On Saturday I went to the RHS Orchid Show – I want to go to the RHS Chelsea flower show but probably won’t work out well to be able to so when I saw this show running over the weekend; I decided it would be a nice compensation.
I dragged my husband along (he is very obliging) but promised he wouldn’t have to carry plants home. This always makes me think twice about a purchase if I have trouble getting it home (Amazon delivery has a lot to answer for).
It was advertised as the RHS Orchid Show and Plant Fair but I just saw it as Orchid Show and ignored the plant part so I was surprised when I entered that there were no orchids in the building (unbeknownst to me there was a separate building).
The first section was general house and garden plants; not really something of true interest for me but they did have some very nice and quite interesting looking succulents and cacti when you first walked in (of course, I forgot to take pictures of anything interesting)
There were a lot of stalls selling spring bulbs in bloom; daffodils galore; I had to walk straight past the seed stall lest I purchase even more seed that I don’t have room for.
There was a bonsai stall that had all the supplies and beginner plants to purchase to get you started on the bonsai hobby path but the coolest thing was the established bonsai they had (I daren’t look at the prices)
The main attraction was definitely the orchid section (you could tell they had just tacked on the plant sale as an extra) The orchid show was in a separate building also part of RHS Lindley Hall. Perhaps not a coincidence, the name Lindley is very well known amongst orchid collectors and general botanists. He was the son of a nurserymen and rose through the ranks of the RHS, he worked for Sir Joseph Banks; at University College and the Royal Institution and Chelsea Physic Garden (he started the RHS Chelsea Flower Show)
However, apart from this he is most famous for his books of sketches and classifications from 76 species (including 13 new ones) and nineteen hand illustrated colour plates (‘A botanical history of Roses’) all the way to ‘The Genera and Species of Orchidaceous Plants’ which took him ten years to write. There are 241 accepted orchid genera (not just species, genus!) that he has classified (and also many other plants) and there are over 200 orchid species named after him honouring his work; so needless to say, holding an orchid show in Lindley Hall was fitting.
When we entered the hall the smell was overwhelming; a cacophony of smells – a cacosmia. Most orchids do smell nice (some are horrid) however, when you add them all together they can become quite the clash of senses; like someone who wears too much perfume but decided that day to wear all the perfumes they own at once.
However, that been said the displays were amazingly set up; different vendors along with the RHS and the British Orchid Society had stalls displaying award-winning orchids and others standards for sale.
There was a man selling orchids from cloud forests (bright, cool (<20C) usually quite high elevations with persistent cloud or fog) which can be hard to grow at home in houses that can’t maintain cool humid conditions. He had set up a couple of stands that showed how orchids grow in the wild. Being mostly epiphytic, orchids grow ‘in air’ meaning they do not have a substrate such as soil but usually gain nutrients and water by surrounding trickles of water through leaf litter.
This style of display was fairly unique; usually vendors are selling in pots or in a display that would be used for judging and award receiving – a very sterile way showing the best of the flower but not the environment that makes it natural.
The flower above is called ‘Prosthechea cochleata’ (formally Encyclia – they are constantly changing the genera of different orchids but that is a whole other post); its common name is octopus or shell orchid but the Latin name refers to the fact that it looks like an ear. It is uncommon in the fact that it is actually upside down with the ‘lip’ of the flower at the top of the rest of the bloom so it forms a hood. (Apparently, the nation flower of Belize, I did not know that)
I have so many photos I am not sure how to write about them all – so I will comment on some and then just present the rest as eye candy towards the end.
The three above; Lycaste and Anguloa have very similar growing environments but if there was ever a need for someone to invent smell-o-vision this would be the time. The yellow flower is called Anguloa clowesii (tulip orchid) and the description of its scent can only be described as the dentist (in my humble opinion) it is a cross between mint/menthol, antiseptic and hospitals and tigerbalm (others have described it as coconut and paste/glue and mint). It is a smell that you either love or hate – I don’t love it but I would grow it just for the unique smell (the flower is pretty huge/pretty too).
The other two are not similarly scented at all – the orange flower (Lycaste aromatica) is very strong cinnamon/clove or spices (almost overwhelmingly so) and the other, Lycaste Panorama Mundial, unfortunately I did not smell this time and it can vary between plants.
I could write all day about orchids and comment long and hard about each photo I have taken but I don’t think WordPress has servers big enough for that drivel so I will just let you know that I did get some bargains with the venture to the orchid show.
I have been somewhat depressed about the lack of orchids in my life but have come to resign myself that you cannot have it all in life (no one has the room) so since I have a (soon to be) very nice back garden and burgeoning vegetable patch I would let go of the idea of tropical orchids. Tropical orchids need year round bright light and warmth which I would have to maintain artificially here in London; much better to go with the flow and not fight against what you have. That being said, I bought orchids that would live outside in the backyard in the form of terrestrial orchid, Calanthe. These and others are hardy to below zero numbers as they are dormant in winter and re-sprout and bloom in the spring. They are highly scented (I couldn’t keep them in the kitchen together) and come in muted pastel colours (you can get them in bright pinks and yellows but I prefer the more unusual).
The other bargains I picked up are of the non orchid variety – some miniature daffodil that have the strongest scent I have ever known (this time I will keep the tag safe). Also, some fritillaria after I told the man at the stall I had bought fritillaria seeds that I was going to germinate – he replied that it was impossible to do and so would sell me four pots of bulbs for three pounds (I took the deal but will still attempt the germination as I am a glutton for punishment)
So if you have read this far congrats, you have a lot of time on your hands and below is your reward – the rest of the photos of the orchid show. They do not do the show justice as there was just not enough time or patience for crowds to be able to capture the nuances and beauty of all the different blooms and displays. (not all have names displayed but I am quite happy to give the flower name of any you fancy)
I hope you enjoyed the photos and had a great weekend in between the bouts of good and bad weather – hopefully we will see more good weather heading our way soon and the real growing can begin.