Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Growing Papilionanthe hookeriana, the Kinta Orchid

The Kinta Orchid used to be so common that it was called the Kinta Weed. It used to thrive in the ponds created by tin-mining activities in the Kinta Valley. Now it is rarely seen in the wild. In nature it was associated with floating islands of aquatic vegetation formed by Hanguana malayana, a monocot with erect clusters of large leaves 1 m or more tall. The orchid has long slender stems and these stems were supported by the leaves of the Hanguana. The orchid inflorences would emerge when the orchid stems were about level with the tips of the Hanguana leaves.

In cultivation, Papilionanthe ochids including 'Miss Joachim' the national flower of Singapore, is tied to wooden posts. I have done this with the Kinta orchid, using posts 7 ft tall. However, the orchids, now 4 - 5 ft tall, are not flowering. I wonder if they need to overtop their supporting posts before they will flower. Does anybody have experience with this?

I am growing these orchids on the 30,000 sq ft rooftop Secret Garden of 1 Utama. The garden is open Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to 6 pm. Entrance is free. Yesterday I conducted a tour for a visiting group of Canadian garden feature writers and publishers, and they were very impressed. Canadians have probably the best gardens in the world, in Vancouver, so if Canadian garden feature writers say they are impressed, we have reason to celebrate.