February 10, 2018

Happy Phalaentines!

The Love Affair with Moth Orchids


Valentine's Day 2018 is fast approaching and since I can't offer you, dear reader, a dozen roses and assorted chocolates, how about a dozen or so pictures of orchids?


Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory 
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid 


It's a tough time for me as a gardener in Toronto as the middle of February offers no respite from snow, slush, horrible windchills and so on. I'm not the type to order and read seed catalogues by the fireplace; in fact, currently I'm reading books about many non-gardening topics like marketing, design and Japanese fiction. I just don't find spending hours reading about constructing compost bins, growing chickens in the city and maximizing your backyard vegetable yields particularly exciting or beautiful.



Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid white hybrid by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory 
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid white hybrid 


What do I find beautiful at this time of the year? As you surely have ascertained at this point of the post, orchids!


Phalaenopsis Harlequin Moth Orchid at the Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis "Harlequin" Moth Orchid 
at the Centennial Park Conservatory 

I'm not an orchid collector or grower but I can completely understand how and why many apparently rational and sane people lose their rationality and sanity buying, growing and showing off their babies as I was the same with hostas many years ago. 

(Erik Hansen wrote a very funny and yet at times sad book detailing the madness of some orchid growers titled "A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy" which I've read and reviewed here. You don't even have to like orchids to enjoy reading it as the themes cover any obsession we have!)

If our house wasn't so drafty and dry in the winter, I likely would keep an few orchids around but, to be honest, I much rather take pictures of orchids than actually growing them. And why not? Orchids are so photogenic and practically dare you not taking a picture of them when they're happy blooming away in warm and humid conditions.



Phalaenopsis Harlequin Moth Orchid hybrid at the Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis "Harlequin" Moth Orchid hybrid 
at the Centennial Park Conservatory

"Warm and humid" growing conditions in Toronto right now are rare and likely to occur inside greenhouses and conservatories. Two local conservatories I visit regularly always have more than a few orchids blooming away so recently I carried my camera in the hope of capturing some pictures. Lucky for me, these orchids were happy to accommodate!




Phalaenopsis hybrid at Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis hybrid at the 
Centennial Park Conservatory

Most of today's pictures show the orchid you're most likely familiar with: the moth orchid or Phalaenopsis. You see these hybrids on sale almost anywhere: grocery stores, home improvement and warehouse shopping stores, your local floral shop and of course, garden centers. I'm amazed how plants so beautiful (in bloom of course) are so common and inexpensive to the point of being commodities. I realize, of course, these are due to the fact that Phalaenopsis can be commercially propagated easily by tissue culture.

(If you want to dive into the fascinating world of Phalaenopsis propagation, click on this PDF created for the American Orchid Society: "Growing the Best Phalaenopsis" by Runkle et al. I was surprised how quickly I recalled all those terms from my botany and horticulture classes from eons ago!)





Phalaenopsis hybrid at Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis hybrid at 
Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid 
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid at Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid 
at Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid 
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid at the Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid 
at the Centennial Park Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrids at the Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrids 
at the Centennial Park Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid magenta hybrid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid magenta hybrid 
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid purple and white hybrid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid purple and white hybrid 
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory 



Purple and white Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Purple and white Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid 
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory 

Here's excellent information about keeping your Phalaenopsis happy at home by the American Orchid Society: Novice Phalaenopsis Culture Sheet

Wait, there's more!


If you're tired of looking at moth orchids at this point, I've included the following orchids which were begging to be photographed during the same visit to the Allan Gardens Conservatory.


 At the Allan Gardens Conservatory Cymbidium insigne Sweetheart  by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
 At the Allan Gardens Conservatory 
Cymbidium insigne "Sweetheart"



Cymbidium insigne Sweetheart at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Cymbidium insigne "Sweetheart" at the 
Allan Gardens Conservatory



Cymbidium insigne Sweetheart at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Cymbidium insigne "Sweetheart" at 
the Allan Gardens Conservatory 


Angraecum spp. Orchid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Angraecum spp. Orchid at 
the Allan Gardens Conservatory 


January 27, 2018

Beauty (and Disgust) is in the Eye of the Beholder

Spring Flowers and the Horrors They Bring


I think it's safe to say that most of you reading appreciate growing, smelling and seeing flowers (otherwise, you're in the wrong blog!) Granted, not everyone likes the same flower (for example, it seems nothing polarizes people more than being presented a bunch of freshly pulled dandelion flowers.) Flowers (or you can argue plants in general) can evoke certain emotions, feelings and physical reactions based on distant memories and associations with people, events, locations, etc. For those who haven't read my profile blurb, I'll always associate tomato plants with my kindergarten (maybe grade 1?) teacher handing out a styrofoam cup with a precious seedling to each of us in her class. I think my mom even grew it but this memory may or may not have actually occurred 45 years ago; nevertheless, the scent from a tomato plant always triggers this happy memory from primary school.

I recently was reminded of my little tomato plant in a round-about way after sharing this picture on another social media forum I visit:



"Royale Red" Salpiglossis sinuata (Painted Tongue, Scalloped Tube Tongue or Velvet Trumpet Flower) at Toronto's Allan Gardens Conservatory Spring Flower Show.
"Royale Red" Salpiglossis sinuata (Painted Tongue)


The plant's common name is Painted Tongue and botanically known as Salpiglossis sinuata. I took this photo during a Spring Flower Show from four years ago (here's the original post titled "Allan Gardens Conservatory Spring Flower Show 2014: primulas, cinerarias, grape hyacinths. Toronto blooms (without the distracting home renovation booths)" if you're interested.)

Painted Tongue is an annual for us here in zone 5 Toronto and these flowers were grown from seed just for the Show. There are many cultivars and I think this particular one is called "Royale Red".

What do you think of its appearance? It's certainly grabs your attention as the veins seem kaleidoscopic. To me, it's even a little hypnotic.

After I shared this picture on the aforementioned flower community, I received an unusual reply. (To give you some context, the particular group is for members to share pictures of plants and the moderator and I'm guessing 95% of the members are Japanese.) Here's my conversation with Seiichiro:


S: This is a very less attractive flower for Japanese people's soul, I think.


Me: Can you explain? I'm not sure what you mean by "less attractive" :-) Do you like it?

S: For me, it seems a kind of monster and my heart rejects it.I suppose many Japanese feel like me. 毒々しい (poisonous) , this is the very Japanese word for the flower.


Me: That's very interesting! I never viewed it as evil or poisonous but the pattern does get your attention, in a good or bad way. I googled the kanji and the images produced included many poisonous mushrooms!

I appreciate your comment. I am sure many here in North America also find this flower's appearance too shocking!



I didn't receive other negative comments so maybe Seiichiro is generalizing but then again, maybe not. I tried to translate (via Google of course) the Japanese characters he provided above and got results like "gaudy", "detestable", "odious" and the all encompassing "gross." And if you searched these characters by image, you'll be surprised (try it, don't worry, it's definitely safe for work.)


My little conversation with Seiichiro confirmed what I've known all along: sometimes, a rose is not just a rose and in this case, an attention-seeking annual flower which at first glance provides much needed colour therapy after a long Toronto winter isn't so innocent-looking after all. 

At least to Shisido-san....