Cattleya maxima ‘Hercules’

Winter has come roaring back for a few more days, but in my greenhouse it is still spring…or maybe autumn.  My Cattleya maxima ‘Hercules’ is currently flowering, but the usual bloom season for this species is late autumn.  I’m not sure what has induced it to flower now.  This particular clone seems to be a bit erratic.  Some years it skips flowering altogether, and then when it finally decides to bloom, the previous year’s growth flowers at the same time as the current year’s.

Cattleya maxima 'Hercules' flowers
Cattleya maxima ‘Hercules’

I can’t hope to compete with A.A. Chadwick’s expert description of this species and its history, so I’ll settle for commenting that this particular clone, with its dark flowers and stout pseudobulb, seems to be the highland form of C. maxima that comes from the western slopes of the Andes in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.  I like its rich color and robust growth habit, but it lacks the intricate veining on the lip possessed by another C. maxima that I flowered several years ago:

Catt_maxima1 crop resize
Cattleya maxima. Lowland form?

This plant, with its smaller, paler flowers and spindly pseudobulbs may be the lowland form that grows along the Pacific coast of Ecuador near Guayaquil.  Unlike ‘Hercules,’ which rapidly fills a pot with very vigorous roots, this plant is rather fussy and often loses its roots when kept a little too wet.  I eventually unpotted it and mounted it on a piece of cork bark, but it hasn’t thrived–too dry, I think.  I wonder if my greenhouse is just too cold in winter, and that is why it is subject to root rot.  I may try potting it up again and then hang it high in the greenhouse to keep it as warm as possible.

Germinating the blog

Although there is more freezing weather and the possibility of snow in the forecast, spring is well underway in North Carolina.  The redbud trees are in full bloom, and the early yellow daffodils are fading.  The crocuses are already finished.

This is what they looked like a couple of weeks ago:


The fence lizards are up and about.


At this time of the year, when they are intent on sunning themselves, I can often approach close enough to gently touch them.  In summer, they’ll be up a tree and hiding around the other side of the trunk before I get near.

In my greenhouse, the longer days and more intense sunlight are waking up various plants from their winter dormancy.

Cattleya amethystoglossa flowers are just opening,


while the St. Joseph’s Lily (Hippeastrum x johnsonii) is in full bloom.

Hippeastrum x johnsonii flowers

The yellow, spring blooming pachypodiums are just getting started.  This is Pachypodium bicolor, named for the slightly paler throat, unfortunately not very visible in this picture, that gives its flowers two colors:


In the background is the pale yellow form of Pachypodium eburneum.

Opposite the pachypodium bench,  a vireya (tropical rhododendron) brightens up the corner with its intense orange flowers.  This unlabeled plant is probably a hybrid of Rhododendron javanicum, or possibly the species itself:


With all this new growth and color, it seems like a good time to start the gardening blog that I have been thinking about.  My goal is to keep it going for at least a year, to document a full annual cycle of growth in the garden and greenhouse.  After that, we’ll see how it goes.