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This really has been a year of gardening surprises for me. The little Stella fig (Ficus carica ‘Stella’) grew over six feet tall (from six inches) in one season and even bore fruit. The dwarf pomegranate (Punicum granatum var. nana) flowered soon after I brought it inside for winter. And now…

The Maxillaria schunkeana (no real common name, but sometimes called the black orchid because of the extremely dark red flowers) bloomed. I got it back in February at an orchid show. I’m no expert on tropical orchids; I used to keep a couple when I lived in the tropics, when it was mostly a case of water them and otherwise ignore them to do their own thing. Until February, I could never be bothered to try here in Canada. But I like “black” flowers (see the When Black Roses Bloom page).

When I bought it, the dealer said it could flower this year, probably in summer. Summer came and went, and no bloom, so I chalked it up to my own ignorance. I can’t find much information about caring for this plant online; most of it seems to be people on message boards in the same position as I am (Hi, I got this plant…what do I do with it?), and there’s even less in the books. It really seems to be an uncommonly kept species of an uncommonly kept genus, although an orchid specialist might say otherwise. I’ve found a bit on its native habitat in Brazil and started with that, but little to nothing on its growth cycle. I did ask the dealer for advice when I bought it, but promptly forgot it all.

When autumn rolled in I placed it in a Wardian case (which Ikea somewhat pompously calls a mini-greenhouse) and put it in a “bright shade” area. Today as I was somewhat disconsolately watering it and wondering if I’d ever figure it out, I took it out for inspection (bugs, fungus, etc.). And then I realised holy shit there’s a flower.

I obviously missed the bud formation, so I don’t know how long the bloom has been open, but it was fully open when I noticed it. And there’s a shoot forming, so soon there’ll be some new growth. The whole plant is still pretty small, so I’m not sure if I should repot it, but in any event I’ll wait until after bloom to decide. Now I’m wondering if there’s a correlation between blooming and new growth?

Anyway, horribly poor pictures follow.

Maxillaria schunkeana front

Maxillaria schunkeana front

Maxillaria schunkeana side view

Maxillaria schunkeana side view

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