Posts here have been thin recently, I’m sorry to say, partly because I’ve been preoccupied with posting for the Royal Horticultural Society from the recent Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – and judging there too. This is the largest flower show in the world, heldeach July in the grounds of Henry VIII’s palace on the southern edge of London.
It was spectacularly wet on the three days I was there, but you can find my posts on the interesting plants I found under canvas in the floral pavilions here.
One of the most impressive exhibits at the show was an exhibit of disas. Not many people have heard of them, but these gorgeous orchids are becoming popular as cut flowers while Dave Parkinson, from Yorkshire, is blazing a trail in encouraging gardeners to grow them. His exhibit was colourful, fascinating and the beautifully grown plants were meticulously staged.
Disas carry from one to half a dozen three-petalled, more or less triangular flowers held on vertical stems and come in vibrant red, orange, yellow and pink shades. They grow naturally on Table Mountain in South Africa.
Although they have a reputation for being difficult to grow, Dave Parkinson told me that it’s more matter of getting the conditions just right. “Grow them as cool as possible without freezing,” he told me. “I grow them without heat and cover them with fleece when frost threatens. Mine have taken -7C and although they looked unhappy the next morning they were soon looking good again. They didn’t let me down.
“And give them wet conditions, the same sort of conditions as you’d have for carnivorous plants. They won’t tolerate high salts, so they take very little feeding, and they reward you with these wonderful spikes of flowers which last up to six weeks in water.”
From all this you’ll gather that disas are unusual in being very colourful and impressive orchids which can be grown in a very low energy regime.
Having gathered together his collection, Dave began to make crosses to create new varieties, including 'Robert Parkinson'. He has increased hardiness and adaptability to less specific garden conditions as his chief aim and he now has some plants growing outside as a trial.
He also aims to broaden the colour range, for example to add the best scarlet colouring of the D. cardinalis to those with larger flowers. He is also crossing D. uniflora, whose large flowers are carried singly on the stems, with multiflowered types to create varieties with more, but larger, flowers.
It was great to see such dedication, and inspiration, resulting in such an impressive exhibit.
You can find out more about Dave Parkinson and his disas in this article from The Garden.