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REMOVING USELESS LEAVES AND BULBS

An unsightly appearance is given to many collections of Orchids by the presence on some of the plants of a number of damaged or yellow leaves. These are often supposed to be the result of bad cultivation, and, in some cases, rightly so. But in all collections of Orchids the old leaves, even of the evergreen species, do not pass off naturally as they do in their native habitats, where they have the natural seasons with their climatic changes to cause the leaves to fall naturally. When cultivated under glass, the species which are known as evergreen kinds retain their old leaves long after they would have passed away in their native wilds; and not only that, but they decline and become unsightly for years under glass, instead of passing away in a few months. Consequently many Orchids in collections often carry at least twice as many leaves as they ought to do, and the oldest are the most unsightly. A ready example of this kind is given by most collections of Masdevallias. The leaves are usually densely packed, many of the older ones shabby, and not only unsightly in themselves, but interfering with the full development of the new growths.

Masdevallias have no developed pseudo-bulbs, but a joint will be seen where the leaf-blades join the basal stems; all damaged leaves should be cut off just above that joint, and it will be found that some of the plants will be benefited, both in appearance and condition, by having from one-third to one-half the number of their old and damaged leaves removed. The same remarks apply to all Orchids of similar growth, such as Pleurothallis and Octomerias, and indeed to the species generally, for damaged or decaying leaves can be of no assistance in the development of the plant, unless in exceptional cases where the grower must use his own discretion.

USELESS PSEUDO-BULBS

If an imported Orchid such as a Cattleya or Laelia, which has been cultivated under glass for several years and has many pseudo-bulbs, be turned out of the pot and the roots freed from the potting material, it will be seen that the new roots which nourish the plant are confined to the freshest pseudo-bulbs, and that the roots beneath the older pseudo-bulbs are in such a condition that they are useless in the economy of the plant. This fact goes to show that the old pseudo-bulbs are being supported by the newer growths, and, that they are seriously impeding the full development of the flower-producing part of the specimen. In such cases it is a common thing to see large specimens collapse and die off, the decay being traceable to the old bulbs in the centre of the plant. It is, therefore, better to remove old pseudo-bulbs behind the last three or four leading ones, and, if it is desired to retain all leading portions of a large mass in one pot or pan to form a specimen, they should be potted together, when it will be found that, given reasonable treatment, they will make better specimens than if left in a mass. In the case of varieties that need to be propagated, the pieces removed should be placed in comparatively small Orchid pans or baskets, properly labelled, and in due time useful and often valuable specimens may be secured from material which would only have been detrimental to the parent plant. The same kind of treatment will be found equally beneficial in the case of garden hybrids which have been cultivated long enough to have a number of back bulbs. In such cases the plants frequently degenerate after the first two or three years, until they produce inferior flowers, but the removal of the back pseudo-bulbs results in giving the flowering growths the full benefit of the root action, and consequently the plants again produce flowers of good quality.

Potting time is a very convenient season to give special attention to the removal of useless leaves and pseudo-bulbs, as the plants can be readily handled when they are out of the pots.

All useless parts removed should be taken out of the house and burnt. It is a common practice to throw the leaves under the stage. No rubbish of this, or any other kind, should be allowed in the Orchid house, as it forms a harbour for insects and is, in other respects, objectionable.