This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Many people are under the idea that it is necessary to have a very high temperature for all Orchids; but this is a mistake, and has been often pointed out in the European gardening-periodicals, but usually with the recommendation of a house specially devoted to this class of plants. This is quite unnecessary, for many of the most charming species will grow better in an ordinary greenhouse than in any other place.
In former times, when the high temperature system was believed in for Orchids of all kinds, the specimens from mountains and comparatively cool localities died off soon after importation; but now a more rational system is adopted we hear of wonderful success. Of course in this climate we can never expect the same success with a few of the very delicate specimens. For example, I have never seen a presentable plant of Odontoglossum Alexandra in this country. I do not refer to the miserable little plants charged at catalogued price (and a good price at that), but to extra large plants purchased at also an extra large price from European nurserymen by a few of our wealthy growers. I do not despair of being able to grow this if I could obtain some respectable plant from its native country, and begin with them before they had been spoiled in two inch pots in Europe.
Most of the cool house Orchids are plants with small bulbs, and although many are found in large masses, the greed of the collectors and agents induce them to tear this into little bits, forgetting that any one having a knowledge of plants would rather pay $10 for a large mass than $1 for a small piece. For that reason I have often placed from twelve to thirty of these so-called plants together to make one. Of course buyers should not expect to purchase such masses at the same price they would pay for the little bits called plants sent from Europe. I heard recently of one comparatively common Odontoglossum purchased in Europe and made up with these small pieces for which the moderate price of 25 guineas was paid. I should have liked to get the same number of dollars for such a plant, and when twenty per cent, duty and freight was added, the price would be tolerable good for the seller, and rather high for the buyer. I may mention it is quite a waste of time and money to attempt growing very small plants of this class, for they all require keeping moist at all times, and little bits in pots are drowned and on blocks wasted.
I may also mention it is little use for amateurs to invest in freshly imported plants, unless they are well posted in their treatment, and have lots of spare time to continually look after them; for the plants are usually in very poor condition, so that it is a chance under good treatment if they will grow; most frequently from importing at the budding season, delay in transportation, etc , the growth is made and delays in the boxes, and if another growth pushes it is usually much weaker, and probably produced at the wrong season. But I must give a list of a few specimens which I have proved do well in a cool house, just mentioning that I tried a few first as an experiment in the Camellia house. This is a large span-roof house 120 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 10-feet high, well ventilated on both sides of the top, and one side under the side shade. In Summer, of course, the house is very warm in hot weather, although generally cooler than outside, the roof being whitewashed and the floor damp, with air day and night.
In Winter when most of these give cutting flowers, we ventilate most days if the house will not go below 40°, and keep it from 40° to 45° with fire heat; of course no shading is required in the Winter. The first species I tried were Laelia anceps, Laelia acuminata, Cat-tleya citrina, Odontoglossum Rossi, O Cervaen-tesii, O. Alexandra?, O. Turleagi leopardicum (this last flowers better in a little more heat);-Oncidium pelicanum, O. Filipae, and Oncidium tigrinum. This grows well, but flowers better in. a little more heat.
I have since added a few more Laelias, which are growing and showing flower fine, and I think will be as satisfactory as the others; also, Odontoglossum, Rossii major, which I consider the most satisfactory of all. I have had one plant in flower for more three months; I have also Odontoglossum grande in splendid flower, and all the plants are growing well, although the first growth was killed in transit. O. corda-tum with the best growth I have seen in this variety, and showing flower. O. nebulosumanda. species of Odontoglossum sold for citrosmum,but is probably maculatum, which we shall soon see as it is showing flower, Odontoglossum Medusae, a new species, the flower having the scent of water lilies. These were in such poor condition when received that I should not have been surprised if the plants had died, but I have dozens of fine young shoots, and lots of flower stems. Some have been in. flower for months. This is a gem, and only costs-in Europe two guineas for the ordinary sized plants. 1 need not mention that Disa grandi-ilora is quite at home in this house.
I had eight flowers on several stems last year, but this-is a rather difficult subject to manage in this dry climate, it being a native of Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope, where the air is always saturated with moisture, so that thrip and red spider required constant watching; but there are few growers in England that do it well. I have grown it outside here in the Summer, but it was then more trouble to keep clean than when inside.