A long-term review of the BiOrbAir (part five)
Welcome to the fifth instalment of my long-term review of the BiOrbAir. The BiOrbAir is a specialised, automated terrarium, which was designed by Barry Reynolds. I planted up my BiOrbAir terrarium on 25th September 2014. As this was the first time I had planted a BiOrbAir terrarium, I chose a variety of different plants and ferns to trial, and see how they would grow inside the controlled environment of this terrarium, and the constant conditions the BiOrbAir terrarium provides. I have changed the planting over time – this terrarium now contains ferns, mosses and miniature, epiphytic orchids.
You can read the first part of my long-term review of the BiOrbAir here. I started writing this first instalment after planting my BiOrbAir in September 2014; I updated my review every month, until April 2015. The second part of my review, then continues from May 2015 until October 2015, the third part of my review, features updates from November 2015 through until April 2016, and the fourth instalment continues with updates from from April and May 2016. The fifth instalment starts right here, this review continues from June 2016 onwards. I hope that by breaking my review into sections it will be easier for readers to digest and use, whether you’re considering planting up your own terrarium or choosing suitable plants to create your own indoor garden.
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, and as a result, the ferns will be watered automatically.
I will regularly top up the ultrasonic misting unit with Humidimist, a pure bottled water, low in electrolytes, available from Reef One 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.
Since September 2014, when I planted my BiOrbAir, apart from the feed I have given to miniature orchids, which are mounted onto cork, (the orchids also receive extra misting) I haven’t added any plant feed or fertiliser to the terrarium. I used the peat-free coir compost that came with my BiOrbAir for planting, I didn’t add any additional compost, fertiliser or growing media to the mix – I just used the BiOrbAir coir compost as it was, nothing extra was added.
I have used rainwater to fill my BiOrbAir’s base water reservoir – this rainwater, together with the capillary matting keeps the coir compost moist. Naturally, I have only used the specially designed Humidimist to fill up the reservoir for the ultrasonic misting unit. I have replaced the BiOrbAir terrarium carbon filter as required, following the recommendations on the BiOrbAir website. I have documented any problems I have experienced, and any indoor gardening that I have carried out in my previous reviews; I will continue to update this review in the same manner.
I mist my miniature orchids when I think they would benefit from some additional moisture, I don’t have a set pattern or set days to mist the orchids. I have been feeding my miniature orchids, I use Orchid Focus Grow and Orchid Focus Bloom to feed my orchids, 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 detrimental to your plants, causing further problems. These are the only fertilisers I have used inside this terrarium.
BiOrbAir Terrarium Planting list
You can see the full planting list which includes of all the plants that I have trialled growing inside the BiOrbAir featured in this review here, where you’ll also find the full details of all the nurseries and garden centres I used to purchase the plants, ferns, miniature orchids, mosses and cork for this terrarium.
Currently the following plants are growing inside this BiOrbAir terrarium:
- Aerangis fastuosa*
- Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ (PBR)
- Barbosella australis
- Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’
- Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’
- Ornithophora radicans
- Polystichum tsussimense
- Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’
- Restrepia sanguinea
- Restrepia seketii
Of the plants growing inside this terrarium, the following plants were included in my original, first planting of this terrarium, back in September 2014. After numerous changes and re-plantings, these ferns are still growing inside the terrarium today – in June 2016:
- Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ (PBR)
- Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’
- Polystichum tsussimense
* I received a question from a reader in January 2016, who asked if my Aerangis fastuosa, might in fact be an Aerangis fuscata, a rarer miniature orchid, which is also from Madagascar. When the Aerangis fastuosa arrived in the post, I had a question mark in my mind as to whether I had been sent the orchid that I had requested when I placed my order. I referred to a number of library books on orchids and searched online for photographs of different Aerangis cultivars. Currently I cannot say with any certainty which variety of Aerangis I have received – I have shown photographs of this orchid to a number of orchid experts from around the world, so far no one has been able to identify the specimen. The best and easiest way to identify this orchid will be if it flowers. I will continue to refer to this orchid as Aerangis fastuosa for ease of reference – as that’s how I have always referred to this plant, but I do hope to make a definite identification, if and when, the orchid flowers.
Restrepia sanguinea keiki
In March 2016, I noticed that my Restrepia sanguinea had produced a new plant, a keiki. Keiki is an Hawaiian word for a baby or young child. This new plant was produced asexually, and is a genetic clone of its mother plant. Keikis grow very rapidly while they are attached to their mother plant, as the growing plants receive all the nutrients they require to grow, from their fully established mother plant.
On the 8th June 2016, the weight of the now fully grown leaf, that the Restrepia sanguinea keiki had produced, became too heavy for the roots of the keiki to hold, and consequently the keiki detached itself from its mother plant.
I had anticipated that the keiki would detach itself in the coming days, so I had already set some cork pieces and moss aside, ready for the new miniature orchid plant. After the keiki had detached itself from its mother plant, I carefully wrapped some fresh moss around its roots, then I mounted the baby Restrepia sanguinea onto its own piece of cork bark. I then misted the moss, and placed the new Restrepia sanguinea plant back inside my BiOrbAir terrarium.
If you’re interested to learn more about the BiOrbAir, the terrarium featured in this trial and in my Miniature Orchid Terrarium Trial, you might be interested to read my review of the special features of the BiOrbAir.
The method I use to mount my epiphytic orchids onto cork bark
When I first included miniature orchids in this terrarium, 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. When I added the first two Restrepias to this terrarium, again, I secured them in place using 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 of material, cut from stockings, to secure all of 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 hadn’t previously used stockings to secure my epiphytic orchids, this was 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, flexible 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.
I removed all of the fishing line from this terrarium on the 9th April 2016, all of the orchids were then secured in place using strips cut from stockings. Since April 2016, any miniature orchids that I have added to my terrariums have been secured using strips cut from stockings. I am happy with this method, I will continue to use this method and material to secure and mount my orchids going forward.
A look at some of the different BiOrbAir terrarium plantings I have created over the time that I have had this terrarium….
Right, first a recap, here’s a photograph I took of my BiOrbAir after planting on 25th September 2014:
Here’s an up to date photograph of the BiOrbAir, taken on the 11th June 2016:
I have recently added some fresh moss around the roots of some of my miniature orchids, namely the Aerangis fastuosa, my Restrepia sanguinea keiki, and onto bark placed inside this terrarium. I had previously used some dead moss to mount some of my orchids onto cork, as I had run out of fresh moss, so I am very happy indeed to have been able to replace the dead moss with fresh, live, flat moss.
Self seeded terrarium ferns
You’ll notice in the photographs below, that both my Restrepia sanguinea and my Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’ both have self seeded ferns that have grown up through both of these plants. These orchids benefit from having live moss growing around them, these self seeded ferns are growing on top of the orchids, and this is not beneficial. I removed the self seeded ferns on the 13th June 2016.
Ferns seed themselves through the dispersal of very tiny spores, which can remain viable for years. It’s likely that this type of fern will continue to appear in my terrarium. I will continue to weed the ferns out as they grow. It is tempting to keep the ferns, they are pretty, and the ferns appeared naturally, which is always quite magical. I would only consider keeping ferns that are growing, or are moved, to a separate area of the terrarium, away from the Restrepias, so that they are not all competing for moisture and nutrients on top of each other, in the same area. This is particularly important for Restrepias, which require more moisture than some of the other miniature orchids I grow in my terrariums.
Restrepia sanguinea flowers
I am delighted that my Restrepia sanguinea has come into flower. This specimen last flowered in January 2016, so it’s lovely to see its large, deeply coloured flowers again.
Restrepia sanguinea leaves
It’s lovely to see some beautiful new leaves being produced by my Restrepia sanguinea.
Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’ flowers
So far, of the three Restrepias I have growing inside this terrarium, Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’, is by far the most floriferous. This Restrepia has rarely been without an open flower since February 2016.
All of the three ferns that are currently growing inside this terrarium, were included in the original planting of this terrarium in September 2014. Since the ferns were planted, they have all been moved around a number of times, and have endured a great deal of disturbance, yet these ferns have always grown well. I am so happy to have the three ferns growing inside my BiOrbAir terrarium. I would definitely recommend Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’, Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’ and Polystichum tsussimense – if you’re looking for ferns to include in your own terrarium planting.
My other miniature orchids are not currently flowering, but thankfully, they are still alive and growing!
Ornithophora radicans has a natural grassy appearance. This miniature orchid looks rather untidy at the moment – it has lots of older roots as well as lots of lovely new roots.
I am so very happy that my Aerangis fastuosa is growing well, this Aerangis seems much happier since I re-mounted it into a horizontal position. I just hope that this miniature orchid will continue to grow well, I have my fingers crossed that in time it will flower, so I can make a more informed identification of this special plant.
A look at my BiOrbAir terrarium
Currently the overall look of this terrarium is rather cluttered and untidy. I hope to find time to improve the visual impact of the planting.
Restrepia sanguinea flowers
Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’ flowering
Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’ is a very free flowering miniature orchid. This specimen has rarely been without an open flower since February 2016, during this time this plant has usually had a number of flowers open simultaneously. Currently this Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’ specimen has three open flowers, and a number of flower buds in earlier stages of production.
More Restrepia sanguinea flowers
To continue reading this review, and read the next instalment of this review, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you……
I have two BiOrbAir terrariums, to read the first part of my BiOrbAir Review – Growing Miniature Orchids in the BiOrbAir, please click here.
To read how my Orchidarium was created, please click here.
To read a planting list for terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.
To read about the miniature orchids I have grown inside my BiOrbAir terrariums, please click here.
To read about the special features of the BiOrbAir, please click here.
To see the planting list for this terrarium, please click here.
To read about The RHS London Orchid Show 2016, please click here.