This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Nearly all those named, and many more besides, thrive well in potting material composed of equal parts of the fibry part of peat and sphagnum. The temperature required for Dendrobes, Phaius, Calanthes, and Laelias, is a little higher than for the others, and they should be at the warm end of the house, the Coelogynes and Lycastes at the middle, and the Cypripediums and Odontoglots at the coolest end. In cold weather, 55° to 60° is sufficient for the former, and 5° less for the latter. By a little difference in the extent of flow-pipes next to the boiler, and by keeping the cool plants at the east end of the house, a difference of 5° can easily be arranged without a division. Of course it is always best when two compartments are at command; but these remarks are made in the interest of many who cannot have two divisions devoted to Orchid-culture.
Subsequent to writing these remarks, we have enjoyed an opportunity of inspecting five collections, or rather selections, of Orchids, all of which are well known to a great many Orchid-growers. As we have referred specially to this family of plants as possessing a singular charm for amateurs who do nearly all the work connected with their culture, we will first briefly refer to Dr Paterson's Fernfield, Bridge of Allan, as an example of what can be accomplished with the most commonplace - in fact, what many would consider inferior - appliances. The houses at Fernfield consist of three very small compartments, without any divisional doors. The plants embrace the finest varieties in cultivation of some of the genera, all in so robust and healthy a condition as is rarely met with - indeed we never saw a lot of Orchids so exceptionally healthy. To give some idea of the coolness of temperature and airy condition under which these Orchids are grown, it will be sufficient to state that, when we approached the garden at Fernfield, on the 13th November, the first thing we noticed was the door of the cool-Orchid apartment standing wide open, and spikes of Odontoglossum, Masdevallias, Oncidiums, Lycastes, etc, waving about with the current of cool air.
In the next division were such as Cattleya labiata, Laelias, Miltonia Morreliana, Vandas, etc, in bloom, also subject to the free circulation of cool air - for there is no door on the opening between this house and the cool division. In the third apartment there were Aerides and Saccolabiums, in the most perfect health, and a grand spike of Van da caerulea, bearing fifteen very large and finely-coloured blooms. We had been aware, previous to our visit, that the Doctor always had his doors open all day in summer, except in cases of high winds, but were completely taken aback to see the door of the cool house stand open for five or six hours on a clear bracing November day. The treatment of these Orchids is exceptionally cool; and the Doctor attributes his great success chiefly to a free circulation of air and moisture in proportion. At the time of our visit the following were in full bloom: -
Cattleya labiata (grand variety).
Epidendrum vitellinum majus.
Gongora atropurpurea. Laelia anceps Barkeriana.
,, Perrinii. Lycaste Skinnerii (immense blooms).
,, lanipes. Masdevallia ignea.
,, Harryana caerulescence.
Mesospinidium vulcanicum. Miltonia Morreliana purpurea.
Odontoglossum pescatorei. ,, Alexandrae.
Oncidium ornithorhynchum. ,, varicosum. ,, crispum. ,, serratum. Pleione maculata. ,, Wallichiana. ,, lagenaria. Sophronitis grandiflora. ,, cernua.
,, fine lake-coloured imported variety. Vanda caerulea (splendid variety). ,, suavis.
,, tricolor Patersonii (grand variety).
On the same occasion we visited Mr Smith's, of Bretby Park, Stirling, where the nucleus of a fine collection has already been got together; and plant-houses, now occupied with mixed collections of plants, besides a new house in course of erection, are to be devoted exclusively to Orchids. Here we saw the lovely Lycaste Skinnerii alba, in bloom, and various others. At John Gair's, Esq., the Kilns, Falkirk, a large collection of Orchids is being formed, and several houses are devoted to their culture; and the plants are in a thoroughly promising condition. It is only a year or two since Mr Gair took to Orchid culture, and on that account most of the plants are comparatively small, but are thriving remarkably well. A plant of Odontoglossum Londesboroughianum was just opening, probably the first time of its blooming in Scotland. At John Russell's, Esq. of Mayfield - a place which has long been justly celebrated for many of the finest specimens in cultivation, but which were dispersed a few years ago - we were greatly surprised to find all the Orchid-houses again full of Orchids. We presume Mr Russell could not take to a new line, and so has gone with all his heart into his old one.
Although the specimens here are yet far short of what the old ones were, they are on the road to a similar success, under the able management of Mr Sorely, Mr Russell's gardener. Many interesting specimens were here in bloom, but being "tied" to a train, we took no notes. The most extraordinary growths of Dendrobium Wardianum we ever saw were here. They were quite 3 feet long, and as thick as a man's forefinger. At A. B. Stewart's, Esq. of Langside, we found that great strides have been made in Orchid collecting and culture during the last two years. A grand plant of Cattleya oxoniensis was here in fine bloom, the real Phalaenopsis grandiflora, and many others. The finest plant of Vanda Lowii in the country is in this collection. We found the general tendency to use more sphagnum, and less lumpy peat, in Orchid culture, than was the case at one time in force at all these places; and we think, from our own experience, this is a step in the right direction. The treatment generally is also much cooler, as we before remarked, than was at one time practised.