This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", 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.
Orchid-blooms are welcome at all times of the year, but those seem to us most acceptable which expand during our dull wintry months. All flowers are beautiful; but there is an obvious superiority about Orchids in form, colour, and also in the crystalline delicacy of their finely-moulded sepals and petals, which is all-sufficient to raise them from ordinary or vulgar mediocrity to the superlative degree of floral beauty and excellence. Their glowing colours - and in many cases grateful perfume - increase their value for all kinds of ornamental purposes to which flowers can be applied, whether they are allowed to remain on the plants themselves, or are removed to grace bouquets, vases, or other floral decorations.
Laelias are among the most beautiful of all autumn and winter flowering Orchids; and their price, in the first instance, is not more than that of the rarer Ferns and stove-plants. The culture of most winter-blooming Orchids is exceedingly simple; and we feel surprised that they are not more generally grown wherever choice flowers are in demand during this festive season. All the species here alluded to - with the exception of L. Perrinii, L. superbiens, and L. anceps - grow best on blocks, either of virgin cork, or Acacia with the bark left on. Plants soon establish themselves on blocks; but they will require constant attention when making their growth with respect to moisture at the root. The Loelias recommended for block-culture, I find, luxuriate with most vigour in a cool temperature and not over-moist atmosphere: just such a temperature as is found in most cool vineries suits them admirably, while the foliage of the Vines supplies all the shading that they require. In practice, I find that many Loelias and Dendrobes are greatly benefited by being placed in the cool airy atmosphere of late vineries, after they have made their season's growth.
Of course, where there is the convenience of a Mexican house, these shifts will not have to be resorted to; but I am writing for those who have to do their best with ordinary plant-houses, and are ambitious of growing a few of these choice flowers to add to those obtained from stove and greenhouse plants.
We will now glance at those Loelias best suited to our purpose for flowering during winter, and append a few hints on culture under each species, as may be deemed requisite. I am of opinion that the best way of supplying information is by suggesting the mode of treatment, rather than by attempting to lay down any inflexible rule. In horticulture there are many ways of obtaining the same end: it is an art, not a mere series of mechanical operations which, if performed in due order, end in one invariable result. A course of treatment successful in one particular instance may not be applicable to the generality of places; but by supplying the intelligent horticulturist with suggestive information, he is in a position to work out the problem himself - far better, perhaps, than we could do it for him, being in ignorance as to his peculiar appliances, and other local circumstances beyond our control.