Friday, 18 April 2008

The Dendrobium Superbum

Dendrobium Superbum is my favorite orchid. Certainly there are more beautiful orchids in my garden but this striking dendrobium blooms just once a year. I associate it with dry season, cool breezy afternoons and fresh clean mornings. I have inherited my love of this plant from my mother and grandmother who both owned lovely specimens. My mother's multi-caned one is still at my childhood home where it gives my father no end of pleasure.

The ritual went something like this:

Me: Hello

Mummy: I have five canes full- top to bottom- you have to bring the camera.

Me: Five Canes!! I only have a measly 1/2 cane.

And so would begin the long analysis of whether my plant was mature enough, did it get enough water before the dry season? And the most crucial question.....did you water it in the dry season? This was a huge thing- the plant was supposed to think it was back in homeland India where it would receive no water during the long dry season before the monsoons. So watering once the rains were gone was a big no-no. Maybe the plant liked her more than me and I should send it down to spend some time?

The Dendrobium superbum has a distinct sweet smell that is almost cloying- I love it as it reminds me of my childhood but my friend Chancy finds it too strong.

At the moment I have moody canes- they are not coming in all together and I only have 1/2 canes.

Sometimes driving through the country, you can see full baskets in bloom with up to 2o canes cascading almost to the ground and the intoxicating smell can waft over a whole neighbourhood.

This is not a plant that you can go into a plant store to buy. It's viewed as an "old time" orchid and does not command the respect that more showy cattleyas and phaleonopsis do. The fact that it drops all its leaves before flowering means that you have a rather odd looking plant for a few months but to me, it is one of the most visual examples of rebirth.

If you ever come across one, they are very easy to propogate- once the flowers are gone, lay the cane across a medium such as coconut fibre or loose potting mix. keep attached to mother plant if possible. Your cane should shoot little plantlets (is that the right word) which you can then separate and repot.