The topic today is a beautiful orchid Dimorphorchis lowii, which is native to the jungles of Borneo. As if its long pendulous chain of flowers is not eye-catching enough, there are actually two types of flowers competing for viewer’s attention. A few female flowers near the top are bright yellow wtih red spots, while all other male flowers below have cream background almost completely covered with maroon spots.
One web page mentioned that in 1883, a particularly well grown specimen was displayed by one French Baron’s gardener. It was 8 feet tall with an 8 feet leafspan. A total of 11 flower spikes draped down around the plant, averaging 9 feet in length.
This story reminded me of some of the most floriferous orchids I saw while I was attending regular meeting of my local Malihini Orchid Society. A lot of these orchids were Cattleya hybrids that had over 50 pseudobulbs in big wide pots with over 30 flowers all open at the same time. They were all grown using a special fertilizer called Jerry’s Grow. Mr Jerry Rodder is a member of that society. Being an inventive chemist, he discovered that a little methanol would work wonders with orchid growth. He used to have a website jerrysgrow.com that sells his patented fertilizer, but that site seems to be down. I guess an alternative is to feed a little beer to plants, and the gardener can treat him/herself with any extra.
As far as growing Dimorphorchis lowii, I have not had much problem since acquiring this one in 2000. I give it regular watering and fertilizer during the warm months, stop fertilizing and hold back on watering during winter. Repotting usually happens once a year. My specimen first started blooming in 2004. Since then it has been blooming once every two years. The flowers are waxy and long-lasting, slightly fragrant too. In 2004, I cut the flower spike about one month after it started blooming and took it to the Horticulture Department at Foothill College, where I was studying. A fellow student from Brazil quickly made an impromptu necklace/lei with that spike. I think it will make a good gift for my wife this time.