It’s the little things that make me happy – like buying an orchid that is reputed to be difficult to grow, and getting it to bloom often. Since I entered the orchid world a few years ago, I have been trying to learn as much as I can about these enigmatic and fascinating plants. I have also been growing more obscure cultivars, because it is so challenging and rewarding.
Masdevallias (pronounced mas-de-VAL-ee-ahs) are members of the Pleurothallid alliance. They are native to the cloud forests of Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. That means they grow at higher elevations, in humid but circulating air and relatively cool temperatures. I knew about the temperature thing when I first read up on mine, (Masdevallia “Gold Dust”) so I was not surprised when it blew its emerging flower buds during the oppressive heat of last summer.
So the challenge for me was to try to replicate this plant’s natural habitat, without the luxury of a greenhouse. Masdevallias do not have pseudobulbs, which means they cannot store water, which in turn means they must be kept consistently moist, but cannot stand in water either. I set my plant on a bed of pebbles, inside a large, open glass jar. That way, I figured it would stay humid down by the roots, but the air would still move freely. It sits in a southeast corner window with most of my other orchids, and gets lots of light.
My plant was just under a year old when I bought it, and in a few months, I was seeing spikes emerging from the bases of the leaves. I have read that they flower at certain times of the year, but mine seems to flower whenever the spirit moves it. It’s the sepals that provide the color. The sepals of “Gold Dust” are a deep gold, but if you look closely, inside there’s a subtle, slightly fuzzy wash of lavender. I couldn’t capture that with my camera, so you will just have to believe me.
My Masdevallia has almost doubled in size since I got it, but it will never be a large orchid. I love its quirky growing habits, and the intense color of the blooms. As I said, it’s the little things….