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CHRISTMAS IN THE ORCHID GREENHOUSE
   Burrr! Winter has arrived here in the Western United States. All of the trees and flowers have gone into their winter slumber waiting for the warm spring rain to reawaken them once again. Thus begins our annual four months of dark days, blustery biting winds, and cold wet snow.
   With the snow and cold however, also comes the festive holidays of Christmas! And with the coming of Christmas, I had decided to tell you about all the orchids that have been nicknamed for Christmas. There is the "Christmas Bell," the "Christmas Flower," the "Christmas Lily," the "Christmas Star," and two "Christmas Orchids!"
   So light a big fire in your fireplace, make yourself a hot cup of cocoa, (unless you live in the southern hemisphere) and sit back while I tell you all about these special orchids.
   The bright red flowers of the "Christmas Bell" heads our list. Dendrobium lawesii is nicknamed the "Christmas bell" because it produces clusters of bright red to purple flowers that look just like bells.
Winter carriage
   These beautiful flowers appear around Christmas time (as well as several other times of the year). Dendrobium lawesii is a warm to cool grower that originates from Papua New Guinea. They love to grow on tree branches high in the forests, and grow very well when mounted. The flowers are borne on short racemes that appear on the old leafless canes and produce up to 6 flowers.
   Like many Dendrobiums, the blooms appear on these old pendent canes year after year so don't be in a hurry to cut off those old leafless canes. This Dendrobium is quite easy to grow and would be a wonderful addition to your collection.
   Next on our Christmas list is Artorima erubescens which is known as the "Christmas Flower" because it too blooms around Christmas time and loves cold weather. This species is native to Central America and once belonged to the genus Epidendrum. It is also known as the "Blushing Artorima" and is the only species in this genus. This orchid grows in the cloud forests at high elevations around 3100 meters. The flowers are very fragrant and appear in winter through early spring.
   This orchid is quite difficult to grow in the average greenhouse because this orchid blooms when the night temperatures are below freezing! If you are brave enough and fortunate enough to actually own one of these unusual orchids, keep in mind that it grows best when mounted and be sure to keep it cold. Now this one I think I will try, I sure have the cold weather it wants!
   We now proceed to our next orchid, the "Christmas Lily." Calanthe triplicata is another winter bloomer. It blooms all during the Christmas season beginning its flowery show in late November and continues on through the end of January. Calanthe triplicata was once called Calanthe veritifolia. If you own a plant that was grown or collected before the middle of the 1960's there is a good chance that the name on the tag will be Calanthe veritifolia. This is a very large orchid with pleated leaves which can reach up to 90 cm tall and 18 cm wide. Calanthe triplicata produces beautiful white 3 cm flowers. These flowers cover the inflorescence, which towers over a meter high above the plant.
   Many first believed this was a terrestrial orchid, but in fact it is not a true terrestrial. It naturally grows in the shaded areas of the forest in the leaf mold and humus that collects under the trees. Although it appears to be growing in the soil like a normal plant, the roots do not penetrate the ground very far. It grows along the top of the surface just under the leaves and debris that cover the ground.
   They love cool moist conditions and are really quite easy to grow. Plant them in the shady moist area of your garden and provide them with plenty of room to spread their roots. You may also plant them in a large, shallow pot with soil that is rich in humus.
Calanthe vestita forma alba
      The cold dark winter night is approaching here in the orchid garden and I must put all of the orchids to bed. I will continue my story and tell you about the other three "Christmas orchids" on my list. Stop by and join me in the to learn about my favorite, the "Christmas Star!"