These plants are wonderful plants for semi-shaded areas. Commonly known as Dendrobiums although there has been a recent name change to Thelychitons (which is being largely ignore).
Sadly, while the more common orchids such as cymbidiums are very well known, the native orchid is one of the greatest horticultural treasures waiting to be found. They produce masses of small orchid flowers from August to October each year and 2009 has been one of the best flowering years ever. Some of them are very sweetly perfumed &, if looked at closely in strong light sparkles can be seen in the petals. In spite of their delicate appearance & perfume they are tough as nails.
“Step plants” – they will cling on around steps, soften the appearance and make them more attractive.
In pots – the not only make a beautiful pot plant but will tolerate long periods without water.
As a ‘garnish’ – they will turn dead stumps from an unattractive part of the backyard into an attractive feature and create a similar affect if tucked into the trunks of living trees.
Growing Native Orchids
Use a special orchid potting mix based on pine bark. Don’t plant native orchids into either soil or a normal potting mix. This will eventually kill them. You can push them into a crack in a rock or you can just slide a few large rocks together, leaving the odd gap here and there for planting. Place about 30mm of your orchid mix in the gap, then place your orchid roots on top of that, then build up more of the orchid mix around your orchid roots. Job done.
You can simply pot your native orchid into a shallow (wider than high) plastic pot with more orchid mix. They can also look wonderful if planted in hollow logs and placed around the backyard.
You could also tuck native orchids on a tree trunk or in the crook of a branch. Again, do this with fresh orchid mix.
Watering is easy. You can just squirt the hose casually and briefly over the plants once a week in the warm months and not at all in winter.
Fertilising is a bit dangerous. If you never did it the plants would do fine in the garden. Don uses a dilute solution of Nitrosol and Seasol applied via a watering can. He uses about 1/3rd to ¼ of the recommended strength. You can put the two products in the one mix at the same time.
Light levels and air movement are important. Ideally they do best in dappled light – that is part shade. In a heavy frost area they may need some protection. Snails can eat the leaves and eat flower buds so snail bait used just prior to flowering (i.e. in June or July) will minimise their damage. Remember, if using snail bait, ensure it can’t be reached & eaten by pets.
Australian native orchids are not as available as most other native plants but the following nurseries are worth contacting:
Australian Orchid Nursery
58 Mornington-Tyabb Road Tyabb Vic 3913
B&T Ferns & Orchids
30 Wiseman Road Silvan Vic (03) 9737 9354
Garard Brothers Orchids
150 Brodie Road Morphett Vale SA (08) 8382 2130
ETJ Australian Native orchids
PO Box 27 Kendall NSW (02) 6556 9766
PO Box 72 Walkerville SA 5081
Mt Beenak Orchids
(03) 5966 7253
(07) 4959 8442
768 Tinonee Road, Tinonee, NSW AUSTRALIA 2430
Phone/Fax: (02) 6553 1012
There is also The Australasian Native Orchid Society (ANOS) – www.anos.org.au – are definitely worth contacting. Rarely do you find an amateur society that shows the dedication and the scientific sophistication of this group.