Epsom salts for the kovachii hybrids Use 2-2.5 Tbs per gallon. Wells recommends spraying the plants with it every 2-3 months (I've used it successfully as a monthly drench). Using it with a fertilizer, however, will nullify the benefit (the plant can only use so much magnesium sulfate at any one time).

You're Probably Over-Potting Well, I am at least. I've been too squeamish about damaging the roots. I didn't think I was over-potting until I saw Dick give a little demonstration on four or five plants. The roots need even less space than I imagine. The crew at Hilltop Orchids repot 500 to 600 orchids a day, so I trust Dick's judgment.

I drove home with a couple of new plants -- Phrag. Fritz Schomberg and Phal. equestris var. alba. -- and several new ideas for improving my orchid culture.

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