Orchids: Gongora armeniaca

‘Like gems wrought from precious metal’ is how one might describe the flowers of these magnificent plants. They are both elegant and absurd, mysterious and bizarre, as if they reflected the whole wealth of colour and shape of the world of orchids.

Gongora is a relatively small genus comprising only about 30 species, of which only two are generally found in cultivation, namely Gongora galeata (Punch and Judy orchid) and the species. G. galeata from Mexico has flowers up to 5 cm (2 in) across, coloured a mixture of purple, brown and yellow or yellow tinged with copper. It is extremely elegant and is often photographed as one of the most beautiful of orchids. The G. armeniaca is native to Nicaragua. The pseudo-bulbs are ovate, approximately 6 cm (2-¼ in) high, with two leaves. The leaves are firm and dark green with pronounced longitudinal veins, narrowly elliptical, and a little over 20 cm (8 in) in length. The flowers, slightly more than 4 cm (l-½ in) in diameter, are arranged in dense, pendulous trusses the same as in G. galeata and are generally produced in July or August. They are relatively long-lived, even though they seem very fragile, but they do not like to be sprayed with water; for this reason the plants should not be syringed while they are in flower, and water should be supplied only to the roots during this time.

Gongoras do not have a pronounced period of rest; only after flowering is finished should water be limited for about 6 to 8 weeks. Otherwise these plants should be grown the whole year long in a warm, moist spot (they tolerate the dry atmosphere of a room but in this case the leaves must be misted more frequently) in full sun or at least ample light. This is definitely the most suitable orchid for a warm home where it can be grown without much difficulty (the period of rest even coincides with the summer holiday period!). It should be grown as an epiphyte, tied to a branch together with a ball of sphagnum moss. It is readily propagated by detaching older pseudo-bulbs.

Feeding is simple, the same as for most epiphytic orchids — just add a small amount of fertilizer (a fraction of the concentration given in the manufacturer’s instructions) to the water when spraying the leaves.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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