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Building a Cymbidium Collection

by Noe Smith

Prior to taking up the hobby, I'd often admire orchids, particularly Cymbidiums, anywhere I saw them and wonder at how long the flowers lasted. At some stage a friend gave me a few Cymbidium plants and somehow, within a year, I had a full shade house.

Like most new growers, I had no idea about the plants I was buying, or being given – some I hadn't seen in flower and, thinking back, never did! Some of those plants in my early collection were old hybrids, some of which were in poor condition, too – some were diseased and others came with shrivelled bulbs and no roots. As a novice grower I didn't know enough to get them back to a healthy state and they quickly died.

If this sounds familiar, or you are just beginning a Cymbidium collection, then hopefully what you're about to read will help you to build a collection which will encourage you and reward you.

Cymbidiums in bloom

As you're reading this article, you may have joined a club already. If not, I'd recommend that you do and attend meetings (if possible) as well. A specialist Cymbidium club will provide access to experienced growers who will teach you about culture and give you the opportunity to acquire good quality Cymbidiums. By good quality I don't necessarily mean expensive show-winning plants, but rather well-grown, healthy, free-flowering types which, given reasonable care and attention, will provide you with flowers to enjoy.

I've always had a strong belief that novice growers need good healthy plants from day one. Some people adopt the view that any old things will do as a new grower will likely kill them anyway. Certainly a new grower may lose a few plants but, in general, Cymbidiums are hard to kill and will often survive poor culture for a surprisingly long time (which is a plus for someone on a learning curve); beginning with good, healthy plants increases the chances of success compared to starting out with suspect plants.

This article isn't really intended as a cultural guide for beginners; perhaps the best tip for new growers is to obtain a cultural sheet from their club (most Cymbidium clubs have one) that should relate to growing conditions in your general environment. With a start provided by proven methods, one should be able to quickly gain encouraging results and, after a while, the confidence to vary your growing conditions to suit your specific location (once enough is learned to assess other options). That's not to say that alternative cultural methods will give better results, but at least the ability to make informed decisions about either making changes or staying with what you already know won't end in disaster.

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