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Most novice growers

Building a Cymbidium collection for most novice growers (and many who’ve been growing them for a long time too I might add) is usually a haphazard affair. Plants are purchased on impulse because the flowers were irresistible or the description in a catalogue sounded interesting or, perhaps, another grower advised that you must have such-and-such a plant. All of these avenues are fine but what often happens is that you end up with a collection with a limited colour or size range, or that all your plants tend to flower over a limited period during the entire growing season as you’ve noticed that other growers have a range of plants that come into flower over many more months than yours do.

While your particular interests, in terms of Cymbidium types may change over time (perhaps you’ll develop a keen interest in competing on the show bench for example), initially a collection of varied types, sizes, colours and flowering times is a worthwhile goal – of course bearing in mind that you should actually like the flowers or there’s not much point in growing them.

cymbidium collection

If you like miniature cymbidiums then, by all means, concentrate on them – or any other category that takes your fancy. If you’re not sure, then grow a mixed collection. Most people do, or at least keep a few favourites in other types besides their main interest. Try to visit orchid shows, particularly Cymbidium shows, and make notes about plants that catch your eye. Likewise, at monthly club meetings where flowering plants are benched, you can get a good look at them as ask about them. You’ll find that some of the plants at shows or monthly meetings may not be available for sale anywhere but, don’t be hesitant about asking, or be upset if you’re told you can’t have it or a division of it (they might be newly flowered seedlings for example) as it will most likely become available in the future if the owner doesn’t have a particular purpose in mind for it and won’t part with it. The vast majority of Cymbidium growers are generous and helpful and don’t mind accommodating you if you are polite and can take no for an answer sometimes. Being pushy if you don’t get what you want will only get you a reputation, and very few favours, from anyone.

Luckily for new growers (or all of us for that matter) cymbidiums are one of the genera that can be reproduced by mericloning, which means that large numbers of a desirable plant can be cloned to provide lots of basically identical plants reasonably quickly. Many nurseries carry good selections of mericlones of popular cymbidiums that are often available in various sizes, from young single-growth plants to mature flowering size ones. Mericlones are a good starting point when building a collection as it’s possible to obtain plants identical to those you’ve seen at shows, etcetera, so you know exactly what you are getting, while bearing in mind that not every Cymbidium you see will be available as a mericlone.

There are in excess of 10,000 grexes registered and many, many more varieties of those in existence as well. However, as Cymbidium hybridising has been going on for over 100 years, many plants have passing into history or are just not being mericloned any more. Some varieties may only be available as divisions from other growers, if at all, but there are so many cymbidiums currently available as mericlones that we’re pretty well spoilt for choice, apart from the fact that many of the newer ones are superior to earlier hybrids anyway, although the true classics from the older types tend to be re-cloned fairly regularly.

Without getting too technical, it’s probably appropriate to give a brief description of some of the more common terms used. Firstly, the registered name of an orchid is it’s grex name. For example, Ruby Eyes is the registered grex name of a hybrid combination of the two orchids that were its parents (pumilum x Sensation). To distinguish each flowered seedling of the Ruby Eyes grex from its siblings a varietal name is also given, thus, ‘Ruby Eyes’ (the single inverted commas denoting the varietal name) is not the same as any other seedling flowered from the Ruby Eyes crossing – a “christian name” if you will. Knowing the full name of an orchid you want is important as you might not get the specific one you are after, just as a letter might not be delivered if you don’t know the full address. Some of the seedling results from some hybrid crosses may grow better than others, have better flowers, or be a different colour, size or shape – just like the kids in any family you know – but mericlones offer a 99% certainty that you will know when they will open their flowers, how big the plants will grow, what the flowers will look like and what colour they will be. Likewise, a division of a plant you have seen will give the same certainty.

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