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Hi Gardeners,

I hope you are all happy and healthy.

I love watching movies and going to the movie theatre. A couple of weeks ago I watched a movie on the life of Doris Duke, who was once called the ‘richest girl in the world’. She was an intelligent independent lady who liked to travel the world, advocating for the protection of the environment, anonymously gifting more than $400 million dollars.

James Buchanan Duke initially transformed 2000 acres in Hillsborough, New Jersey into a spectacular wonderland by creating nine man-made lakes, 18 miles of roads and 45 buildings, including what is known as Duke Farms. James’s daughter Doris inherited his love of orchids.

Whilst on your world travels, some of you gardeners out there may have visited Duke Farms, which is an orchid lover’s paradise. The ‘Orchid Range’ has two main tropical and sub-tropical orchid displays, with 1300 varieties on display.

ORCHIDS – Now the pleasure begins!

Phalaenopsis a Greek word meaning moth like in appearance. They originate from the hot tropic areas of Java through to the Philippines to the northern tip of Australia. The Australian variety, Phalaenopsis Amabilis var. Nosenstromil, was discovered in 1907 growing high in the treetops of the Daintree River.

They prefer 70-80% more shade than other orchids and can be grown indoors provided you have the above amount of shade. Humidity should be 60-70%, which is normal in this area. You can create your own humidity by placing the plant on a tray filled with gravel and water. Shade houses are not their favourite place. They prefer being grown outside in summer and inside the house in winter.

As they don’t have bulbs and store their water reserves in their leaves, it is best not to let them dry out. Water as soon as the orchid mix starts to dry out which in summer is every two or three days and in winter once a week.

Once flowering, make sure you stake the plant right up to the top of the flower. You can fertilize with a liquid feed at half strength every week in summer and less in winter. There are slow-release fertilizers you can use, make sure you use at the recommended dosage.

Cattleya orchids are often seen in bridal bouquets or corsages. They will grow in a semi-shaded area, like under a pergola. Water from the top, soaking the pot and spray the leaves. Ensure good drainage allowing the pot to dry out rapidly. Usually re-pot every three years when the orchid is too large for its pot. Once re-potted use mancozeb to seal any cuts when dividing out the rhizomes.

Cymbidium orchids enjoy sitting under a tree with about 50% light otherwise they won’t flower. Keep the pots off the ground to help with air circulation and drainage, preventing fungi and bacterial problems and stopping worms or grubs getting into the potting mix.

Water in the evenings during spring and early autumn and in the mornings in late autumn, winter and early spring – usually once a week.

These are great to bring inside the home for a wonderful display of colour.

Dendrobium orchids love to grow in a shade house and derive from Australian natives like the King Orchid. Hard cane like the Cooktown Orchid and soft cane like the Nobile who like to grow in trees.

Shade them during the hottest time of the day, but give them plenty of light. Allow plenty of heat and moisture when growing, however cooler and drier conditions once the growth has finished for the season. You will know this when they do not produce any new leaves at the apex. Deciduous varieties will lose their leaves but evergreen should not receive such extreme treatment, either in temperature or lack of moisture. Continue the resting conditions only giving water when shrivelling is apparent and the flower buds are prominent.

Hope this is helpful. The ladies and gentlemen from The Bribie Orchid Society are always available for help. Joining their club is not only a great way to learn more about orchid growing, but a lovely way to socialise and meet people with common interests.


You will notice that most nurseries carry Neem oil. In India, they call the Neem Tree the village pharmacy. Various parts of the plant are used as insecticide, toothpaste, soap and medicines. It is an evergreen tree in the Mahogany family. The Neem oil acts on the sensory nervous system of insects by blocking the part of the brain which controls breeding and egg laying. I read that it has been used in Asia for about 4000 years. It has taken us a while to catch up but why not give Neem a try and give those insects the boot.


Remember to lime the area where you intend to grow your Sweet Peas this season. This should be done in February and then planting out near St Paddy’s Day.

Happy gardening


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