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A Winter Warm-Up

January 19, 2011

Sophrolaeliocattleya g. 'Mine Gold’. Sophrolaeliocattleya g. 'Mine Gold’.

This year we decided to do something a little different in the Conservatory when planning the 2011 Orchid Extravaganza. It still runs the traditional timeframe with opening day being January 22 and ending after the International Orchid Show & Sale, which is March 25–27, 2011.But, rather than having traditional purple, white and pink orchids all over, why not jazz it up with some warm colors as well? New forms to support the orchid plants for 2011 include two huge obelisks in the Orangery, each covered with hundreds of yellow moth orchids (Phalaenopsis). These towers are 6 feet tall and are mixed with chartreuse pothos (Epipremnum aurem 'Neon').

Phalaenopsis obelisks. Photo by Larry Albee. Phalaenopsis obelisks. Photo by Larry Albee.

Also new for 2011 are floating islands of moth orchids mixed with warm orange dancing lady orchids (Oncidium) on the Exhibition Hall floor. Their reflection underneath Longwood's signature Orchid Curtain is sure to please all who gaze upon the hundreds of Phalaenopsis 'Baldan's Kaliedoscope' that drape ever so gently across the wall!

Back by popular demand in the Cascade Garden, we have dozens of yellow dancing lady orchids creating a "waterfall," surrounded by bromeliads that are mostly native to South America.

Oncidium waterfall. Photo by Larry Albee. Oncidium waterfall. Photo by Larry Albee.

As you enjoy the lush plantings of the Orangery you'll notice the color scheme reflects the "Winter Warm-Up" as well. The most dynamic plant we have on display is Aechmea 'Patricia'.  Have a look at the Florida nursery where they were grown. We received a few of these bromeliads from the Philadelphia International Flower Show a few years ago and have fallen in love with the salmon, red, orange and magenta tones that each leaf and flower possess! The inflorescense is extremely long-lasting and one should expect to see these plants move around within the Conservatory complex a few times throughout the seasons!

Achmea 'Patricia'. Photo by Karl Gercens. Achmea 'Patricia'. Photo by Karl Gercens.

Right next to the Aechmea is a new cultivar of pansy, Viola 'Delta Fire'. This mix of red, yellow and orange demands you stop and look at each individual flower as they are all different! The traditional "faces" will amuse children and adults alike. Begonias are popular Conservatory plants here at Longwood, but in the past all you would have ever seen were red, white or pink ones.

Viola × wittrockiana 'Fire' Delta™. Viola × wittrockiana 'Fire' Delta™.

This year we have Begonia x hiemalis 'Julie' with dynamic bicolored orange and red petals!  This is commonly called winter-flowering begonia, but I've seen many people have good success keeping this plant in flower throughout the summer months with proper care.

Begonia x hiemalis 'Julie'. Begonia x hiemalis 'Julie'.

Towering up behind the begonias are a very unusual plant called velvet groundsel (Roldana petasitis). I first encountered this plant at the San Francisco Botanical Garden and asked if I could have a few cuttings. I delivered the cuttings back to Longwood in a plastic bag, and in 2005 these amazing plants made their Conservatory debut! Their towering stems reach almost 6 feet tall and the cheery yellow daisy-like flowers float like a golden cloud. Come see them soon, because their floral display only lasts one month! Compare what Roldana looks like in the Conservatory to these I saw growing outdoors in Spain!

Roldana petasitis at Longwood. Roldana petasitis at Longwood.

If you want yellow daisies that last until May then look no further than Euryops pectinatus! This silvery shrub from South Africa has many hairs on the leaves, which in their native habitat will protect it from the harsh African sun. In the Conservatory their shimmering leaves are a delightful contrast to the sunshine yellow flowers.

Euryops. Photo by Fred Zwiebel. Euryops. Photo by Fred Zwiebel.

It wouldn't be springtime without bulbs blooming! This year we have red and yellow tulips and orange and yellow daffodils. If these colors are too hot for you, then make your way to Longwood's East Conservatory or Fern Passage where the color theme is lavender and purple.  Greeting you upon entry in the East Conservatory are four massive topiary forms covered in purple orchids. As you stand underneath them you'll wonder how so much beauty can be in one place.

Red tulips. Photo by Fred Zwiebel. Red tulips. Photo by Fred Zwiebel.