Friday, 29 November 2013

Ugly side of beauty products

The darker side of orchids reared its ugly head recently with an intriguing article about the strange and highly illegal items seized by UK border officials.

Eight live big cats, hippo teeth, tortoises aplenty, walrus horns and a Rolls Royce upholstered with alligator skin were among some of the smuggled items, according to the report.

The haul included 500kg of face cream containing caviar extract and, check this out, bodybuilding supplements containing the rare orchid Dendrobium. In fact, there was a noticeable a shift in the beauty and fitness industries, where endangered species once used only in folk medicines are being sold as such supplements and facial creams, for instance, in the evolving market.

A Home Office spokesperson said more items were confiscated in the year up to April 2013 than ever before.

I plan to read the small print on future packaging on cosmetics with more care. Mind you, I can’t imagine caviar face cream will be on special at Wilkinson’s.

By Pamela Kelt

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Impressions of orchids

This week, French painter Gustave Caillebotte is featured on Wikipaintings, with a delightful Impressionist painting of orchids from 1893. 

Painted a year before his death, the subtle colouring and composition of Orchids is typical of his later style.

Born in 1848, upper-class Caillebotte was a French painter, member and patron of the Impressionists, although he painted in a much more realistic manner than many other artists in the group. Caillebotte was noted for his early interest in photography as an art form, and later was famed for his approach to realism.

Caillebotte used his wealth to fund a variety of hobbies for which he was quite passionate, including orchid horticulture, stamp collecting, yacht building, and even textile design.

Coincidentally, Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Orchid Daze celebrates the work of three Impressionists who were inspired by the beauty of landscapes: Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin. The garden's annual exhibition reveals how the trio opened eyes to new ways of seeing and perceiving the world.

Van Gogh's ‘starry night’ is the theme in the Conservatory Lobby, according to a report. Metal spirals above visitors' heads support a construct of jewel-like miniature orchids. The colour scheme mimics Van Gogh's style, with oranges and yellows contrasting with blues and whites.

Monet features in the Orchid Atrium: at the centre will be a tranquil pool filled with planters of massed orchids suggesting clusters of water lilies. Lilac, pink and salmon Pansy Orchids (Miltonia) and Cattleya hybrids appear to float above the reflective surface in an abstracted homage to the artist's most famous paintings, including Giverny's iconic Japanese bridge.

The Orchid Display House celebrates Gauguin with striking blue Vandas, flaming orange/red/pink Masdevillas, and sunset yellow Nun's Orchids. 

The show runs February 8 - April 13 in the Fuqua Conservatory and Orchid Center.

Friday, 22 November 2013

From outrageous to affordable ...

It wasn’t that long ago that a yellow orchid called P. Golden Emperor 'Sweet' sold in Taiwan for $100,000. Since 1978, the orchid scene has changed.

How much did you pay for your last orchid? As for me, it was £4.99 at Ikea.

A fascinating article on the Wall Street Journal reflects on how the once hard-to-afford item has become available to the masses, comparing it to flat-panel TVs and laptops.

Orchids now are the best-selling potted flower in the US. It takes a look behind the closed greenhouse doors of Taiwanese entrepreneurs of the popular Phalaenopsis, or the moth orchid, who have applied modern mass marketing techniques to the exotic blooms.

However, they’ve become a victim of their own success and profits are decreasing.

A market for rare orchids still exists, but even that has declined since the mid-20th century when horticulturalists figured out how to clone orchids from tissue cells. 

By Pamela Kelt

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Ephemeral blooms

Orchids are hard to draw or paint.

The ‘Paint Action’ cycle is quite extraordinary. A Swiss artist has modelled paint by natural forces, ie gravity, creating a new kind of orchid - if only for a split second.

Fill a tank was several layers of different colours of liquid paint with the top layer being either black or white. Then, throw a sphere into the paint. As the falling object splashes into the tank, the paint is forced upwards, shaping the individual layers of paint into a blossom-like structure. Hence ‘orchid’.

Artist Fabian Oefner photographs the result, using high-speed devices, capturing structures of great elegance, which appear only for a fraction of a second before disappearing beneath the surface again.  

Orchid blooms last for months, and these for no time at all. Both are exquisite.

By Pamela Kelt

Friday, 15 November 2013

Orchid booty on Mt Wellington

Hopes are high for an endangered Tasmanian orchid after volunteers found dozens of leek orchids plants in Hobart this autumn.

The Tassie orchidmaniacs came across 180 of the dainty Prasophyllum amoenum on Mount Wellington.

This find extends the known range to more than nine kilometres, according to a news report.

Now the Scientific Advisory Committee could change the conservation status of the leek orchid whose numbers were down to a worrying 20.

With the discovery, it is hoped more people will recognise the species and ensure its survival.

Caption: Prasophyllum elatum, a relation of the Prasophyllum amoenum 

By Pamela Kelt

Friday, 8 November 2013

Six new orchids found

Indian scientists have located six new orchid species in Manipur, one of which is unique and has no chlorophyll.

Staff from the Orchid Research and Development, Hengbung, Senapati located the species, as part of its conservation work on orchid species found in the hills of Manipur.

Of the total 286 reported species of orchids grown in Manipur, 26 species were found last year by a research team of the Centre for Orchid Gene Conservation of the Eastern Himalayan Region, which conducted a survey in the forests there.

Among the highly threatened species of orchids specified in Schedule-VI of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, three species namely, Blue vanda (Vanda Coerulea) (Kwaklei), Red vanda (Renanthera imschootiana) (Kwaklei Angangba) and Lady’s slipper (Paphiopedilum spp.) (Khongup Lei) are at present preserved at the Centre, a source from the centre said.

There are also three other orchid species endemic to Manipur, namely– Ascocentrum ampullaceum var.auruanticum (Nachom Lei), Schoenorchis manipurensis and Kalimpongia narjitii.

The Northeastern region of the country was estimated to have about 600 species of orchids. As per Biological Survery of India (BSI), Manipur alone have about 450 species.

According to a report, The Khonghampat Centre is an ex-situ preservation centre with about 220 species of orchids.  The Centre is also preserving various species of trees, bamboos and other important rare and vanishing plants of the state.

By Pamela Kelt 

Loktak Lake, the only freshwater lake in Manipur

Friday, 1 November 2013

My phavourite Phal

Writing is a solitary business. Very quiet. Perhaps that's why I enjoy it after years in a noisy newsroom.

Of course, I have my two daft dogs for company, and I love them.

However, my orchids keep me company too. I have a magic north-facing windowsill where they seem to thrive. Nothing to do with me. I’m not a natural with houseplants.

I have around a dozen, and we commune every day. I watch them grow, form buds, flower. I remember to feed them weakly, and weekly, as they say. Water them, not too often. I dead-head them. Repot if required. Clean their leaves. Brush off the spider webs.

One orchid in particular is my favourite. I bought it two years ago when I had an interview in the paper about The Lost Orchid. The astonishing thing is, it’s still flowering. It hasn’t stopped!

Today is another book launch for me (The Cloud Pearl), and I’d like to say thanks to my wonderful potted friends. 

The Lost Orchid, where all the madness started, is set to be released in January 2014. I think I may treat myself to something special, but this deep pink phalaenopsis will always take pride of place.

By Pamela Kelt