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The Writhlington Orchid Project

The Writhlington School Orchid Project combines horticulture, science and conservation. Pupils raise orchids from seed and are working on conservation projects in the Himalayas, South Africa, South East Asia and Central America. Follow their story on this blog.

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  • Orchid Spotting

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 26 Oct 2011 at 06:50 PM

     Laos 2011 Team!


  • Wild Collection

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 24 Oct 2011 at 12:04 PM

    We have just been to a place where they're keeping thousands of wild collected orchids, ready to sell… Really very shocking.


  • Updates from Laos

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 24 Oct 2011 at 12:03 PM

    As you all know some of our team are out in Laos and it is hard for them to update us.  They are doing a very good job but they are mainly using twitter.  Keep following the progress.  Also they are putting a lot of pictures on Flickr.


  • Commissioning the Lab

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 24 Oct 2011 at 11:47 AM

    A toast to the new Paksong Laboratory! In our lovely new glass, of course!

    In the new Paksong Lab!


  • Orchid Conservation in Paksong, Laos

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 23 Oct 2011 at 12:06 PM

    As readers of this blog will know, a group of students from the Writhlington School Orchid Project are currently working in Laos to help the Paksong Orchid Project conserve their amazing native orchids.  To follow our progress more closely visit


  • Clay Hill

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 09 Jun 2011 at 10:00 PM
    Hi Zoe B here. Tomorrow after school we are going to clay hill to look for wild orchids and I will post pictures of what we find. (Hopefully lots).


  • Prosthechea prismatocarpa

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 07 Mar 2011 at 08:09 AM

    Hi Zoe B here.  Prosthechea prismatocarpa grows in central America, in low cloud forest on large tree branches, and is found in our greenhouse in warm America.  Its common name is ‘Prism-Shaped Seedpod Prosthechea’.  It has long lasting, waxy, fragrant flowers.


  • Prosthechea radiata

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 03 Mar 2011 at 08:00 AM

    Hi Zoe B here.  Prosthechea radiata is found in central and south America, and in our greenhouses grows in warm America.  It is fragrant, heavy textured, and easy to grow with lovely cockleshell flowers.  Its common name is ‘Lined Petal Prosthechea’


  • Prosthechea vespa

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 28 Feb 2011 at 04:05 PM

    Prosthechea vespa is an amazing orchid.  It comes from South America, and can be found in Warm America in our greenhouse.  It grows in shady areas, in humid substrates with moss and loose soil.  There is also a Prosthechea vespa alba which has the same shape flower but it is plain white.


  • Prosthechea bulbosa

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 28 Feb 2011 at 03:55 PM

    Prosthechea bulbosa comes from central America and we grow it in Warm America.  You may have noticed  from the picture that it is another upside down orchid.  It has many small, long lasting flowers that are very fragrant, smelling of lime.


  • Prosthechea baculus

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 15 Feb 2011 at 05:07 PM

    Hi Zoe B here.  Prosthechea baculus grows in central and south America and, in our greenhouse, can be found in warm America. It has flowers quite like the Prosthechea cochleata but it only has two flower which are held back to back.  This is where it gets its name.  Like most Prosthecheas, it is another upside down orchid.


  • Sophronitis becomes Cattleya

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 15 Feb 2011 at 08:10 AM

    Hi Zoe B here.  I am just saying that Sophronitis has become Cattleya.  Sophronitis, like the Sophronitis coccinea has become Cattleya coccinea.  It is the new recognised name.


  • Prosthechea vitellina

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 14 Feb 2011 at 04:24 PM

    Prosthechea vitellina, or the  ‘York-Yellow Prosthechea’ comes from Mexico and is found in Warm America in our greenhouse.  This orchid is also an epiphyte like the other two I have talked about.


  • Prosthechea garciana

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 14 Feb 2011 at 04:18 PM

    Staying with Prosthecheas, I am going to tell you about  Prosthechea garciana.  Like  cochleata, this orchid is upside down (non-resupinate). However, garciana has a slight citrus fragrance.  It comes from Mexico at around 1200m altitude and, in our greenhouse, is found in Warm America.


  • Prosthechea cochleata

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 13 Feb 2011 at 01:06 PM

    Zoe B here.  I am going to start with Prosthechea cochleata, national flower of Belize. In Warm America, in our greenhouse, at least one of this plant is in flower at any time.  This orchid is unusual because its lip is at the top of the flower, not the bottom like most orchids.  Some other Prosthechea are the same, but not all.  For this reason it is known as the upside-down orchid.



  • Hello Again

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 13 Feb 2011 at 12:20 PM

    Hello again Zoe B here.  I haven't bloged here for a wile but I am going to start up again.  As you may know I am in charge of Prosthecheas, Sophronitis, and Encyclia.  I am going to do a blog about all of the orcheds I look after in our greenhouse.  Please take a look at our website


  • Writhlington's Orchid of the Year 2010

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 26 Dec 2010 at 12:20 AM
    What's a new year without a look back at the past one? We've seen quite a few wonderful orchids over the past year, but which one's your favourite? We've narrowed it down to a shortlist of 10, but we need your help to pick a winner! Head on over to our website where you can have a browse of our shortlist and pick your favourite! The winner will be announced early in the new year.


  • Still amazing after 170 years

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 24 Dec 2010 at 10:34 PM

     In 1839 the plant collector George Ure Skinner discovered the orchid Schomburgkia superbiens in Guatemala and wrote home to England the words 'Saw you ever anything like this?'. Well, he had a point and we are still marvelling at the 2-3m flower spikes and the gorgeous heads of large pink flowers.



  • Spring starts early for the Writhlington Pleiones

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 23 Dec 2010 at 04:15 PM

     Well it’s nearly Christmas so it is time to get going on those spring jobs in the greenhouse. The first job every spring for us is to repot the Pleiones and we will aim to have them all done by the middle of January.We took all of our Pleione bulbs out of their old pots in November and now they look like this Pleione formosana bulb with the new growth starting to show signs of growing. Definately time to pot it up as this growth will produce a flower in March or April.

    The compost we use at Writhlington is a mixture of course orchid garde bark, dried sphagnum moss and a little perlite. Their are other composts that work too but we like this open, free draining but moisture retentive mix. For display we place a number of bulbs in a 15cm half pot. For a good display we select bulbs that all have growths at the same state and position the bulbs so that all the growths will face the same way


  • What is snowy on the outside and has Brazilian sunshine on the inside?

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 27 Nov 2010 at 09:47 PM

     Answer - The Writhlington School Greenhouses :)

    This has to be the best time of year to have a heated greenhouse. While many little mammals are thinking of hibernating to sit out the cold months, the students of Writhlington School  (little mammals too) are busy surrounded by some of the of the world's most stunning flowers. Sophronitis cernua is a good example. This species comes from Brazil where it grows in warm forest in the coastal mountains. Like many tropical orchids it flowers in its 'dry season' which is winter (that means temperatures down to 15 degrees C). It's red flowers attract pollinating hummingbirds. What a perfect antidote to winter weather


  • The wonder of webcams on a frosty morning

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 27 Nov 2010 at 08:28 AM

     Snow has returned to Writhlington School but unlike last year when the old greenhouse with a dodgy boiler meant the winter was a time of uncertainty and worrywe can now be confident that the orchids are snug in their controlled climate zones. It is a wonderful thing to be able to get out of bed on a Saturday and check the plants via our webcams. All looking great. This photo shows 'Cool America' at 14 degrees and 73% relative humidity on this frost morning. Thanks again to Dan and Luke for setting up and maintaining the webcams.


  • A Label Dilemma

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 07 Nov 2010 at 09:34 AM
    We’ve been playing around with the laser cutter at school, and have come up with two potential designs for all of the labels we’ll use at shows in the future. (or until we come up with a better one!) We have come up with a dilema though, we can’t decide which is best. Please give us a hand by voting for your favourite! Head over to Our Website to cast your vote!


  • What a flower!

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 19 Oct 2010 at 04:01 PM

    There are some amazing flowers around but few can match Bulbophyllum Elizabeth Ann. Here is Heather with a real specimen of a plant carrying eighteen flower spikes.

    As you can see from the close up, each flower spike carries about seven or eight individual flowers with remarkable markings, little frilly bits and a scent reminicent of fresh mackerel.


  • The intimate life of the early spider orchid: sex, indolence... and climate change

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 18 Oct 2010 at 08:39 PM

     Now there's a title! In fact it is the title of the Orchid Conservation International Autumn 2010 lecture to be held at the Jodrell Lecture Theatre, Kew. The key to understanding any plant is careful observation and in this lecture Professor Mike Hutchings from the University of Sussex will present the results of thirty years research into a population of Early Spider Orchids, one of Britain most charismatic rare plants. You may remember my blog in April featuring Early Spider orchids on the Dorset Coast - what an amazing plant. This is a rare opportunity to really learn about a fascinating species and lots of the team at Writhlington will be making the journey up to London to listen to the lecture.If you are not busy on November 13th, why not come along too. I have included the poster here with full information.


  • Find out about the Writhlington Orchid Project at the 2010 Annals of Botany Lecture

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 03 Oct 2010 at 09:30 PM

    If you live in or near Bristol you could be in for an interesting evening this thursday (7th October) as teacher Simon Pugh-Jones will be presenting the 2010 Annals of Botany Lecture at the University Of Bristol. In the lecture Simon will talk about the origin, development and the overseas expeditions of the Writhlington School Orchid Project. There will also be students on hand to answer questions and sell you thier plants. For more information and details about how to buy a ticket visit the Bristol University Botanic Gardens website


  • Stunning himalayan orchid not mentioned on the BBC!

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 28 Sep 2010 at 09:40 PM

    Did anyone else see the excellent series 'Lost Land of the Tiger' on the BBC last week? Excellent except for the complete ignoring of the fantastic plants the scientists stumbled past looking for 'What lives here'.....What a fantastic place Bhutan is...and 'what lives there' includes the Rhododendron forests ignored at 3500m and, of course, the orchids on view from the hot tropical valleys right up as to the snow. Having taken school visits to similar habitats in near by Sikkim it makes me quite cross. So to set the record straight the large flowered pink epiphytic orchid shown twice on the Friday episode is Pleione hookeriana. This little orchid flowers in April from the new shoot that appears out of a thick layer of moss covering the trunks and branches of trees at around 3000m altitude. I have seen these in the wild on old trees in rough pasture near the Sikkim village of Lachung. In cultivation this species grows best for us in a mossy compost in pots. It should be grown cool and we provise a winter minimum of around 5 degrees celcius. Does anyone else get fed up with the ignoring of plants in wildlife TV?


  • How many orchid growers does it take to cut a ribbon?

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 27 Sep 2010 at 09:57 PM

     Eight of course!...from left to right, Zoe, Caroline, Luke, Katie, Zoe, Matthew, Clancy and Tom...and didn't they do it well? The ribbon ended up in ribbons, the crowds flooded in, and the Writhlington Orchid Centre was well and truly open.It was definately a special day. Writhlington's link scientist from RGB Kew, Dr Lauren Gardiner summed it up, saying, "This is the begining of the next phase for the orchid project as the new facilities will allow students to train others in laboratory propagation techniques. This process not only shares useful skills but allows young people to gain valuable experience and confidence through the teaching process. This confidence was very apparent in the younger students who presented public lectures about their work at the festival."


  • Crowds flock to Writhlington's big day

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 26 Sep 2010 at 09:18 PM

     Thank you to all the people who came to the Writhlington School orchid festival on Saturday and helped to make it such a wonderful day. I really enjoyed it and I know that the students of the Writhlington Orchid Project did some high points. 1. The opening. Julia Willison from BGCI was brilliant Smile a really touching speech and then inviting all the students to take a pair of scissors to jointly cut the ribbon was perfect. 2. The students, who were all absolutely fantastic, working their socks off from 7.30 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon giving tours, manning the sales table, giving lectures, cooking the food, and answering question after question. 3. The volunteer adults who's help on the day made it run so smoothly and be such a pleasure for everyone. Special thanks to Anika Roellke who came all the way from Germany, Lauren Gardiner who came nearly as far (from Kew), Annie Pugh-Jones who only came from Frome but has been working for this event for weeks and Haley and Paul Shackleton for running backwards and forwards to the station so that Julia could make it to the show and get back for her husband's birthday celebrations. 4. The students and staff of the Orchid Cafe for the wonderful food and 5. The members of the orchid societies who brought plants for a fabulous show. More pics to come over the next couple of days but for now here is a view of the official opening with Julia (on the right) with all the growers and their celabratory cake outside the new greenhouse and with Sikkim prayer flags in the background.


  • All set for the grand opening

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 24 Sep 2010 at 10:24 PM

    Writhlington school's orchid enthusiasts are all set for the big day on Saturday when we open our new orchid centre. The greenhouses are looking amazing, the lab is glistening and set for tomorrows volunteers to demonstrate propagation techniques, the show tables are all ready......and the cake is decorated...woohoo.

    If you look closely at the decoration you will see our six sections, five the tropical habitats where we have our conservation link projects and a sixth propagation zone... and of course the whole thing is bursting with orchids, school pupils and unicycles. I hope you like the cake and will like the orchid centre even more, whether you visit it for the opening tomorrow (Sat 25th) or over the coming years


  • How do you launch a greenhouse?

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 15 Sep 2010 at 09:58 PM

    We have a problem at Writhlington.... how do you launch a new greenhouse (or is it christen a new greenhouse?). We have thought of smashing a bottle of champagne on it but that is bound to lead to complications. Perhaps a ribbon going all the way around...but that's 60m of ribbon!....any ideas welcome.


  • Julia Willison to open Writhlington's glasshouses

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 15 Sep 2010 at 08:59 PM

     We are delighted to announce that the new Writhlington Greenhouses will be opened by Julia Willison, Director of Education Programmesfor BotanicGardens Conservation International (BGCI).Julia was responsible for inviting Writhlington pupils Zoe Parfitt and Zoe Barnes to the BGCI conference in Durban (featured in our blogs during November 2009) and it is fitting that she will be declaring the new greenhouses open to the public at the Writhlington Orchid Festival on September 25th.

    BGCI is an international organisation that exists to ensure the world-wide conservation of threatened plants, the continued existence of which are intrinsically linked to global issues including poverty, human well-being and climate change.


  • Dracula appears at Writhlington School's open evening

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 14 Sep 2010 at 10:49 PM

    Tonight's open evening at Writhlington School coincided with the flowering of our darkest orchid. Dracula vampira sounds pretty scary and Caroline, who grows the plant in our cool americas section, made the most of it's frightening appearance. Its name 'Dracula' is derived from dragons mouth refering to the flower shape and 'vampira' meaning vampir like which, to my mind, is stretching things when you look at the beautiful patterniing of the flower. Anyway decide for yourself, scary or sweet? It is a native of Ecuador by the way.



  • First day blues

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 03 Sep 2010 at 04:38 PM

    Students at Writhlington School have started their new term in a blue mood thanks to the wonderful blue himalayan orchid species Vanda coerulea. Vanda is a diverse genus  found from the Himalayas through South East Asia with many dramatic species but Vanda coerulea is rather special. The large brilliantly blue flowers have attracted hybridisers and many of the hybrid Vandas available have this species in their parentage. At Writhlington we grow this species warm with a minimum of 18C and pleanty of light to encourage flowering but it's mountain habitat suggests it could be grown cooler. We have two different plants in flower this month and if you want a closer look and advice on growing this beauty why not come to our orchid festival on the 25th September.


  • New Term at Writhlington

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Sep 2010 at 10:45 AM

    A new year has just begun for the students and orchids at Writhlington School. It is an exciting year starting with the official opening of the new greenhouses at the Writhlington Orchid Festival on Saturday 25th September. (click here to see our trailer). The first job of the new term is cleaning the greenhouse floors after the summer. Hygiene is important in a greenhouse and this weeks clean up will include cleaning up algae spilt compost and dead leaves that could harbour pests and diseases. The glass will be cleaned too to make sure that maximum light is transmitted now that the sun is lower in the sky.


  • World cup celebrated in the orchid house

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 29 Jun 2010 at 10:03 PM

    Is it an omen? As  England get knocked out of the World Cup Laelia purpurata bursts into flower in the Writhlington School Greenhouses . Laelia purpurata is the national flower of Brazil and so must be a football fan. Heather Limond, age 13, who looks after the plant is convinced that it is flowering now  to celebrate the forthcoming Brazilian triumph in South Africa. So if Brazil do win, it was the orchid that predicted it!. We grow  this species warm and bright with lots of water and feed during the summer but a dryish winter once growth stops in about November.  The photo here shows it high in the greenhouse under the auto shade which comes across in the 'warm americas' section when the light level reaches 600 watts per square metre. Check out the Writhlington website for more information.


  • Himalayan wonders of the orchid kind - part 2

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 14 May 2010 at 04:22 PM

    I am often asked the question "which is your favourite orchid?" a question I always struggle to answer definitively. Howerver I can tell you what my favourite orchid is today - Dendrobium densiflorum. This stunning orchid is one I have had the pleasure of finding in the wild in the Sikkim Himalaya and have grown in cultivation since the age of 14 so it is rather close to my heart. As you can see from the amazing specimen growing on its tree in Sikkim the plant produces pendulous racemes of yellow flowers from stiff pseudobulbs. It grows in warm monsoon forest at altitudes from 500m to 1200m. In cultivation this means warm wet summers and dryer winters with minimum temperatures of about 12 degrees. We have tiny seedlings of this orchid growing well in the school lab and can't wait to get them up to size.

    Dendrobium densiflorum flowering in Sikkim

  • Himalayan wonders of the orchid kind - part 1

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 06 May 2010 at 04:34 PM

    Having just returned from a two week trip to the Sikkim Himalaya I can't help but notice the wonderful Himalayan orchids flowering in the Writhlington Orchid Project greenhouses. I feel that one of the best things about growing exotic plants in a greenhouse is the way it transports you to the world's most exciting habitats. Take Dendrobium aphyllum. This stunning orchid is found in hot tropical forest in the deep valleys of the Himalayan range. It grows on semi deciduous trees exposed to the sun in the dry monsoon winters. The plant copes by losing it's leaves and flowering from bare canes in April and May. This photograph was taken in Southern Sikkim at an altitude of 400m above sea level. Dendrobium aphyllum is an accomodating plant in cultivation and we find it grows and flowers reliably at Writhlington with a minimum temperature of around 15 degrees C, a wet summer and a dryer winter. The plant photographed below opened its flowers in late April, a sight that instantly transported me to the mountains of its native habitat, a real Himalayan wonder.


  • Get out and enjoy British Orchids

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 04 May 2010 at 04:56 PM

    May and June at Writhlington School are months dedicated to getting out into the coutryside 'on safari' to see British orchids in the wild. So we suggest ignore all those pressing garden jobs and get exploring. At the moment you can expect to find Early Spider orchid (Ophrys sphagodes), Green Winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio) and Early Purple orchid (Orchis mascula). A great place to see all three is the Purbeck coast in Dorset with Dancing Ledge near Langton Matravers and Durlson Park being our favourite spots. Here are some photographs to tempt you. Check out the Writhlington Orchid Project website for more information and news on progress in the new greenhouses. Early Spider Orchid flowering on the cliffs above Dancing Ledge, Dorset.  Early spider orchid flowering with Green Winged orchid near Dancing Ledge.     Early Purple Orchid at Durlson Park


  • New term, New School!

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 30 Apr 2010 at 08:37 PM
    We're back! We took a little break from blogging both here and over at our home site of WSBE Orchids over the move over to the new greenhouse, but I'm pleased to report that we are back to school and in our new building! This week marks the return of the students to school, meaning that we’ll be able to start on the mass of work that needs to be done before our Grand Opening (dates TBC). We have a lot to do, and hopefully will be all ready for our opening. In case you hadn’t guessed… we’re all rather excited!


  • Setting seed for the future

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 14 Feb 2010 at 10:52 PM

     One of the most popular tasks at Writhlington is pollinating plants to produce seed to use in the orchid laboratory. We produce most of our seed this way which means that we can be absolutely sure that seedlings are the correct species and keep photographs of the parent plants. The job of pollination goes the the student in charge of that group of plants and since Cattleya percivaliana was in flower last week it was Heather that had the job of polinating it. Seedlings of Cattleya species are always popular and we find most of them produce good strong seedlings. In the photo you can see that Heather is using a thin stick to transfer pollen to the stigmatic surface. If pollination is successful she will see the seed capsule swelling behind the flower in a week or so. The seed will be ripe and ready to sow in about twelve months. We will keep you informed on progress.


  • Spring arrives at Writhlington

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 11 Feb 2010 at 09:07 PM

     At Writhlington school we always feel that spring has arrived when our plants of Coelogyne cristata start to flower. Matt isn't the tallest member of greenhouse club but he still shows the scale of this magnificent plant. Coelogyne cristata featured as one of our favourite orchids in an earlier blog and I am sure you can see why. Its flowers are a beautiful crystal white ..rather reminicent of the snow we have all had enough of this year. Coelogyne cristata is a species our expedition to Sikkim had the great pleasure of finding in the wildin April 2009 growing at 1200m in mossy forest near Tinkitam. This Writhlington plant is really heavy. We aren't quite sure how we will carry it to the new greenhouse next month but are confident we will think of something.

    This is the same species flowering in the Himalayas above excited students Luke B and Luke S Read More...

  • Seeds – lots of them!

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 11 Feb 2010 at 07:50 AM
    Originally posted to Our home on the net! Orchid seed is the key to everything we do at the Writhlington Orchid Project. It is from orchid seed that we get the plants that we sell to make money for our trips. It is also these seeds that will grow up to make up our collection that is taken to shows. I will mention that there are lots of seeds in one seed pod. Hundreds of them! Thousands and, in many cases, millions! All of this seed needs sorting before it can be sown. All of our seed is stored in the fridge in small, labeled jars, but before it can be refrigerated it must be dried. Now we have a hi-tech seed drying chamber to do this in a matter of days, but in the past the seed had to be left in paper envelopes, in a large box on a top shelf. We found one such box today and have been going through the seed, packet by packet, testing for viability. Viability testing is one of the most useful things we do in the labs. Sure, sowing the seed is important, as is splitting the seeds up, but if the seed is not viable, i.e. not going to germinate anyway, there is no point in it even being sown. For this reason, before it is refrigerated, all seed must be viability tested. As hi-tech as it sounds, viability testing is a relatively simple task. A small sample of the seed is placed on a microscope slide and examined. Under a microscope, it is clear whether or not an embryo is present in the seed. No embryo = non-viable seed.


  • Snowman's orchid

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 13 Jan 2010 at 03:38 PM

     Hello Zoe P here. I thought you would like to see a close of the snowman's orchid, Dendrobium fimbriata. In the wild it grows at altitude of about 300-500m so a lot lower than the snow line. It is called fimbriata because of the delicate feathery edge to the lip.

     Did not spend long in the snow if anyone is worried.


  • Back to work

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 13 Jan 2010 at 03:24 PM

     Hello, we appologise for not writing blogs because we could not make it to school because of the snow! Now we are back at school we are working very hard, building a snow man! If you look carefully you can see the snowman holding Dendrobium Fimbriatum. The Dendrobium found it to cold so we then moved the snowman inside and now he has gone and left the plant on the floor!


  • Coldest day at Writhlington

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 07 Jan 2010 at 02:21 PM

     Last night was officially the coldest in the history of the orchid project. Temperatures in the cool end went down to 1 degree above freezing (we aim to maintain a minumum of 7 degrees here). By 9 am the temperature was at around 2 or 3 degrees as shown in this photograph while it was still -10 outside. The orchid in the photo is Masdevallia picea from the mountains of Peru and Ecuador and so can cope with lower temperatures but this is a bit extreme and we wouldn't recomend you putting your thermostat on 3 degrees. We have found that cool growing orchids such as Masdevallias, Coelogynes, Dendrobiums and Cymbidiums can cope happily with the odd short period of very low temperatures providing frost is avoided but other warm growing orchids such as Phalaenopsis, Vandas and Aerangis do not survive or at least lose a lot of leaves so it is important to match your plants to your conditions. When really cold weather is forcast we avoid watering plants as dry plants are not so suceptable to rots and fungal attack, it is nearly a week since we last watered at Writhlington. As tonight is forcast cold again you will be pleased to know we have arranged temporary top up heating to keep everything a little more cosy while the big freeze continues.


  • things to do in the gardern

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 06 Jan 2010 at 11:29 AM

     With all the snow around there's not much to do in the gardern exept have fun.  This patch of snow by the greenhouse was just asking for a snow angel, or two. p.s. Luke and I were a bit freezy afterwards though.


  • Snow school today

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 06 Jan 2010 at 09:37 AM

     It is very snowy today and the school is closed, but the greenhouse doesnt water itself, so whatever the wether we are in school (me and Luke in the pic).  All the plants are fine all snug in the greenhoues, so it gives a chance to do some work in the lab. Good luck coping with the snow. Zoe B. 


  • Repotting time - Splitting Odontoglossum cristatum

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 03 Jan 2010 at 06:16 PM

     Spring is the best time of year to repot and split orchids and at Writhlington spring starts early. One plant that needed drastic attention was this old plant of Odontoglossum cristatum. A lovely cool growing species from Colombia. It has been growing on the same piece of cork bark for about seven years and it is now in need of splitting up and repotting for a fresh start. The first step is to sterilse a pair of secateurs by flaming them. This stops the spread of virus disease. New the plant is cut into parts each with at least three healthy pseudobulbs.

     This is one new plant here.

  • Happy New Year to all our partners around the World

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Jan 2010 at 10:32 PM

     New year is a time we think about all the lovely people we work with around the world. So Happy New Year to our friends in Durban both at the Botanic Garden and at West Park School. Happy New Year as well  to the pupils and staff at the Erica Primary School in Cape Town, to Souk and Eddie in Laos, to John, Ian and Judy in Belize, to Ana-Silvia and Federico in Guatemala, to Federico, Vannessa, Franco, Kerry and Bob in Costa Rica, to Izabel, David and Carlhinos in Brazil and all our friends in Sikkim, especially Mohan and Ganden who are second and fifth from the left in this lovely photo from our 2009 expedition to Sikkim. This is the log house at the Fambong Lho reserve in the mountains above Gangtok. Finally a Happy New year to all of you who read our blogs on the RHS. We hope to see you all sometime in 2010...Simon Pugh-Jones


  • Brazilian colour to beat the winter gloom

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 31 Dec 2009 at 08:50 AM

     One of the real pleasures of having a greenhouse is escaping those cold gloomy winter days into your own little tropical paradise. This morning I escaped to Brazil thanks to Sophronitis cernua. I had the pleasure of seeing this species in the wild on our last school expedition to the Brazilian costal forest (Mata Atlantica) in 2006. It grows in dryish forest at around 800m altitude and so we grow it with a minimum temperature of 15 degrees Celcius. As you can see from the plant photograph we grow it mounted rather than in a pot. About nine years ago we tied a seedling to a piece of cork and as you can see the plant has grown to completely cover the mount. This year it is flowering really well. This species is pollinated by humming birds. 


  • Dreaming of a white Christmas

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 27 Dec 2009 at 12:32 PM

     No not the snow, Dendrobium wattii. Some orchids have the most amazingly crisp white flowers and this Christmas the best white is this stunning Dendrobium native to the Eastern Himalayas of Burma, Thailand and Laos. It is another cool grower and we keep it at a minimum of 10 degrees C. The orange stripes on the lip are guides to the pollinating bees although this may well be a deceipt poliator as are many long lasting orchids. The flower provides no pollinator reward such as nectar and relies on mimicry or naive pollinators. Research has shown that the closely related species Dendrobium infundibulum mimics a white Rhododendron species. Well, trick flower or not, Dendrobium wattii has won me over.


  • Christmas orchids

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 26 Dec 2009 at 05:02 PM

     Writhlington School may be closed for the holiday but the plants in the school greenhouses never take a break. In fact, christmas is a lovely time with lots of plants flowering in the run up to our peak time in March. Most of the plants we grow are cooler growing orchids native to the tropical slopes of mountains like the Himilayas or Andes. The majority of these species flower in the dry season (winter and spring). The current impact plants in our cool end (minimum 7-10 degrees celcius)are the Mexican Laelias. Lealia anceps  is native to the mountains in South West Mexico where they grow on oak trees. With us they flower reliably every christmas with long sprays of bright pink flowers. We find the species is easy to growand flower. In Mexico it is used as a central part of the Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) celebrations. Whether you celebrate El Dia de los Muertos or not, we recommend you have a try at growing Laelia anceps.


  • What do gardeners do in their spare time?

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 17 Dec 2009 at 07:49 PM

     Today was the last day of school so greenhouse club joined the rest of the school in a massive talent show. Catch Zoe, Ike, Luke, Heather and Simon doing their mad unicycle act on the orchid project website. Thanks also to Luke on Music and Caroline in a cockroach costume. After that we spent a last lunch time in the greenhouse. We will really miss the orchids over chrismas but we will soon be back. Happy Christmas everyone.


  • Christmas in greenhouse club

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 16 Dec 2009 at 02:48 PM

    Unfortunately tomorow is the last day of school, and that also means the last official day of greenhouse club this year. This year has been a blast and we like nothing more at the end of a year than to share all that we have done this past year with you. we have been going around all the people that have been coming to greenhouse club for the past year and asking them what thier highlights of the past twelve months have been. Now there is nothing left to do but tell you about them. Heather says ''learning to unicycle and joining th club". Caroline says "the OCI meeting where I first talked about my masdevallias"  Zoe B says "I most enjoyed going to Durbun" Nathan says "The trips have been really interesting". Mr Pugh Jones"My high points was working with the schools in Gangtok, Sikkim" Luke and Ben say "Winning a gold at Chelsea was the best". 2010 is going to even better because we will be moving into the new greenhouse, look at it now. Happy Christmas to everyone, Heather, Zoe and Caroline                                                     


  • Madagascan beauty ...Angraecum leonis

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 16 Dec 2009 at 01:02 PM
    Madagascar is home to some amazing orchid species and Angraecum leonis  is one of them. In our last blog you saw this at a distance and here it is close up. The fan shaped plant is 20cm across and the 5cm flowers are bourne singly on short stems over a long period. The flowers are white and night scented to attract pollinating hawk moths and the nectar is held in the lower part of a long spur (curled tube) visible at the back of the flower. A high proportion of Madagascar's epiphytic orchids are moth pollinated. This particular plant came out of it's jar in the school lab about five years agao and this is it's second flowering. We can now expect flowers every year and species like this can be very long lived. In the new glasshouses we will have a section dedicated to species from this facinating Island.



  • Madagascar?

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 16 Dec 2009 at 12:10 PM
    Madagascar is home to an amazing flora with about 1000 orchid species most of which occur nowhere else. At Writhlington we are very excited to be getting involved in helping in the conservation of some of these amazing plants. This photo shows Jack from Greenhouse club talking to Stuart Cable who is head of Kew's Madagascar team and he has been down to Writhlington to discuss ways in which we can support him and his work with Madagascans to conserve orchids. We have lots of exciting ideas so watch this space and see what happens over the next few years. The orchid Jack and Stuart are looking at is Angraecum leoinis a Madagascan beauty we have grown in our propagation lab. We will take a photo and upload it later for you to have a closer look.



  • Visit from Botanic Gardens Conservation International

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 15 Dec 2009 at 09:55 PM

    Following the success of the Durban Conference BGCI (Botanic Gardens Conservation International) have been keen to work with Writhlington pupils to help develop projects linked to botanic gardens globally. This week we had a visit from Julia Willison (head of Education at BGCI) and Lauren Evans (BGCI Development Officer) and had a wonderful afternoon introducing them to Greenhouse club, our plants, our lab and our project. We are really looking forward to working together in the future. There are lots of wonderful plant conservation and education projects going on in botanic gardens and lots of these are featured on the BCGI website. In the picture here Zoe Parfit is showing Julia and Lauren some of our warm growing orchids including this Prosthechea garciana from Mexico.


  • Orchid of the week...small is beautiful

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 12 Dec 2009 at 11:29 AM

     This week's star orchid is Masdevallia minuta, a diminuative beauty from the cool moist forests of South America. It is found from Peru to Venezuala. Our plants flower every december and floweing lasts for a couple of glorious months.


  • Tales of the Himalayas and tropical South Africa

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 11 Dec 2009 at 07:55 PM

    Every year Writhlington Students hold an orchid evening to celebrate the events of the previous twelve months. This year there will be two talks; Luke Barnes (on the right) will describe April's expedition to Sikkim, and then Zoes Barnes and Parfitt will relive their trip to Durban. The evening starts at 7pm on Monday 14th December and is open to all.


  • Orchids in test tubes 3....NAA rooting hormone

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 11 Dec 2009 at 07:29 PM

     We add a rooting hormone called NAA to our growing media. NAA is Naphthaleneacetic Acid, an auxin that acts as a growth regulator. The seedlings below show the effect of this chemical on orchids in test tubes. The left hand seedling has no NAA added. The next two show increasing NAA results in an increase in root production and a resulting increased growth rate. However the fourth jar shows that higher levels of NAA can disturb the plants natural growth pattern and reduce overall growth. The right hand jar shows that high levels of NAA are toxic to plants. We use NAA partly to increase growth rates and partly to ensure that our seedlings have pleanty of roots for when they come out of their test tube and into a pot.


  • Orchids in test tubes 2 ....How much nutrient?

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 11 Dec 2009 at 07:21 PM
    Here's another experiment looking at the effect of nutrient levels for orchid seedlings in-vitro. Almost all GCSE students at Writhlington design and carry out experiments on orchids in test tubes and this is just one of this year's. From left to right the nutrient level increases in steps and this can be seen from the changing colour of the growing media. As you can see the seedling with no nutrient on the left has not grown and as the nutrient is increased the growth rate increases. On the right the nutrient level is too high preventing the roots from absorbing nutrient and water. The nutrient level we use in our lab is the middle jar. If you want to know more about our project visit the website or even come along to our Orchid Celebration Evening next monday at 7pm at the school.



  • Orchids in test tubes 1...How much agar?

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 11 Dec 2009 at 07:09 PM

     At Writhlington School we grow orchids from seed in test tubes. We get a lot of questions about what we put in the the test tubes to grow the plants. Well here are some experiments to help you to see. The growing media contains water, sugar, plant food, and agar. This provides everything the growing seedlings need and the agar stiffens the growing media. The experiment above shows what happens if you change the amount of agar. With too little agar on the left the plants sink into the water and die. With too much agar on the right the plants can't get the water and nutrient from the very stiff growing media and they don't grow. The two in the middle show plants growing well in media that supports them and allows their roots to access the water and nutrients that the orchid needs. By the way, the seedlings are of Coelogyne usitana  from the Philippines.


  • Luke reaches final of Young Scientist of the Year

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 07 Dec 2009 at 09:19 AM

     Writhlington is buzzing this morningwith the news that the Orchid Project's laboratory manager, Luke Barnes, has made it to the finals of the National Science and Engineering competition (Young Scientist of the Year). Luke who is now in Year 11 carried out research on the orchid populations of the Sikkim Himalaya on the school expedition. His research shows that the populations are now growing at a higher altitude than they did in the 1890's and the altitude rise is in line with that to be expected from global warming. This research has significant implication for Himalayan flora especially the conservation of rare plants. Luke will give more datails about his research in later posts. This picture shows Luke taking GPS readings for orchid popuations in the mountains near Rabangla in South West Sikkim.


  • Paper letters and enthusiastic year 8s!

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 05 Dec 2009 at 08:53 AM

     Hello!  I'm Luke Barnes, a Year 11 student at Writhlington School and the Orchid Project's Lab Manager.  Some of you may also know me as the blogger on our website  We've been doing some experiments with our 'logo' lately (that's what we call our little green and white picture).  I had the idea that as a school project, with over 11 students and 11 letters, we could do something with A4 paper.  What I didn't count on was the weather - rain!  Not to be defeated, however, we got out the umbrellas and have quite a good looking logo substitute if I do say so myself!


  • Hello from our Cymbidium bee

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 03 Dec 2009 at 08:21 AM

     This morning we were rather suprised to find a very happy bee waving to us from the flower on Cymbidium mastersii. Cymbidiums are pollinated by bees and clearly the scent they give off makes bees like this one happy. The bee stayed around the flower for more than ten minutes and in the past we have found bees asleep in Cymbidium flowers. This bee is too large to pollinate Cymbidium mastersii and many orchids are only pollinated by a single species of insect or bird. To make seed we do all our pollination by hand. Now, time for lessons.


  • Dendrobium cuthbertsonii, a jewel from Papua New Guinea

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Dec 2009 at 05:00 PM

     There are many hundreds of exciting orchid species in the Writhlington Greenhouses but few have the charm of Dendrobium cuthbertsonii. This miniature species grows in the cool mossy mountain forests of Papua New Guinea. It flowers in a range of bright colours, red like this one, pinks, oranges and yellows. We grow most of our plants on pieces of cork, partly because they flourish grown mounted and partly because it shows their flowers and habit off so well. Individual flowers are incredibly long lasting and I have heard of them lasting twelve months. At Writhlington we cut the flowers off after about six months to let the plants grow again for the following year. Each year we polinate some of our cuthbertsonii flowers to produce seed and Luke Barnes who manages the writhlington lab tells me that this years seed has germinated well and we can expect lots of these lovely plants in years to come.Simon Pugh-Jones


  • Heather's Cattleya bowringiana

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Dec 2009 at 04:35 PM
    Hi its Heather here. You might of seen me in an earlier post heathers first go. I look after the cattleyas. One of my Cattleyas is Cattleya bowringiana. It comes from central america. It has been renamed Guarianthe bowringiana after test on the DNA of the Cattleya family (still counts as one of my orchids). They have two or three grey green leaves and lots of large flowers. We grow it in a warm place with a minimuim of 15 degrees.Here is a picture of Cattleya bowringiana. 


  • Zoe B's Prosthechea bulbosa

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Dec 2009 at 04:05 PM

     Hi Zoe B here.  This is one of the orchids I look after Prosthechea bulbosa. I look after all the Posthechea including the Prosthechea cochleata which you can read about in our earlier post Favourite orchid 2. Prosthechea bulbosa is from Central America. We grow it in a warm enviroment at a minimuim of 15 degrees. It is a long lasting orchid and is very fragrant and smells of lime. Really sweet small flowers but lots of them.  


  • Caroline's cool Masdevallia infracta

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Dec 2009 at 03:09 PM

    Hey i'm Caroline (the one who always pulls funny faces in the photos) and i'm in charge of the Masdevallias. One of the ones I look after is called Masdevalia infracta. There is a photo of the Masdevallia infracta. The Masdevallia infracta comes from the Organ mountains in brazil where it grows on the trunk of trees at about 1000m altitude. In the first brazil expedition in 2000, writhlington pupils helped to relocate a population of this orchid from a fallen tree to a fresh tree nearby. In 2006 they were doing well and had flowered and set seed.     


  • Greenhouse club to keep blogging

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Dec 2009 at 04:41 PM

     We are very excited to announce that the Writhlington School Greenhouse club will be carrying on blogging even though we are back from Durban. Watch this space to hear all the latest news and learn more about amazing orchids. The bloggs will be written by lots of different members of our team. December is a busy time of year, there are lots of plants in flower and of course we are getting ready for our Orchid Celebration Evening on the 14th December. Even though we are busy we still have time to pose for photographs like this one. Bye for now.....Zoe B and Heather. 


  • orchid celebration evening

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 25 Nov 2009 at 04:27 PM

    The 14th december is a big day at the Writhlington Orchid Project as it is our annual celebration evening. The evening starts at 7pm and we will have a display of plants, talks about the recent expeditions, plant sales and refreshments.We expect the evening to finish around 9.30pm. everyone is invited to come along and see what our project has been up to.The evening costs just £1 entry which proceeds to go to support our partner schools in south africa and India. Please come along to enjoy the evening. See our website for more details. This photo shows Katie and Max selling seedlings at our last open evening.



  • Cymbidium erythraeum

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 22 Nov 2009 at 10:54 PM

     Another Cymbidium from the same habitat as Cymbidium elegans  is Cymbidium erythraeum. This is an elegant smaller growing species  with long thin leaves and delightful flowers on long arching spikes. We find this species trouble free and straight forward to grow from seed in our laboratory. We hope you like the photos. Greenhouse club has a new team of year 7 and year 8 photographers. Find out more about them later this week.


  • Cymbidium season

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 22 Nov 2009 at 10:41 PM

     Novemeber at Writhlingtonis Cymbidium season. These large flowered orchids make a trip to the greenhouse areal pleasure.There are some real treasures amongst the Cymbidium species native to the himalaya. One of our favourites is Cymbidium elegans with many fragrant creamy yellow flowers on a pendulous flower spike. The last school expedition to Sikkim in April 2009 found this species growing at arouind 2000m altitude in mossy monsoon forest. We grow this species cool with a minimum of 10C in winter. We keep it really wet in the summer, watering at least twice a week, but dryer in the winter. A large plant with many spikes is a real sight.


  • Pleiones in winter

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 20 Nov 2009 at 01:00 PM

    Hi, Zoe P here. If your pleiones are looking like this at the moment, then don't panic because this is perfectly normal, every winter pleiones loose their leaves. Just take the leaves out and stop watering. Keep them cool but frost free. In January you will need to repot your pleiones in fresh compost and they will flower in March and April. We start to water once the new shoot is about 2cm high. 


  • Radio talk

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 20 Nov 2009 at 08:08 AM

     Hi Zoe B here.  Why not listen to me on the radio.  Yestereday I was on BBC radio somerset talking about our trip to south africa.  You can lisen to me on


  • Miniature orchids rule ok

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 17 Nov 2009 at 02:28 PM

     This lunchtime theWrithlington Orchid Greenhouse was looking great and we spent time photographing some of the plants in flower. There are some particularly interesting miniature orchids out at the moment. This is Barbosella handroi, a tiny species that grows in the coastal cloud forest of Brazil. In our greenhouse it flowers every November with masses of relatively large yellowish flowers. This plant has been grown from seed and is about ten years old. Simon Pugh-Jones says that school trips to Brazil have found this species covering the upper branches of trees in primary forest on steep mountain slopes exposed to the mists that come in off the Atlantic ocean. We grow it on a peice of cork bark and spray it with water once a day, so you dont need a Brazilian mountain to grow it well. If you want more information on how we grow our orchids check out the Seedling Portfolio page of our website. So far we have pages for nearly 200 of the orchid species we grow. 


  • News from West Park School

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 17 Nov 2009 at 01:59 PM

     The latest exciting news from West Park School in Durban is that there is now a team of staff and students responsible for their orchid project and the plants that we left there at the beginning of November are doing well. We are working with both the Durban Botanic Garden and the local Orchid Society to support work in the school. As you can see the school has a shade house ideal for growing orchids and students have experience growing a range of plants. At Writhlington we have set a target of to raise sufficient funding for an orchid laboratory at the school in just twelve months. We will let you know how we do, or if you like check the South Africa page of the Writhlington's website. As you can see we are looking very happy to be amongst the gardeners at West Park School.


  • Orchid of the week (1) Cymbidium tracyanum

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 14 Nov 2009 at 06:59 PM

    We think that there are at least fifty orchid species in flower in the school greenhouse on any day in the year so we have decided to pick out one every week to share with you. This week is easy as the greenhouse is dominated by the flower spikes of Cymbidium tracyanum with its large fragrant flowers. This species is found in the East Himalayas from India to Laos and grows in the mountains at altitudes above 2000m. At school we grow it cool with a minimun of 10C and find the secret to flowering it well is to feed and water it heavily during the summer. 


  • Work progressing on the Writhlington Orchid House

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 14 Nov 2009 at 05:22 PM

    As you can see the new Writhlington School Orchid house is coming on really well. The thermal screening is in and the electrics are all installed including the fans which arrived this week. The growing area is a total of 200 square metres. Our grand opening will be in July 2010 and everyone is invited. More news to follow.


  • Eulophia cucullata

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 12 Nov 2009 at 07:24 PM

    If you like Eulophia speciosa you will love Eulophia cucullata. We spotted this as we left the Harold Johnson Reserve north of Durban. The flower spike was 60cm tall with these lovely flowers. We have compared it to photographs in books and our plant had much deeper brown colour on the reflexed petals and sepals.


  • Eulophia speciosa in the wild

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 12 Nov 2009 at 07:17 PM

    In South Africa we were really impressed by the terrestrial orchids we found growing in tropical grassland. One in particular, Eulophia speciosa, was actually quite easy to spot growing on roadside verges a bit like all the Pyramidal orchids you can see along the verges of the M5 motorway north of Bristol. After passing quite we stopped to have a close look. The plant is really robust with large yellow flowers. There are other yellow flowered plants in the road verges and so the Eulophia may be mimicking these to attract a pollinator.


  • Back home

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 11 Nov 2009 at 04:42 PM

    Well the tropical weather of Durban is a distant memory and the great new friends we made are 6000 miles away. We will never forget the amazing time we had but it's back to work in the Writhlington Labs. Here we are at Tuesday's Lab Club, sowing seed of Epidendrum radicans (the pod split in the school greenhouse on the day we returned) and replating seedlings of Sophronitis coccinea (see an earlier blog about that species). As you can see we are having the usual fun. It's good to be home. The good news is we are going to keep blogging so watch this space for everything orchid shaped and follow us and the Writhlington Orchid Project through the coming years. We also have some good bits of the Durban trip still to share with you.


  • Teaching pupils at West Park School

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 05 Nov 2009 at 09:07 PM

    We have had an amazing day again in Durban. It started with a trip to the West Park School in Malvern on the outskirts of the city. We started with a school assembley where Simon and Lauren talked to the school. We then had a tour of the impressive permaculture work that the school is doing. The pupils at the school train rural schools in permaculture techniques as well as doing their own work. After the tour the two of us gave a workshop to a group of staff and pupils from every class. We talked about growing orchids and showed them how to deflask seedlings. We have left over fifty seedling likts at the school so that each class can have their own seedlings to grow. West Park school is a special needs school and has a fantastic atmosphere. The school is using horticulture and enterprise to provide experiences for the pupils as well as fund projects and it is really exciting to know that we can help them to help themselves by supporting them setting up an orchid project. Right got to pack. Back in the bush looking for orchids tomorrow and then flying back to the UK after an incredible African adventure.


  • Teaching about replating orchid seedlings

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 05 Nov 2009 at 06:42 AM
    In the workshop Zoe B was teaching people how to replate seedlings. These are the plants that we brought all the way from England. By the end of the day the workshops had made more than a hundred jars of sown seed or replated seedlings, wow. All the jars will stay at the Botanic Garden to grow on in their collection.


  • Zoe P teaching orchid seed sowing

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 05 Nov 2009 at 06:33 AM

    Wednesday was workshop day at the Durban Congress. We gave two long workshops on orchid growing from seed. It went amazingly well with groups of 16 and 17 people and they all loved it. Here Zoe P is working with two of the people and showing how to surface sterilise the seed. The people at the workshops came from botanic gardens all over the world and now they all want to set up orchid projects with schools in their cities. The whole day was just brilliant fun.


  • Amazing gardens

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 04 Nov 2009 at 05:51 AM

    This is 6am at the Durban Botanic Gardens with Chris Dalzell, the Curator. Chris gave us a fabulous tour of the whole Gardens including the Cycad collection which is where we are in the photo. The Garden also has amazing birds like Pelican and Vervet Monkey. Today we are giving our workshops on orchid propagation from seed in the laboratory here. We have more people signed up for our workshop than any of the's going to be fun. The talk we gave last night went really well. Actually one of the orchids we found in the wild on Sunday was one that no one in the orchid societies knew was growing at Vernon Crooks. More about that later. We better go and get ourselves sorted for a busy day.


  • Eulophia speciosa

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Nov 2009 at 07:55 PM

    Eulophia speciosa is one of the orchids that Margaret grows from seed in her lab and here it is flowering in the growing house. We like it. The trip around the growing area was realy inspiring and tomorrow we are getting up at 5.30am to have a special tour from Chris, the Curator of the Botanic Garden, before it opens in the morning. A botanic gardens all to ourselves, how good is that?


  • Weaning plants at Durban

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Nov 2009 at 07:51 PM

    In this photo you can see how we found out all about how micropropagated plants from the Durban lab are weaned and grown on. Under the fleece there are thousands of small plants in trays. Most of them are threatened medicinal plants. You can see that production from the lab is very high.


  • In Durban Botanic Garden Laboratory

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Nov 2009 at 07:45 PM

    We spent this afternoon with Margaret in the Durban Botanic Gardens. Margaret runs the lab and after a tour where she showed us all her projects, we sorted out our plants for the workshop on Wednesday, and made sure we had all the equipment we needed. The lab is fantastic and most of her work is raising threatened South African medicinal plants. The plants are raised in the lab mostly by tissue culture and then grown on into large plants ready for sale or use in the Botanic Gardens. It was really interesting. 


  • Congress day

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Nov 2009 at 07:06 PM

    Today has been another very busy day. The congress started at 8:30 with speeches, two brilliant school choirs and then lectures. Lauren's lecture was great and we also heard about work with medicinal plants in South Africa and other projects all over the world. As you can see we have put up our display and everyone has been really interested in our project.


  • Eating a Bunny Chow

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Nov 2009 at 10:47 AM

     The food here in South Africa is fantastic. We went to a resturant and we had Durban speciality, the Bunny Chow. Bunny Chow is a loaf of bread with the middle taken out and filled with curry. I will have to make some of this when I go home.


  • Looking for orchids

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Nov 2009 at 10:02 AM

     In the reserve as you know we found a number of different orchids.  This is how.  We walked around the reserve looking on the ground and up in the trees for anything that might be an orchid. In this tree sir wanted to get a better look. Luckily he didn't fall out.                                        



  • Thanks Luke

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Nov 2009 at 08:40 PM

     We must say a big thank you to Luke Barnes for keeping the Writhlington School Orchid Project website up to date with our news from Durban. He is brilliant.


  • Satyrium longicauda

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Nov 2009 at 08:01 PM

     The first orchid we managed to spot was the Satyrium longicauda, this was growing on the edge of a stream, in boggy ground. Mr Pugh-Jones says this is the most dramatic terrestrial orchid he has ever seen growing in the wild. I was pretty impressed too! In the reserve we did not just see orchids. We saw lots of other plants that we recognised like Clivia, Palms, tree fern and a large number of the Daisy family including a wild species of Gerbera. We also saw so amazing animals: a wide range of birds, zebra, impala, wildebeast, Vervent monkeys and creepy crawlies like enormous black and red millipedes. South Africa is a fantastic place. In the evening we registered at the congress and already have new friends from all over the world, cool. Good night from Durban.


  • Close up of Polystachya Zambesiaca

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Nov 2009 at 07:56 PM

    This is a close up of Polystachya Zambesiaca, when we found it we had to compare the flowers with the descriptions in a book called African Orchids in the Wild and Cultivation.It was quite tricky but a really good experience.  


  • Finding Polystachya Zambesiaca

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Nov 2009 at 07:46 PM

    My favourite of all the orchids we found was the population of Polystachya Zambesiaca on this tree. Before today I have never seen an orchid growing as an epiphyte up a tree in the wild. Now I have seen seven different species! I think i have learned alot about orchids as a gardener, by seeing them growing in the wild and surviving on trees. 


  • Exploring sub-tropical jungle

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Nov 2009 at 07:41 PM
    Zoe P here, this morning we had an amazing trip to the Vernon Crook Nature Reserve. Here we are, exploring the grassland and woodland looking for orchids. I am really pleased as we found nine species of orchid and three were in flower.


  • Arrived in Durban

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Nov 2009 at 06:53 AM

     Hi, Zoe P here as you can see we have arrived in Durban, had a good night sleep and today we are going to Vernon Creek Reserve, looking for orchids in the wild, which is really exciting. Then in the evening we are going to the opening for the Botanical gardens conference. This is going to be a fantastic trip and I am very excited and I am looking forward to meeting some new people.


  • A detour to meet some dead plants

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 30 Oct 2009 at 05:24 PM

    We have made it as far as London.  We have met with our forth team member Lauren and will be heading to the airport very soon. Lauren took us to see the Kew Herbarium where she works. It is the worlds biggest collection of dead plants! In the photo you can see us looking at one of them. To find out more about the Kew Herbarium you could check the website


  • Plants all packed and ready to go.

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 29 Oct 2009 at 10:00 PM

     We fly to South Africa tomorrow so today we packed all the sedlings and seed we are taking. Amongst our jars of seedlings we have some Ansellia africanas like this jar. This lovely orchid found throughout tropical and subtropical Africa is going home. We also have a lot of Ansellia africana seed to use in the workshop. It is nice easy seed to work with and just the thing for a workshop in Durban. Wish us well on the flight, Bye.


  • Did you see our plants at Rosemoor?

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 29 Oct 2009 at 08:08 AM

     This is our rosette wall. We have just added new rosettes won at the orchid show held at the RHS Gardens, Rosemore.  Our plants were on the Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset Orchid Society display and we won five best in class. Did anyone visit the show? Unfortunately we can't take any flowering plants to Durban with us but we will be taking many thousands of tiny seedlings to use in our workshop. Today we need to pack those plants so that they travel ok. You will find out how the packing went later today.


  • Packing!

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 28 Oct 2009 at 03:00 PM

    Hello all, Zoe B here! We're both very excited that we leave on Friday! It's getting very close. We've broken up for the school holiday which gives us plenty of time for packing. I've done most of mine and can't wait to go! Not long now!

    Remember that you can keep up-to-date with all things orchid project, including our videos, dates pages as well as information about everything we do! It's at, remember to keep checking


  • An exciting week at Kew Gardens

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 26 Oct 2009 at 08:38 AM

    This is Dr Lauren Gardiner who is a scientist from Kew Gardens with Zoe B in the school greenhouse. She is coming with us to Durban and helping with our workshop and giving a lecture at the conference that we are going to help with. Anyway, this week she is involved in the Big Draw at Kew. It is a chance for children to get involved in exploring the science at Kew through art. It sounds great fun and Lauren is working with the Cabinet of curiosities. So if you are looking for a half term activity, why not give it a try.



  • Our orchids pass their phytosanitary inspection

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 21 Oct 2009 at 04:44 PM

     As you know we already have the import certificate from South Africa for the orchid seedlings. Today we had our visit from Miranda the Plant Health Inspector. We have met her before as she has given certificates for the plants we have exported to countries all over the World like India, Laos and Guatemala (Check our website for details). She checked our plants carefully to see that there was no microbe contaminbation in the agar jelly they are growing on and then gave us the Phytosanitary certificate we need to take our plants to South Africa. She also checked the seed we are taking. Orchid seed needs a phytosanitary certificate but not an import permit. All of our plants are in flask growing on agar jelly and so they don't need the CITES permit that any plant out of the jar would need. I think it is interestinmg to find out about the laws that are there to stop the spread of plant diseases and help to stop trade in wild collected plants. It is now just eight days until we leave for Durban and the BGCI congress.


  • Heathers first go

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 15 Oct 2009 at 04:35 PM

     Hi ZoeB here. This is me training my friend Heather to replate. As I said in the last post replating is spliting seadlings up and putting them in to smaller jars. This is Heathers first go and she is doing a great job. There is more information about replating and some videos on our website.


  • Replating

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 15 Oct 2009 at 08:13 AM

     This is me (Zoe B) replating Laelia purpurata in the flow cabinet.  This involve taking plants out of a large jar and splitting them up to put them into smaller jars.Everything has to stay sterile so I am working in the flow cabinet for clean air, bleach to clean the working area and my gloves, and ethanol to flame the tweezers. It is really good fun and yesterday we did nearly fifty plants in no time. These plants will be going to Durban where we will be selling them at the talk we are giving to all the local orchid growers.


  • South African News

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 13 Oct 2009 at 08:26 AM

     With our trip to Durban less than three weeks away we are very pleased to have good news from the Erica School in Cape Town (in the photo below). This is the school students visited in 2007 when Writhlington won a gold medal at the Cape Town Flower Show. The School had its own orchid project and we were really pleased to be able to leave our demonstaration propagation laboratory with them. Well a recent press release shows that the school's orchid project is going from strength to strength. For the full news check out the Writhlington website


  • Durban Botanic Garden

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 07 Oct 2009 at 04:26 PM

     When we go to Durban as well as the BGCI conference we are also going to spend some time at the botanic garden that is there. Here is a photo. There website is and is worth a look. If you went to Chelsea flower show last year you will have seen their amazing display. I can’t wait to visit.



  • Favourite orchids 3

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 06 Oct 2009 at 09:12 PM

     We asked Simon Pugh-Jones our teacher what his favourite orchid is and he said he couldn't possibly pick one as there are so many amazing species with amazing stories. However one of his favourites is Sophronitis coccinea a miniature orchid from the cloud forests of Brazil with really large scarlet flowers. The photograph was taken by one of the Writhlington pupils on the last trip to Brazil in 2006. It is growing in moss on an exposed ridge at 1300m in the Organ Mountains near the Atlantic Coast. We grow this species in the school greenhouse cool with a minimum of 10 degrees C. The portfolio sheets on our website show how we grow different orchids.



  • Sowing Orchid Seeds

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 05 Oct 2009 at 03:39 PM

     In one of our earlier posts Zoe P was sowing orchid seed. There is a picture and it tells you about it, and now we have a video on it. you can find it on our website. There are more like this on there. Including replating and me at the chelsea show!


  • Greenhouse club

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 05 Oct 2009 at 10:23 AM

     Heres greenhouse club at work, this is the warm end of the greenhouses here we are checking all the plants making sure they are all ok and taking out any unwanted weeds. Its like this down at the greenhouses every lunch time. To find out more go to


  • Favourite orchids 2

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Oct 2009 at 05:29 PM

     This one is one of Zoe B's favourites, Prosthechea cochleata.Zoe is in charge of all the Prosthecheas, wonderful orchids that come from Central and South America. Prosthechea cochleata is a plant from warm forests in Central America and school trips found the species flowering in Guatemala in 2005 and Belize in 2008. We grow it warm (minimum 15 degree C) and keep it damp all year. It has loads of common names including the black orchid, the cockleshell orchid, the octopus orchid and in Guatemala the green squid orchid. Zoe P sowed seeds of it this afternoon (see her blog earlier) and so in about two years we will have thousands of seedlings. Check the Orchid Project website and 'seedling portfolios' for instructions on how to grow all the species we have ever sold as seedlings. We will be taking some spare seed to Durban for our workshop on micropropagation see the BGCI site for details.



  • Sowing orchid seed

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Oct 2009 at 04:30 PM

     After school today I was in the lab sowing orchid seed. As you can see I am working in a laminar flow cabinet that gives clean air with no microbes. I have to bleach the seed for five minutes to surface sterilize it and the gloves and lab coat are to stop microbes from me  as well keeping the bleach off my skin and my clothes.



  • Favourite orchids

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Oct 2009 at 10:39 AM

     This is one of our real favourites. Coelogyne cristata comes from the Himalayas and we grow this plant cool with a minimum of 10 degrees C. The recent trip to Sikkim found this species growing at about 1500m in monsoon forest. It flowers for us in March and April.


  • In the lab

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 02 Oct 2009 at 08:14 AM

     Hi Zoe B here. This is me, Zoe P, Luke B and Luke S in the lab. As you can see there are thousands of orchids in jars all around.


  • Zoe B chatting to Alan Titchmarsh

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Oct 2009 at 08:23 PM

    We have been asked a lot about Zoe B's chat with Alan Titchmarsh at this year's Chelsea flower show. It was great fu. If you missed the video here is a


  • Import certificate

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Oct 2009 at 03:20 PM

     To take orchid seedlings to South Africa we need to get an import certificate from the South African department of Agriulture, Forestry and Fisheries, and then a phytosanitary certificate to show that the plants are healthy.Our import permit has arrived today.


  • South African Orchids

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Oct 2009 at 10:32 AM

     Hello Zoe P here. I am really exciting about going to South Africa. We also grow some of our own South African orchids such as the Disa which I look after but unfortunately non of our Disas are in flower at the moment but another South African orchid the Stenoglottis Fimbriata is as Zoe is showing in the picture. For more pictures and information go to our website


  • Daily routine

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 01 Oct 2009 at 08:15 AM

     Here's a view of our daily routine.  In our greenhouse we water the orchids and spray the floors and pipes to keep it humid.  We get the whole greenhouse team to help and it doesn't take long.  Also we weed the plants whenever it is needed, pollinate to get seed and get plants ready for shows. Most of our repotting we do in the spring. The photo shows me (Zoe B) and Heather just before we got soaking wet! If you wan't to see videos of what we do have a look at our website


  • Meet our team

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 30 Sep 2009 at 02:48 PM

     Hi, Zoe P here. Zoe B and I are off to Durban to present our micropropagation workshop in just four weeks and it seems like a good idea to introduce the rest of our team. There are two adults coming with us, our teacher Simon Pugh-Jones and Dr Lauren Gardiner. Lauren is a plant scientist from Kew Gardens. She had been working as a consultant with Writhlington School for a while and is really inspiring. Lauren is presenting a lecture at the BGCI Congress and hopefully Zoe and I will be helping her out a bit with that as well as doing our workshop. This photo shows the School expedition to the Himalayas last April with Lauren in the middle and Simon on the right.


  • Meet Brassavola nodosa

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 30 Sep 2009 at 08:30 AM

     This is a jar of school seedlings of the amazing Central American orchid, Brassavola nodosa. It is one of about a hundred jars of seedlings we will be taking with us the BCGI Congress in Durban In our workshop we will use these seedlings to train the delegates how to propagate orchids.


  • Check out our school website!

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 29 Sep 2009 at 04:36 PM

    If you want to find out more about the writhlington orchid project, check out the website -

    It's got lots of information and news as well as videos like the one of us at Chelsea

  • preparing media

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 29 Sep 2009 at 04:22 PM

    At the BGCI congress we are giving a workshop on orchid micropropagation. As you can see we are now really busy preparing the growing media for the orchid seedlings that we are taking with us. Zoe B


  • Packing the display

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 29 Sep 2009 at 03:49 PM

    Hello! Zoe and me are off to Durban for the BGCI congress in just 4 weeks.We have packed the display boards already, all measured and weighed. We are excited and raring to go. Wow just think a month tomorrow and we will nearly be in Durban. What an brilliant thought. Watch this blog and we will tell you all about it.


  • Hello!

    The Writhlington Orchid Project on 25 Sep 2009 at 08:24 AM

    Hi!  Can we introduce ourselves?  Probably not, we're standing by the computer arguing about what we can and can't say!  Oh well!  As you have probably guessed this is our first blog for the RHS.  We exhibited with the Writhlington School Orchid Project at the Chelsea Flower show in 2009.

     This is us with Alan @ Chelsea