Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Christmas Orchid

Brassidium, Miltassia or Miltonidia?
One of the mystery orchids I bought at a roadside stand in Florida a couple of years ago put out another flowering shoot recently--in fact, four of my orchids have developed flowering stems this fall. One orchid actually has two flowering stems! They really seem to like the environment in our new house, perhaps because it's a bit chilly at night. That 10-degree difference between day and night-time temperatures seems to play an important part in coaxing orchids to bloom.

The first bud on this plant began to open on Christmas Eve, the second a few days later, and it looks like the third one will open in another day or two.

I've tried to identify the genus-- it's likely a hybrid of two or perhaps three different genera, but which ones? The shape of the flower appears to indicate perhaps one parent is Brassia, the spider orchid, because of the longish tepals. The bi-color hues and ornate labellum are similar to some of the Brassidiums (Brassia and Oncidium hybrids) I've seen on-line. But there are also hybrids of the Miltonia genus known as Miltassia or "Mtssa." Another of my orchids (greenhouse-bought) is labeled as "Mtdm" short of Miltonidium, presumably a hybrid of Miltonia and Oncidium.  Not being a botanist, I'll probably never be able to determine for sure, but it's fascinating to try to guess. I can't wait to see what the other mystery orchid will look like when it blooms.

Close-up of flower.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Magic of Twinkling Lights

Driving to Front Royal in the evenings at this time of the year when the sun is setting and dusk sets in before one is halfway home, it's wonderful to see the Christmas lights and decorations spring up along the way. It never ceases to amaze me how a few strings of colored lights and decorations can transform the humblest bungalow or ramshackle old farmhouse into a shining wonderland...

This part of Virginia's countryside seems to make a tradition of lighting the seasonal gloom with a particular charm. The town of Middleburg with its store fronts all lit up becomes a story-book village during the Christmas season, and some of the old houses in Upperville look just like gingerbread cottages.

You can imagine my delight as I was driving over a hill on the other side of Upperville to come upon the sight pictured above: a house and pond with a small island outlined in lights. At first I thought it might be a creche on the island (that would have been gutsy), but upon closer inspection, like most decorations today, it's purely secular--a Santa, a sled and some reindeer. The ambiguity of the scene is still very evocative.

A few evenings ago I stopped to take this photo and found a plaque at the gate of the estate--Mulwyck it said. Over the summer and fall I've observed the little island furnished with Adirondack chairs, and now this lavish display! I wonder how the owner reaches the island--does he have a canoe or pontoon boat at the back? In any case, this one wins my best of the season award for the year.

 * * *

 We too have done our best this year to decorate the new house enough to match our neighbors' splendor. It's almost a necessity when you live where there are no streetlights. Merry Christmas, y'all!

Our house.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

More Ladyslippers

Yellow Ladyslipper, watercolor 22" x 13"
This is the second version of my piece for the Botanical Intensive class I missed last spring that I needed to get credit for. It's good practice for me to do this now to better develop the final painting I intend to submit for the BAEE project (Botanical Artists for Education and the Environment) next year.

This orchid is really challenging to depict, and such a complicated subject I probably shouldn't have chosen it for my project but it's so beautiful and fascinating, I can't resist. There are many faults in it, which I'm working to correct, to clear up confusing visual information. Below is the first version I did, which was with the wrong palette. The difference between the two palettes is subtle, but the colors in the earlier version look rather Disneyish in comparison with the more natural colors of the other.