Sunday, September 7, 2014

Small but perfectly formed

There was an interesting chat on the radio yesterday morning about the number of seasons there are in Sydney's gardening year, and the consensus was that having just four definitely is not enough. Spring, summer, autumn and winter might be fine for the US, Canada and most of Europe, but it just doesn't tell the story of other parts of the world.

A 'four-season' divvying-up of the year is hopelessly wrong for tropical and subtropical zones, and even a place like Sydney, a few hundred miles south of the true subtropics, needs at least six to tell the whole story. (I believe the traditional Aboriginal system for Sydney includes six seasons, so we're on the right track – you can read more about the Aboriginal seasons for Sydney here.)

Right now, according to our radio chatterboxes, we're in 'Sprinter', that time of year in August and September when it's still cool but the new flowers are leaping about in colourful profusion. ('Spring' is late September through to early November, a traditional springtime; it's followed by 'Sprummer', that warm, rainy time of spring when the flowers are fading already, the weather is warming but cold days are still about, all through November especially and even into December;. Then follows a full four months of real summer, from late December through to the end of March.)

Oh, where were we? Sprinter. Every Sprinter, our native orchids appear on schedule, and they're here again, small but perfectly formed tiny orchids about 1.5cm across (that's a bit over half an inch). And some of them are lightly scented, too.

Sorry, can't help with the botanical names
here. This is the deep pink one.
And yes, you guessed it, this is the pale pink
one. To give you an idea of its size, that's a
pod of a 'normal' cymbidium orchid behind it.
In fact, Sprinter is also the time of year when our whitish-pinky
cymbidium orchids appear, so our gaggle of orchids in pots,
which lives at one end of our covered pergola area, is a very
pleasantly colourful scene at the moment.
These two cymbidiums look like swimmers
emerging from the water with their hair wet but
they're just two big, beautiful flowers trying to
open their wings on yet another soggy morning
here in Sydney.

The native orchids are as easy to care for as the normal cymbidiums, which means they are as tough as nails. Normal orchid potting mix for them. They do like a feed, though. I use an organic liquid food formulated for orchids on both the cymbidiums and the natives, giving everything a feed once a month. Every three, four (or maybe it's five?) years, this happy band of potted orchids needs repotting, simply because they grow so readily that they outgrow their pots. While it's said that orchids like to have their roots crowded together, in the long run overcrowding will cut down on the flower shows. 

After repotting, the terrible, shocking problem is that I end up with too many beautiful orchids and not enough pots (or space). On a scale of one to 10 of terrible problems gardeners have to face, this is surely a 0.0005. I have much more weighty matters to bother me, like convincing people that 'Sprinter' isn't a stupid name for this season…

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