Maxillaria tenuifolia, also known as the Coconut Orchid. It has a strong fragrance (especially when it first opens) which smells like just like coconut suntan lotion. This species of orchid was discovered near Veracruz, Mexico by Karl Theodore Hartweg, a German botanist who collected plants throughout Mexico, Central America, and California, in the 1830s and 40s. It grows at low elevations from Mexico to Central America.
Orchids in the genus Maxillaria are not difficult to grow. The hard part is believing that they can get by with so little water! They like humidity but not wet soil. Because they are epiphytes, they can be grown mounted on bark or branches, or in coarse, well draining substrates such as pine bark or small stones, mixed with a little bit of potting soil. Bright indirect light is best. Maxillaria tenuifolia is propagated by the division of the pseudobulbs which you can see at the base of the leaves, growing from the creeping rhizome. The overall plant appears a bit straggly but looks nice in a hanging basket.
Coconut Orchid has long strappy grasslike leaves, and the flowers are hidden in among the foliage. They are dark red to rust-colored, with a speckled lip. They are only about an inch and a half in diameter, but the fragrance is wonderful and delicious.
Here’s a treat: These beautiful photos were taken in the Conservatory range last week by Noah Le Claire-Conway, PhD student in Plant Sciences. (Equipment: Nikon D2X camera with an AF Micro Nikkor 60 mm lens.)
The sun has come out in a clear, cloudless, blue sky day, after many (5?) days of mostly gray weather. It’s so cold that there is still ice on the Conservatory windows at 11 AM, but bright and warm inside. We’ve had two more snowfalls since the last post (yes, that’s Monday classes cancelled three weeks in a row, for those of you keeping track.) More snow and very cold weather predicted for the weekend, so I’ve decided warm pictures are in order for today.
Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Firesticks’
Red Echeveria and a trailing Kalanchoe
Pomegranate, Punica granatum
Fingernail Bromeliad, Neoregelia spectabilis
Shrimp Plant, Justicia brandegeena and Golden Shrimp Plant, Pachystachys lutea
I love the colors in the greenhouse but all I really need today is this one: “New Growth Green”.
Monday night and Tuesday we got about 14-15 inches of snow. Enough for a snow day, hooray! Coffee by the woodstove, lots of shoveling and car clearing, then cross country skiing out the kitchen door and down the unplowed back roads of West Kingston. Life is good…
The Botanical Garden fared well in this storm. The snow is deeply drifted (3-4 feet) in areas, but no broken trees despite fierce winds. I have a theory that we lost so many trees in Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy, and the Blizzard of 2013 that the ones left after those storms are in pretty good shape. Once again lots of rabbit trails through the garden and evidence of human visitors too. With classes cancelled two days in a row, there’s been plenty of time to play in the snow.
Our water garden is under there, somewhere.
The warmth of the greenhouses always creates a great display of icicles.
The angle of the sunlight coming into the greenhouse yesterday afternoon was making everything glow. I grabbed the camera, and tried to capture it even though my glasses are “in the shop” (caught without a spare pair!) The orchid, which doesn’t have a label, often looks bedraggled quickly, but the blooms have been holding up for over a week. The maroon and greenish flower is Hippeastrum papilio, also known as Butterfly Amaryllis. Peeking in at the Pharmacy Greenhouse, the beautiful magenta daisy-like flower with a purple center is Osteospermum. A beautiful sunny treat for today’s “Cold Rain and Snow”.
“January brings the snow, makes our feet and fingers glow.”
Coldest days of the winter so far are upon us. I received a gift of an indoor-outdoor thermometer which records minimum/maximum temperatures. Now when I get up 5:30 I know it really IS cold, instead of guessing! I am hoping to skate on the pond by this weekend, something that doesn’t happen every winter here in southern Rhode Island.
5 F this morning up here at the greenhouse, (0 F down at my house) but bright and sunny. I love the magical, feathery frost patterns that form on the glass inside the conservatory! It’s warm and lovely in the greenhouse, especially when the sun comes out. The grafted citrus tree is blooming, and the scent of orange blossoms is in the air, mixed with the fragrance of the flowering gardenias…heavenly! Since I can only show you the flowers, you’ll have to come in and experience the sweet smells for yourself.
That’s what everybody here is walking around saying, with a smile and a grateful look at the gray skies. Yes, it’s been quite a while. I like having a rain day to focus on the greenhouse, dividing and potting up plants, rearranging, cleaning up, and taking cuttings. Here are some greenhouse plants which caught my eye today.
Come see us at the East Farm Spring Festival! The URI Botanical Gardens will be selling Annuals, Garden-dug Perennials, and vegetable seedlings. All-America selections, heirloom varieties, and more. All proceeds benefit the Botanical Gardens!
Here is the “Shrimp Plant”, Justicia brandegeeana, blooming in the Conservatory. I’ve never seen it looking so good!This Justicia is native to Mexico. It likes soil with lots of organic matter, lots of moisture, and partial shade. It tends to be leggy and brittle but responds very well to pruning to keep it in shape. As an added bonus, the pruned cuttings are easy to root.
The flowers are the thin white petals with maroon speckles which you can see hanging from the very showy bracts. (Clearly the bracts are what gives it the name Shrimp Plant!) The Shrimp Plant will bloom on and off all year round. It is not hardy here in Rhode Island but makes a good houseplant since it does not need full sun and tolerates a bit of neglect. It will also grow well outside in a large container, where it will attract hummingbirds.
The Shrimp Plant is in the Acanthaceae family. The genus Justicia is named for James Justice, an 18th Century Scottish horticulturist. The species honors the American botanist Townsend Brandegee, who lived from 1843 to 1925.