Hello Orchid Growers April 2021

We hope you are all safe and well. It has been a trying month with further Covid restriction and periods of intense rain causing flooding. Despite this we managed to struggle (or wade) through it! It did give us some opportunity to do some more work on our own plants.

Following is some information about Orchid Hybrids. Keep the suggestions coming for topics – we always attempt to do our best.

What is an Orchid Hybrid and why grow them?

Types of Orchid Hybrids

With around 30,000 species of orchids around the world, orchids are one of the most prolific group of flowering plants. These species are grouped into hundreds of different genera of orchids. Species orchids have both a generic name and a specific name eg. Dendrobium bigibbum (commonly known as the Cooktown Orchid).

Hybridization can occur in nature between two orchid species where there is an overlap in habitat, flowering season, pollinators and they are genetically close. These are called Natural Hybrids. When Dendrobium bigibbum interbred in nature with Dendrobium disolor it made the hybrid Dendrobium x superbiens. Natural hybrids are given same naming as species but often with an x between the genera and species names to differentiate them.

Hybrids can also be man made by cross pollination and are called Artificial Hybrids. Humans can not stop themselves from interfering (and improving?!) with nature. The first reported intentional attempt to produce a new orchid hybrid was in 1853 by horticulturist John Dominy (who worked for the nursery of James Veitch). In 1856 James Veitch showed flowers of the first Calanthe hybrid to flower to botanist Dr Lindley. Following in 1856 the first Cattleya hybrid plants were exhibited at a Royal Horticultural Society meeting. The snowball was launched down the mountain resulting in the avalanche of Artificial hybrids we have today!

Hybrids between two or more different genera of orchids are called Intergeneric Hybrids. The avalanche, triggered a tsunami!

Recording of Orchid Hybrids

The first known list of orchid hybrids was published by FW Burbidge in 1871 and “Gardener’s Chronicle” began to list all new hybrids. In 1891 Robert Rolfe published listings of new orchid hybrids in “The Orchid Review”. In 1906 the first list of orchid hybrids was published in “Sanders Guide” and in 1946 Sanders published a “Complete Guide to Orchid Hybrids”. “Sanders List of Orchid Hybrids” continued for many editions and decades. In 1960 discussion and negotiations led to transferring orchid hybrid listings to the Royal Horticultural Society and this continues today with the “International Register of Orchid Hybrids”.

Naming of Orchid Hybrids

Orchid hybrid names are registered with the Royal Horticultural Society. The name consists of two parts like species orchids – a genera name and a grex name. eg Rhyncholaeliocattleya Glenn Maidment. Genera names in both species and hybrids are usually abbreviated so this hybrid is referred to as Rlc. Glenn Maidment. This is the registered name of the hybrid that I made between Rlc. Toshie Aoki and C. Horace. The first name in the hybrid denotes the parent that produced the seed pod (female) and the second name denotes the parent that supplied the pollen (male). Looking at the current political turmoil about gender, it is apparent that orchid registration was ahead of its time – always putting the female first!

Orchid hybrids can produce from a few to hundreds of thousands of progeny. Each of these is usually a genetically distinct individual. From the plants of Rlc. Glenn Maidment that I flowered, one particularly caught my attention. I called this variety “Southern Cross”. This is called a Varietal or Clonal name. Varietal names are not officially registered and are in inverted commas. Hence the name of my unique hybrid is Rlc. Glenn Maidment ‘Southern Cross’.

Types of Orchid Hybridizers

Today orchid flasking is widely available and inexpensive. It has resulted in large numbers of people making orchid hybrids and aspiring to be the next “Messiah”. When making or growing orchid hybrids it is important to also have information about the hybridizer -Their experience, track record of success, consistency and high percentage, setting new standards or creating exciting new varieties. Over time I have come to categorize hybridizers like orchids.

  • The Dreamers: These make hybrids on basis like – “I am going to combine the lip of this parent, with the colour of this parent”. Though admirable in intention, it is low percentage in success.
  • The Awarders: These hybridizers have just got their first award for an orchid and so pollinate it with anything else that they have out at the time. They usually form little circles and pollinate between their combined awarded plants. They tend to make a higher percentage of good outcomes, but it is usually more of the same.
  • The Visionaries: There are considerably less of these hybridizers. They have a good understanding of the types of orchids they are breeding, research other hybridizers progeny and have understanding of ploidy. It is this group that sets new standards and creates new developments.

Why Grow Orchid Hybrids?

  1. Unique Ownership. Each orchid hybrid plant is a unique original individual. It is not a mass-produced variety that any and all may possess. It can take you back to your two-year-old days – “Mine, Mine, Mine, No Share”!
  2. Intrinsic Value. If the hybrid flowers of special quality or significance it is an original oil painting not a reproduced print. We all know that originals command much higher prices and are of very much more limited supply and availability.
  3. New Standard or Development. There are so many orchid hybridizers that have set new standards and created exciting new lines of orchid varieties. Flowering such hybrids puts you right at the front of the pack. Everyone wants a success after it is proven but most miss out. If there are a dozen eggs in a carton and twelve are sold, how many are left?
  4. Enjoying diversity. Some orchid hybrids have a narrow range of variation in colour and shape, others may have a wide range with each plant being different. There is no guarantee of the outcome of your first flowering which leads to a feeling of excited expectation when the first bud forms. Certainly there will be a lot of disappointments but the successes erase these. How many of us continue to buy Lotto tickets and how many of us have won? (I have had far more success with orchid hybrids than Lotto with a similar financial outlay to both).
  5. Virus Risk. Orchid hybrid plants overwhelmingly start their life virus free. If your culture practices maintain virus protection and control they will remain that way. Virus can be introduced to hybrid plants subsequently, but you are starting from the best position. Virus free plants have more vigor, resistant to pests and diseases and flower more prolifically.

Thank you for your support

Ross and Liz

April 2021 Photos

2 replies
  1. Robin Dalziell
    Robin Dalziell says:

    Hi Ross & Liz, a message from the west. I’ve grown orchids since the early 1980s. Mainly importing from the US through Frank Slattery. Now I’m recently retired and have stocked up with some of the latest – mainly cattleyas. I do have some Burdekins, Dal,s, Brunswick’s & others. I source through Rosella Nursery. Great quality AND they can send over here. One of my favourites is Golden Cane Fields Aranbeem. Flowered in December & is in sheath again. Wonderful colour & great form! Reading your newsletters is very insightful. My mentor was the late Harry Lodge. Better known for cymbidiums & paphs. What he shared with me all those years ago is still pertinent. Keep up the good work & I look forward to reading more newsletters. Regards Robin

    • Ross Maidment
      Ross Maidment says:

      Hi Robin I too have wonderful memories of my imports through Frank Slattery. He would call me up to tell me about my plants flowering in his quarantine and how pleased I would be.


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