Rare chance to see

Had a marvellous time at the BOP Orchid Society show in Te Puke yesterday – lots of photos, lots of chat and bought a few plants.

The show is on again until 4pm today so if you’re in the area and you want to see some beautiful specimens make sure you go along to the Memorial Hall in the main street. Russell Hutton of Auckland, who has a sales table, has mounted a gorgeous towering display of flowering plants, many of them not often seen.

But the orchid I’m featuring here is in the main display and owned by Conrad Coenen of Apata (you may remember Conrad won the supreme award at last year’s Tauranga Orchid Society show, with another plant).

Stanhopea oculata photographed yesterday at the BOP Orchid Society show. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Stanhopea oculata isn’t, in itself, that rare or unusual. What is unusual is that it is rarely seen in shows. Why? I’ll let Conrad explain.

“It had been in bud for about 2 weeks and was showing no sign at all of opening. So to try and encourage it, I moved the plant inside for a bit more warmth. Still nothing.

“So on Thursday morning after we’d had our morning coffee my wife and I breathed on it and lo and behold, the buds began to open sequentially all the way down the stem – and in about 15 or 20 minutes the whole spike was open … and by Sunday it will be finished.

“By the way, I don’t think our coffee breath had anything to do with it, it was just the right time for it to open.”

And that’s why Stanhopeas are so rarely shown – the show has to be perfectly timed to catch a flower that opens quickly and lasts just two or three days. (Compare that to Dianne Hintz’ Phalaenopsis White Witch which has been in flower for 18 months and shows no sign of fading!)

But what caught my attention about this plant was its perfume – walking by the part of the display it’s in I couldn’t help but turn towards it, lean in and try and identify which flower the amazing scent was coming from. Conrad describes it as vanilla-peppermint-chocolate. I couldn’t break it down into anything particular but it was phenomenal.

Stanhopea oculata is native to Central America and, like all Stanhopeas, must be basket grown and the basket lined with soft material as the flower spikes push out underneath the plant (ie, it flowers through the bottom of the basket).

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