Flowering now

Well, flowering recently … the heat and humidity have meant things haven’t lasted that well. Rain today as the tail end of Tropical Cyclone Winston, the one that did so much damage in Fiji, flicks past us. Oh, for a cooler night – the fan’s been working overtime!

Of course, when you’re in the tropics, it’s a another story – different sounds, different smells and scents and generally clever ways of keeping rooms cool, such as deep verandahs. We were very fortunate to stay in the lovely Warwick Ibah Hotel in Ubud, Bali in 2014 where not only was there a huge verandah but a room with one open end that was sort of an entry hall. A large floor vase had been filled with stems of tuberose which gave off a wonderful scent in the evenings.

Of the 4 tuberose bulbs I bought on sale at The Warehouse late last year, 2 have flowered (all have grown) so I’m pretty pleased with that and wonder if I might yet see the other 2 flower (an eternal optimist). I put them into a big pot, mainly so I could keep track of where the bulbs are. Tuberose is native to Mexico but grown widely throughout the tropics.

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The oil of tuberose flowers is used in perfumery. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I bought a bundle of aster seedlings from Bunnings, intending them to provide some colour in a bit of a bare patch for when we had a guest staying in late October. No such luck. The plants seemed to take forever to come into bloom, but when they did – goodness! Covered in flowers.

aster

I was so impressed with the asters – reds, pinks and purples – that I got some more for the front garden. Those ones have turned out to be all blue or purple but did come into flower faster. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Orchids need not be tricky and/or time consuming. Take Epidendrum types as an example. I shoved some bare-rooted plants into a couple of (empty) pots and have ever after left them too it, apart from a squirt with the hose as I water other pots in summer.

Happily growing in a tangle in the pots, the orchids I have flower in yellow, red and purple. I once had a vivid orange type but that was back in my early days of gardening and I think I killed it with kindness.

Epidendrums come in various sizes and the taller ones are sometimes known as reed-cane types, or you may heard of ‘crucifix orchid’. Mine flower off and on throughout the year but have their best flowering in spring and summer.

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Photo: Sandra Simpson

Read about how to care for Epidendrums here. If you’re in New Zealand, Lee and Roy Neale at Whenuapai (Auckland) are busy breeding mid-size and miniature-height Epidendrums with beautiful flower colours that form up into large balls on the end of the stem. Look out for their stand at an orchid show near you (and don’t forget the big national expo in Auckland in October) or phone 09 416 6737 or email them.

The little Hoya shown below was an impulse purchase at the Te Puke Orchid Show last year – it’s only a small plant so I was very pleased to see a couple of flower heads forming.

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Hoya Bella. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The longer I have my half-dozen Hoya, the more I realise what easy-care plants they are, in this climate anyway. However, just now my Hoya Carnosa plants are suffering from the yellow Oleander aphids that also attack swan plants.

Digital control (squeezing them off with my fingers) seems to work, so long as it’s done regularly. The blighters position themselves on flower stems so there is the chance of wrecking a flower ball by trying to get them off. Mixing up a solution of water and dish-wash liquid and spraying it on, and garlic sprays are said to work too. Here are some suggestions for eradication from someone looking at protecting swan plants for monarch butterflies. Check out whether you have ants in the mix as they will ‘farm’ the aphids for their honeydew secretions so you may need to use ant control too.

Read more about Hoya Bella here – it seems to be a plant that likes a lot of water. (Others don’t seem to mind drying out a bit between waterings.)

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