Sunday, 9 December 2007

The Orchid House Project

I have started to set goals for 2008 and an orchid house is right up there at the top of the list. At the moment, my orchids are all over the garden and I have to keep moving them depending on the amount of rainfall , the angle of the sun and other random factors.I visited the beautiful home of the Craig family. This spectacular home overlooks the St Ann's valley and like everything else I saw on this property, the orchid house was a masterpiece of ingenuity. The orchids are watered three times a day for 4 minutes via a timer that has been placed on the water line. The large fan is also turned on to keep the heat down in the shed which is protected from the weather by shade cloth, over which lies a layer of plastic. This makes the environment far easier to control and means that all orchids can be fertilized, sprayed, re-potted and generally cared for in a far more consistent manner than can ever be achieved out in the open weather.

Vandas are attached to the Eastern end and so get the rising sun. The oncidiums, cattleyas, dendrobiums and phaleonopsis are all arranged so that they receive ideal lighting conditions.
Of course, the romantic in me still clings to the idea of the orchids growing splendidly up in the canopies of my trees and attached to side of my mango trees but realistically, I am hiding my head in the sand with this approach as everyone, bar none, agrees that orchids thrive once put into a more controlled environment.
I have never done well with phaleonopsis and when I see them doing so well and looking so happy, I am tempted to try again.

Sunday Green Thumb

Join Green Thumb Sunday

I am sitting at my computer tonight and there is a cool, December breeze coming down the St Ann's valley. A true Christmas breeze. Our temperature never dips substantially enough to have an impact on the garden. But it certainly puts me in the mood for some sorrel, ponchecrema (our rum-laced egg nog), a nice tasty pastelle (cornmeal patties wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in a colander) and a big slice of ham with some cloves studded in for that extra special Christmas flavour). But that's a whole different post.
Tonight I am celebrating Green Thumb Sunday and sending out lots of planting energy to fellow bloggers the world over.
This wild plant was brought to me by my gardener and has done very well in the shade of my saman tree. It is a wild pachystachys (pachystachys spicata, syn. P. coccinea) and looks quite similar to its cousin the yellow shrimp plant or yellow pachystchys (Pachystachys lutea) . This plant acts slightly differently in that it spreads via running, rooting stems. So if it miraculously multiplies, this is the reason. The overlapping bracts from which the inflorescences emerge are fascinating in their symmetrical order.

I've sneaked in a vase of zinnias that I have next to my computer. I love the chunky, painted sunflowers on the glass almost as much as the zinnias. The light in this room in the afternoon is really special and almost everything I shoot in here has this soft, warm colouring.

Crotons make up an extraordinarily large family and are categorized by leaf shape and size. They tend to do best in filtered light. Mixed light encourages the best colour variation. It is not unusual to have several shades of contrasting colour on one leaf. They root easily, making them very easy to propagate and satisfying to grow. A cutting will last for several weeks indoors in a vase, often rooting in the water.
I am rooting two new ones at the moment. I picked them up while visiting a friend in San Fernando. One of Trinidad's well known horticulturalists, Mrs. Rita Barrow, once said that the secret to successful landscaping in the tropics lay in crotons.
They can always be counted on to provide colour, shape and texture and most will hedge as happily as they will shrub.
The very talented team of mother and daughter, Margaret and Vanessa Dalla Costa do really lovely work. This Taj is an example of their imaginative mosaics. This piece was calling to be in my garden. So here it is in its new place of glory; in with the bromeliads, under the sexy orange heliconias and next to my large copper.
Green Thumb Sunday