Growing Miniature Orchids in the BiOrbAir (part four)
Welcome to the fourth part of my BiOrbAir Review – Growing Miniature Orchids in the BiOrbAir. The BiOrbAir is a specialised, automated terrarium, which was designed by Barry Reynolds.
If you would like to start at the very beginning, and read the first part of this trial, please click here. To read the second part of this trial, please click here, and to read the third part, please click here.
Miniature orchids from different countries and climates
For this trial – Growing Miniature Orchids in the BiOrbAir, I have chosen a variety of different miniature orchids, originating from different climates and countries, to trial growing inside my BiOrbAir terrarium. Throughout the trial I will identify varieties of miniature orchids that will grow well with the constant conditions provided by the BiOrbAir terrarium. I hope this trial will help you if you’re interested in growing miniature orchids, or thinking about planting your own indoor terrarium garden.
You can see the full planting list of all the plants that I have trialled growing inside this Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium, featured in this review here, where you’ll also find the details of the nurseries and companies I used to purchase the miniature orchids, moss and cork for this terrarium.
I used the peat-free, coir compost that was included with my BiOrbAir as the growing media for this terrarium. I followed the straight-forward instructions to pre-soak the compost before adding it to the terrarium, when I planted it eight months ago. I didn’t add any other growing media or fertiliser, I used only the coir compost provided with the BiOrbAir. In the six months since planting, I haven’t used any fertilisers on either the moss or the coir compost inside this terrarium. The moss has been watered only with rainwater. The moss is still looking in optimum condition, it’s a beautiful verdant green and provides the perfect backdrop for the miniature orchids. So far, in the eight months since planting, I haven’t replaced any of the moss from this terrarium. Any fertilisers I use, as well as any care and maintenance of both the plants and the BiOrbAir terrarium that I undertake, I will detail here in my review – I hope this will help you if you’re looking to start a terrarium, or if you’re interested in growing miniature orchids.
Naturally, I will regularly top up the base reservoir of my BiOrbAir with rain water as required; the water in the base reservoir will be absorbed by the capillary matting, which is fitted to the support tray above the base reservoir, which in turn will moisten the compost above. The absorption of water through the capillary matting will keep the coir compost moist.
I will regularly top up the ultrasonic misting unit with Humidimist, a pure bottled water, low in electrolytes, which is available from BiOrb and included as part of the package when you purchase a BiOrbAir. The Humidimist is the only type of water recommended for use in the ultrasonic misting unit of the BiOrbAir, and it is the only product I will use.
Epiphytic Miniature Orchids
All of the orchids that I have chosen for this trial are epiphytic – epiphytic plants grow naturally on other plants, often they grow on trees. The trees or plants that the epiphytic orchids grow on, provide height, support and a place for the orchid to grow. These epiphytic orchids are not the same as parasitic plants like mistletoe, they don’t take any sustenance from their host plant, they don’t usually cause any harm to the host plant they are growing on. Epiphytic plants simply use another plant as a support to raise them up, which allows the epiphytic orchid to gain a better position, and often to receive more light and better air circulation than it would otherwise experience. Epiphytic orchids take all their water and nutrients from the air, the rain, and any accumulated debris that has collected in the branches of their host tree. All of the miniature epiphytic orchids featured in this trial have been mounted on cork bark.
Cork for terrariums
Cork is such an amazing and interesting, fascinating natural material, obtained from the bark of Quercus suber, (commonly known as the Cork Oak) cork has many uses. The cork industry is regarded as sustainable, as the Quercus suber trees are not required to be cut down to harvest the bark, and harvesting the bark does not harm the tree – the Quercus suber trees continue to grow after their bark is harvested, and their bark also re-grows – the trees go on provide future harvests at regular intervals every 9 years or so.
Misting the orchids
I mist my miniature orchids when I think they would benefit from some additional moisture. I have been feeding my miniature orchids, I have used Orchid Focus Grow and Orchid Focus Bloom, I purchased both of these fertilisers from the shop at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. I feed my orchids only sparingly, following the instructions on the pack. These miniature orchids wouldn’t naturally receive an abundance of nutrients in their natural environment. Over feeding can be very detrimental to your orchid plants.
Changing the way I mount my orchids
When this terrarium was originally planted in August 2015, I chose to mount the miniature orchids onto the cork using fishing line to secure the orchids in place. I was thinking purely aesthetically when I chose to use fishing line to secure the orchids – as it’s clear material, and so not as visible – I felt it wouldn’t detract from the beauty of the orchids. I did have real concerns that the fishing line could act as a cheese wire and slice into the roots of the orchids, but I went ahead and used it regardless – all of the orchids were mounted onto the cork bark and secured in place with the fishing line.
At the end of March 2016, during a visit to the The Botanic Gardens at Kew, I spoke to the orchid experts in the tropical nurseries, where I found out that Kew use strips cut from stockings to secure all their epiphytic orchids. Although I hadn’t noticed any problems from using the fishing line to secure my orchids so far, I immediately took the decision to remove the fishing line securing all of my epiphytic orchids, and where necessary, I re-mounted my orchids, using small strips of material, cut from stockings, to secure the orchids in place. For many years now I have used stockings as ties for trees and other garden plants with great success. I haven’t previously used stockings to secure my epiphytic orchids, just purely for aesthetic reasons – the strips of stockings, even when cut thinly, are very visible, and this does detract somewhat from the beauty of the orchids and the terrarium when viewed as a display. However, I am certain that securing the orchids using soft strips of stockings is better for the orchids, and that’s my priority. With this method using strips of material cut from stockings, there isn’t any risk of slicing through any of the orchid roots, as there was when using the fishing line.
Orchids I am currently growing inside this BiOrbAir terrarium:
Following the re-organisation of this terrarium on the 26th May 2016, I now have the following orchids growing inside this terrarium:
- Angraecum equitans
- Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’
- Diplocaulobium abbreviatum
- Domingoa purpurea
- Dryadella simula
- Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’
- Masdevallia decumana
- Masdevallia rechingeriana
- Mediocalcar decoratum
- Phalaenopsis parishii
Four of these miniature orchids – Angraecum equitans, Diplocaulobium abbreviatum, Domingoa purpurea, and Masdevallia decumana, were included in my original planting of this terrarium eight months ago. I then added the Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ specimen in January 2016. On the 9th April 2016, I then added Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’, Dryadella simula, and Masdevallia rechingeriana, and on the 26th May 2016, I added Phalaenopsis parishii – which had been growing in another of my terrariums. On the 26th May 2016, I also added Mediocalcar decoratum to this terrarium.
You can see the full planting list for this terrarium here, where you’ll find the full details of where I have purchased all of my miniature orchids, moss and the cork I have used inside this terrarium.
Firstly, a recap, here’s a picture of my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium, this photograph was taken in August 2015 – the same month that this terrarium was originally planted and set up:
Here’s a picture of my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium, as pictured on the 26th May 2016:
Separating miniature orchids mounted onto the same piece of cork
As you’ll see from the photographs above, I took the decision to cut the large piece of cork that was included in my original planting, so that I could separate the three miniature orchids that were growing together on this large piece of cork bark. Thankfully this wasn’t too difficult. The Domingoa purpurea is still growing on the same piece of bark that it was originally mounted onto, as is the Masdevallia decumana – both obviously just have a smaller section of cork to reside on, now it has been cut. The Angraecum equitans has now been mounted onto a fresh piece of cork bark, as its roots were not as attached to the cork, unlike the other two miniature orchids.
Adding some flat moss to the terrarium
I had previously used dead moss to mount my miniature orchids onto the cork bark inside this terrarium – as I didn’t have any fresh moss that was suitable, available in any of my other terrariums, or in my garden at the time. I have now added some fresh, flat moss to this terrarium – I gently removed the dead moss from around the roots of each orchid, disposing of the dead moss, and replacing it with a small piece of fresh, flat moss, then securing the orchid and moss in place with the same strips of material cut from stockings that I had used previously.
A new miniature orchid for this terrarium
A look at my established miniature orchids…..
Finding the best position inside my terrarium for each miniature orchid
I recently moved my Phalaenopsis parishii from my other BiOrbAir terrarium, into my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir, as I felt that that this miniature orchid would benefit from the (hopefully) slightly warmer conditions in this room. I wanted to ensure that this Phalaenopsis received sufficient light – so in my latest re-arrange, I have moved my Phalaenopsis parishii to the top of my planting, where currently it is not shaded by any of the other plants. I hope it will be happy here.
A look at the Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium after my latest replanting….
Masdevallia rechingeriana flowering
Dryadella simula flowers
My Dryadella simula has been in flower constantly since I purchased this miniature orchid on the 1st April 2016. Currently, as of the 15th June 2016, this Dryadella has three or four open flowers, I expect its flowering period to come to an end for the time being, when these flowers have faded.
A look at some of the other miniature orchids growing inside this terrarium…
A look at my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium
8th July 2016
It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I haven’t misted or tended to my miniature orchids as often as I would have liked to. My most recent introduction – Mediocalcar decoratum has some yellowing leaves, which I feel really rather guilty about. I will, I hope, have more time to mist and tend to my orchids for the rest of the month ahead.
Tour around this terrarium
Let’s take a little tour around my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium…..
Masdevallia decumana flowering
Masdevallia decumana is a very floriferous orchid. I really can’t remember this specimen not being in flower, since it started flowering in January this year. Currently this Masdevallia decumana has two open flowers, but there are other smaller buds waiting in the wings.
A look at the other miniature orchids growing inside this terrarium
I am unsure as to what has chewed the newest leaf that the Phalaenopsis parishii has produced. It’s a sorry looking sight!
Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium
Domingoa purpurea flowering?
Over the past couple of days, I noticed a change in the tips of the flower spikes of the Domingoa purpurea – they have changed from looking dead and lifeless, to certainly looking more alive – instead of looking dried out and dead, they now have green at their tips. Here’s some photographs:
To continue reading this review and head straight to the next instalment to see how these miniature orchids are growing, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you…………..
To see the planting list for this terrarium and find the details of the companies I purchased my orchids, moss and cork from, please click here.
To visit the BiOrbAir website, please click here.
To read about the RHS London Orchid Show 2016, please click here.
To read a planting list containing a variety of plants suitable for terrarium and bottle garden growing, please click here.
To read a planting list of miniature orchids suitable for terrarium growing, please click here.
To read about the largest known species of orchid in the world, which flowered in the summer of 2015 at The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, please click here.
To find out about the Writhlington Orchid Project, please click here.
To read about carnivorous plants, please click here.
To read about using decorative features in your terrarium or bottle garden, please click here.
To read my review of the special features of the BiOrbAir, please click here.