Rainforest resident is a UK garden favourite

The moth orchid is the easiest type to cultivate.

The moth orchid is the easiest type to cultivate.

Carnations

BRIAN KIDD: Gardening galore for the long weekend

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I very often think about my early days in horticulture, particularly when I worked as an apprentice at Leigh Park gardens, now called the Staunton Estate.

My wonderful head gardener Bill Hedges taught me how to grow orchids and the resulting blooms were sold to a wholesaler called Mr Fehren back in Portsmouth.

As a rule, the results of selling the blooms at seven shillings and six pence each would raise enough to pay for the fuel to keep the boilers going!

Those were the days and orchid growing was not only extraordinary, it seemed like a science. There were so many things not to do!

Things are very different now. Orchids are easy to find at all garden centres and one of the most popular is called Phalaenopsis.

They are commonly called moth orchids and are widely distributed through New Guinea, Borneo, the Philippines and Burma as wild plants.

Can you imagine the faces of excited British plant hunters who had never seen them before – orchids in thousands growing in trees with huge silvery beautiful roots and dripping with mist in unbearable humid mosquito-infested forests?

Not a bit like our lounge at home.

Moth orchids are the easiest type to cultivate and they are a bargain. A large plant in full bloom costs between £12 and £20.

They are normally in clear plastic pots because the roots enjoy the light, whereas most roots prefer to be in the dark.

The roots often grow out of the top of the pot and look like the legs of silvery spiders, This is part of the architectural beauty of the plants but, more importantly, the roots imbibe the moisture from the air.

At this time of year the plants are in full bloom at garden centres and if kept in the light but not in direct sunshine and given rain water, they will remain in bloom right up until August.

After flowering, the stems are left on the plant because during December side shoots will appear from the old stems and a mass of new flowers emerge.

New flower shoots will also emerge from the bases of the leaves.

Watering is important, rainwater is best and starting in April, growing fertiliser is diluted in water and applied to the roots until September, after which flower fertiliser is used.

If the plants are fed as recommended, there is no need to repot into a larger pot. But if there are masses of roots clambering over the outside of the pot, they can be put into a larger clear pot.

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