The Orchid Review Gift Guide 2005


It’s always rewarding to give presents that are well received, and there are many online sources of gifts that are likely to appeal to orchidists. I have compiled a gift guide intended to help readers looking for present ideas for orchid friends and relatives, or to put on their own lists. Ideally, presents should both benefit the orchids and give pleasure to the growers, and I have tried to include some unusual suggestions.

Solar-powered plant turner

This novelty device has a platform which takes a 15cm pot and rotates when light falls on the solar panel. The manufacturer claims that plants grown on the turntable are ‘healthier, well-developed and non-lopsided’. It is a clever use of renewable energy.
£9.99, Maplin, tel: 0870 429 6000,

Orchid flasks

A flask of orchid plantlets makes a great small gift or stocking filler for an orchidist. There is nothing more rewarding than nurturing an orchid seedling through its first season, seeing it grow and eventually getting it to bloom. Growing from flask is ecologically sound, as you can be sure that the plant has not been collected from the wild.

The Equatorial Plant Company has a large flask list, £9 per flask, tel: 01833 690519,
Purchases of flasks from the Writhlington School Orchid Project help fund school expeditions and ex-situ conservation work. Tel: 01761 433541,

Wireless thermometer

The rainy and cold British winter discourages visits to the glasshouse, but this is a time where heating systems are most at risk. High summer temperatures, on the other hand, can cause great damage to plants if cooling systems fail. A wireless thermometer allows the grower to monitor the temperature and humidity in the glasshouse in the comfort of his or her home.

Oregon Scientific models display minimum and maximum readings from up to three sensors 30m away. An alarm tells you if the temperature in the glasshouse has gone beyond a pre-set maximum or minimum.

Model EMR899HG (£50) and EMR899 (£30, temperature only) at the UK Weather Shop, tel: 01323 479769

Communication device

If your partner spends a lot of time in the glasshouse, it might be a good idea to set up a communications system between your home and the glasshouse. Baby monitors are available from about £20, and some models even have comfort lights in case of slug attack!,,, and other major stockists of baby care items.

Treasured books

My interest in orchids was set off by my wife’s gift of an orchid encyclopaedia one Christmas several years ago. As a result, I have always had a soft spot for orchid books. Here are a few to consider as gifts.

Peter O’Byrne’s A to Z of South East Asian Orchid Species is a fantastic little volume with descriptions and photos of 401 species from 94 genera, some of them familiar, many of them rare or little-known.
A concise section shows geographical distribution, recommended cultivation conditions, blooming times and size and stature of plants.
About £19 (inc shipping to the UK), OSSEA, Singapore;

Dendrobium enthusiasts will enjoy The Dendrobiums by Howard P Wood.
About £80, Koeltz Scientific Books, tel: 0049 617 493 720,

The newly published Orchids of Britain and Ireland: a field and site guide by Anne and Simon Harrap has received good reviews.
£30, A & C Black,

Another enjoyable and useful book is Growing Orchids from Seed by Philip Seaton and Margaret Ramsay. While you are at the Kew website, pick up Curtis’s Botanical Calendar 2006, which features finely reproduced plates from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine.
Book £10 and calendar £6.95 from Kew Books, tel: 01768 341577,

Asian orchids on CD

The Flora Malesiana project aims to catalogue the plants of this large and diverse region in Asia. Each CD-ROM volume (both Mac and PC compatible) contains detailed descriptions of plants and groups, including cultural information. Entries are easily searchable. I like the rich illustrations with photographs of plants in situ, herbarium specimens and line drawings. The latest volumes of interest to orchidists are Orchids of The Philippines Vol I and Orchids of New Guinea Vol III – Acanthephippium to Hymenorchis.
£40 each, ETI Information Services, fax: 020 7691 9523,

Capturing orchids

Digital cameras allow images of orchids to be captured in an easy and rewarding way. Nikon CoolPix cameras have good macro capabilities for taking close-ups of orchid flowers (from about £200). For serious amateurs, a Nikon D70s digital SLR with a 60mm f/2.8 autofocus micro lens is a difficult combination to beat. About £950, Nikon UK, tel: 0845 4500155,

The iLife ’05 software suite makes digital photography and editing a pleasure, not a chore. It is included in all Macintosh computers, which are also stylish and have a well-deserved reputation for ease of use.
iBook laptop (from £699) or a Mac Mini (from £359), Apple Store, tel: 0800 039 1010,

Culture sheet subscription

Orchid species fanatics will appreciate a subscription to Bakers’ Culture on Demand, a growing collection of culture sheets for about 6,000 species in 425 genera.
The culture sheets are ordered online and emailed to the subscriber. Each sheet contains a description of the plant, habitat information and a climate table, with maximum and minimum temperatures, diurnal range, relative humidity and rainfall through the year.
US$25 (about £14), for a 30-sheet subscription,

Conferences, shows and tours

Orchid conferences provide an opportunity to meet fellow growers and professionals and to hear about the latest in orchid research and discovery. Conferences are often held in exotic locations such as northern Italy (European Orchid Conference, Padua, February 2006,, south Florida (19th World Orchid Conference, Miami, 2008, or even Weston-super-Mare (BOC Congress, September 2006, tel: 01934 862095

Recommended reading

Of course, I could not possibly finish this article without recommending a gift subscription to The Orchid Review! It is very reasonably priced, and each issue is packed with interesting articles on orchids and their cultivation. In my view, the redesign this year, and the inclusion of the News section, has made this journal even more essential reading material for all orchid enthusiasts.

Copyright C-Y Khoo. All rights reserved.


Published in the Orchid Review, November 2005, Volume 115, Number 1266, page 320