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Select the Right Orchids for Your Purpose

Apr 9, 2008
It is harder to select orchids for your beginning collection than it is to grow them. While growing orchids is a feat of memory aided by experience and common sense, selection requires long association with orchids and long evenings spent studying orchid catalogues. Here are some which you can begin with.

Fragrant Orchids

Few people have made a hobby of fragrant plants. Most of us accept pleasing odors in plants as a matter of course. As a hobby this field is wide open - and extensive. Its only drawback where fragrant orchids are concerned would be finding your home or greenhouse overpoweringly perfumed - which is exactly what would happen, for many orchids have the most powerful and lasting fragrances in the plant world. Their perfumes are heavy, unusual, or exotic. They seem to fill the air of your rooms with the mysteries of the Far East or the enchantments of sundrenched tropical lands.

Most of the scent comparisons listed here are accurate, but some are necessarily approximate. Certain fragrances are tantalizing in their ability to escape identification, and are subject to as many interpretations as there are individuals who have encountered them.

Type of Fragrance Name of Orchid Species
Allspice Gongora atropurpurea
Angelica Epidendrum umbellatum
Citron Rodriguezia Candida
Coconut milk Bulbophylum comosum
Hawthorn Odontoglossum constrictum
Honey Cycnoches loddigesii
Newmown hay Oncidium ornithorynchum
Platyclinis glumacea
Wallflower Gongora galeata
Acropera loddigesii

Orchids Fragrant Only at Night

Epidendrum nocturnum
Brassavola grandiflora

Orchids That Change Their Fragrance

Primrose (morning) Honey (noon) Grass (evening) Dendrobium nobile
Pleasant by day Unpleasant by night Orchis mascula

Decorative Foliage

In any garden a background of foliage is needed to give color between blooming seasons. Unfortunately, lovely foliage is not often produced by orchids. There are few which can serve as background plants when out of bloom. Fewer still whose foliage is in itself attractive. Other than some cypripediums and phalaenopsis, good foliage orchids have very poor flowers.

Description of Foliage Name of Species

Silver and gold veining on Anoectochilus in variety
green and purple leaves
Leaves marbled, grey above, Warm Asiatic cypripediums
purplish beneath, or vari- in variety
ously tesselated
Green leaves veined with Goodyera in variety
Bronze-colored foliage Microstylis josephiana
Metallic purple and rose Microstylis metallica
Leaves marbled and Phalaenopsis schilleriana
blotched with grey above, Phalaenopsis stuartiana
purplish-red beneath

Mimicry in Orchids

There is not always a close similarity between a common orchid name and the insect or object the flower is supposed to resemble. However, without stretching your imagination too far the basic resemblance often exists. In only a few cases is the name purely fanciful.

Common Name Name of Species

Bee Ophrys apifera
Bird's Nest Neottia nidus-avis
Butterfly Oncidium papilio
Habenaria conopsea
Epidendrum venosum
Cranefly Tipularia discolor
Dove Peristeria elata
Fly Ophrys muscifera
Frog Oncidium raniferum
Peristylis viridis
Letter Plant Grammatophyllum speciosum
Lizard Orchis hircina
Looking Glass Ophrys speculum
Moth Phalaenopsis amabalis
Rattlesnake Goodyera pubescens
Spider Ophrys aranifera
Swan Cycnoches ventricosum

Miniature Orchids

Some people go in for collecting minute curios. Why not miniature plants? There are orchids which when full grown barely reach the stature of an inch, others that do not exceed five inches. Their cost is little compared to that of miniature furniture. Smallness in stature should not be confused with smallness in flowers, although this is frequently true. Laelia majalis may reach only five inches in height, but usually puts out a six-inch flower.

Name of Species Size in Inches

Angraecum articulatum 3-5
Angraecum distichum 1-2
Comparettia (in variety) 5-6
Cypripedium (in variety) 4-10
Dendrobium bellatulum 2-3
Dendrobium loddigesii
Laelia majalis (Syn. grandiaora) 6-7
Lycaste aromatica 3-5
Restrepia pandurata 3-5
Rodriguezia (in variety) 4-6
Saccolabium bellinum 3-6
Saccolabium calceolare 2-6
Sophronitis (in variety) 2-5
Trichocentrum (in variety) 3-6

There are many more orchids which can be selected, but these are a few which may tempt you.
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