A long-term review of the BiOrbAir (part eight)
Welcome to the eighth instalment of my long-term BiOrbAir review. I planted up my BiOrbAir terrarium on the 25th September 2014. The BiOrbAir is a specialised, automated terrarium, which was designed by Barry Reynolds. As this was the first time I had planted a BiOrbAir terrarium, I chose a variety of different plants and ferns to trial, so I could monitor how successfully these plants, each of which have differing requirements, would grow inside the controlled environment of this terrarium.
During my BiOrbAir review, I have naturally changed the planting inside this terrarium over time, in order to trial a variety of different plants – this terrarium currently features ferns, mosses, and miniature, epiphytic orchids.
If you’d like to start from the beginning, 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 to April 2016, and the fourth instalment features updates from from April and May 2016. The fifth instalment, continues, with updates from June and July 2016. The sixth instalment follows, with updates from July 2016 to September 2016. The seventh instalment of my BiOrbAir review features updates from September 2016 to November 2016. Then, the eighth part of my review continues right here in this review, where you can read updates from November 2016 onwards.
I hope that by breaking my BiOrbAir 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.
BiOrbAir Terrarium maintenance
Naturally, I will regularly top up the base reservoir of my BiOrbAir with rain water as required. The rain water in the base reservoir will be absorbed by the capillary matting. The capillary matting fits onto the support tray, the support tray sits above the base reservoir. The strips of capillary matting hang down into the base reservoir, where they make contact with the rainwater in the base reservoir below. The rainwater is absorbed by the capillary matting, which in turn moistens the coir compost above. The absorption of rain water through the capillary matting will keep the coir compost moist, and as a result, the ferns, and any terrarium plants, planted into the coir compost, 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 the miniature orchids, which are mounted onto cork, (the orchids also receive extra misting) I haven’t added any other plant feed or fertiliser to the plants inside this 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, though I try to mist the orchids a number of times a week. I have never misted these orchid more than once in a day, and I haven’t misted the orchids that are growing inside this terrarium, as often as seven times in a week.
To feed my miniature orchids, I use 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 sparingly, following the instructions on the pack. These miniature epiphytic 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 ever used inside this terrarium.
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, which I cushioned to protect the plants by placing moss over each of the orchids’ roots. 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 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. 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 at first, 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 material cut from stockings is better for the orchids, and these plants are my priority. When using 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 of material 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 very happy using this method, I will continue to use strips of material, cut from stockings, to secure and mount my orchids going forward.
As you can see in my photographs, the stocking material does age and colour over time – making the material blend into the background somewhat. The mosses inside my terrarium have also managed to grow over the stocking material, which has softened and disguised their appearance a little.
New miniature orchid!
Recently I introduced a newly purchased Schoenorchis fragrans into my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium, sadly this specimen was harbouring a number of pests, and during the short time that this miniature orchid was in my care, it declined visibly each day. As I did not have an empty terrarium available to quarantine the plant, and I was concerned about introducing pests to the other orchids in my collection, I made the decision to dispose of this Schoenorchis fragrans specimen.
Soon after I disposed of my Schoenorchis fragrans plant, I spotted that Burnham Nurseries were selling Schoenorchis fragrans, so I took the decision to order a new specimen of this miniature orchid from Burnham Nurseries.
Currently I am uncertain as to whether I have inadvertently introduced any pests into my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium, so for this reason, I decided to trial this new miniature orchid inside the BiOrbAir terrarium featured in this review, rather than risk including the orchid in my other terrarium, where it could be subject to pests and other problems.
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 antennifera
- Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’
- Restrepia sanguinea
- Restrepia seketii
- Restrepia trichoglossa
- Stelis muscifera
- Schoenorchis fragrans
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 – over two years later, in November 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.
BiOrbAir terrarium update
I so enjoy terrarium gardening and trialling growing different plants inside my BiOrbAir terrarium. Here is my BiOrbAir terrarium, pictured after the addition of a new miniature orchid – Schoenorchis fragrans.
These three ferns: Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’, Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’, and Polystichum tsussimense, were included in the original planting of this terrarium back in September 2014. Since their initial planting, these ferns have been moved more times than I care to remember. The Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’ has also been cut back severely, yet despite this, this super fern has grown back and is thriving. I’d highly recommend these three ferns if you’re looking to include ferns inside your terrarium or bottle garden.
Restrepia antennifera keikis
This Restrepia antennifera specimen is currently in the process of producing three keikis! A keiki is a small plantlet, or baby plant, which is produced asexually by the mother plant. The new keikis will be genetically identical to their mother plant.
Three keikis is quite a number of keikis for one orchid to produce in a short space of time, which makes me question just how happy this Restrepia antennifera specimen is.
Restrepia sanguinea keiki
The Restrepia sanguinea specimen growing inside this terrarium has also produced a keiki. This keiki is an exact clone of its mother plant. This is the second keiki that this particular Restrepia plant has produced. The first keiki came away from its mother plant in June 2016, I gave this first young Restrepia sanguinea plant to a friend, happily this specimen has already bloomed.
Restrepia sanguinea flowers
This Restrepia sanguinea specimen has been flowering since June 2016. This miniature orchid produces slightly larger blooms than Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’.
You can see the blooms of Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’ in my photographs a little later on in this review. In a previous review I have photographed the blooms of these two Restrepias side by side, in the same photograph for a straight forward comparison, you can see this part of my trial and review here.
Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’ flowers
Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’ is a very floriferous orchid, this specimen has been flowering since January 2016. This miniature orchid forms a larger, taller plant than many of the orchids that are growing inside this terrarium, it’s also taller than the miniature orchids that are growing inside my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium.
My Restrepia sanguinea orchid that is growing inside this terrarium, is the tallest of all of the miniature orchids that you can see growing in these two reviews and trials.
Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ blooms
This Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ specimen is the larger of my two plants, this specimen has been in flower since the 25th September 2016.
BiOrbAir misting unit in action!
I am often asked about the BiOrbAir misting unit. This is a great feature of the BiOrbAir, in the photographs below you can see the BiOrbAir’s ultra sonic misting unit in action. The misting unit for the BiorbAir operates automatically if the humidity drops below 75 RH, though to increase the humidity within your BiOrbAir terrarium, it’s easy to operate the ultra sonic misting unit yourself by pressing the discreet lever that’s located underneath the BiOrbAir’s lid. You can find out more about the BiOrbAir’s misting unit and other features of the BiOrbAir, here.
Here’s a look at the newest addition to this terrarium, Schoenorchis fragrans. I do hope this miniature orchid will grow well inside this BiOrbAir terrarium.
BiOrbAir terrarium update
9th November 2016
I am so happy to see that the Stelis muscifera specimen that’s growing inside this BiOrbAir terrarium is producing a flower spike!
Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ flowering
The Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ specimen growing inside this terrarium, has been flowering its socks off! As this specimen has been flowering since September 2016, naturally many of this miniature orchid’s flowers have now faded. Happily there are still quite a number of open Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ flowers, which I am so enjoying, as well as flower buds, at all stages of development, which have yet to open.
14th November 2016
BiOrBAir Misting Unit
Over the weekend, I had some problems with the misting unit for this BiOrbAir terrarium. I initially removed the misting unit, so that I could take out one of my orchids to check the plant over. When I reinstalled the misting unit, it wouldn’t stop misting. After the misting unit had been running for over a minute, I disconnected it, as the terrarium was by this time filled with condensation. I tried re-setting the BiOrbAir and powering it on and off, but I was unable to get the misting unit to function properly, so I decided to disconnect the misting unit and I have contacted BiOrbAir for support.
BiOrbAir replied to my email the same day that I contacted them, they have identified the problem that I have experienced with the misting unit, and will send me a replacement unit in due course.
Stelis muscifera flowering
I am enjoying watching the flower buds of this Stelis muscifera specimen develop inside my BiOrbAir terrarium. I purchased this miniature orchid from the Writhlington Orchid Project in July 2016, at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016.
Restrepia sanguinea flowers
This Restrepia sanguinea specimen has been flowering continuously inside this BiOrbAir terrarium since June 2016. It’s wonderful to see the large, raspberry coloured blooms that this miniature orchid produces.
Restrepia sanguinea keiki
This is the second keiki that this Restrepia sanguinea specimen has produced. The keiki is currently receiving all its nutrients from its mother plant, which it is still very much attached to at this stage.
I will keep an eye on the keiki, when the weight of the young plant becomes too much, and it falls away from its mother plant, I will then mount the keiki on a piece of cork bark which has been covered with moss.
Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ flowers
30th November 2016
I’ve been finding quite a few teeny, tiny snails in both this BiOrbAir terrarium, and inside my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium lately. It’s not always easy to spot snails this tiny, but thanks to the BiOrbAir’s LED lights it’s far easier to see inside my BiOrbAir terrariums, than any of my other terrariums. Today I removed three teeny, tiny snails from inside this terrarium and released them safely outside.
To continue reading the next instalment of this miniature orchid trial and review, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you…………
To read a planting list of miniature orchids suitable for growing inside terrariums, please click here.
To read a longer planting list of a variety of suitable terrarium plants, please click here.
To read about the Writhlington Orchid Project, please click here.
To read about the features of the BiOrbAir terrarium, please click here.
To read about using decorative features in your terrarium or bottle garden, please click here.
To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid Trial – Growing Miniature Orchids in the BiOrbAir, please click here.