Small but Perfectly Formed #2

Geeky plant post ahead! For those checking on my sanity, however:

This has been a really emotional week. Sunday was tough, for family reasons, but a supportive message from a friend made me approach it feeling strong and calm and it went well, although it was very tiring. The fallout from this lasted through Monday but I have been quite happy since then, with the occasional wobble.

I feel I let myself down a little yesterday. I was supposed to go for lunch with my colleagues before the campus eateries start filling up with students again next week. I couldn’t face it in the end and had to decline. Groups are hard for introverts at the best of times ( I’d much prefer a one-to-one conversation) but I also felt a bit spaced out and having trouble concentrating because I had only had 6 hours sleep in 3 days. Thankfully last night was better but I still have not caught up. I’ve been at the gym a LOT this week trying to tire myself out enough to sleep! I am also doing lab work this week, using quite dangerous materials, so being tired and spaced out adds extra interest to this…

On a positive note: the gym was lovely last night. Many of my favourite gym-buddies were there, including Ria who I have not seen for weeks so we had a nice catch-up chat. She is training to be a gym instructor herself and is very strong – I have seen her deadlift my bodyweight. I’m glad she is such a nice person or she would be scary!

Molly has arrived to stay with us. Susan had taken her to the beach yesterday in the sunshine (whilst I was stuck in the office – not that I’m bitter or anything). It was obviously a hard day running around for an old doggie so this is all the action we saw from her all evening:

She was full of beans this morning, however, which was hard to cope with before my caffeine fix! She gave me an effusive greeting, ‘helped’ me with breakfast and explored my gym bag – which was brave as that is the last place I’d want to put my nose after the sweat my gym bag has seen this week…


So – geeky plant stuff ahead. Switch off if you like but I feel I must make some effort to keep this blog on track with its original intent! But, seriously, I have no regrets about posting more personal things as it has led to my meeting some amazing and lovely people.

Corybas – the helmet orchids

Yes, these really are orchids! The flower is about the size of a fingernail and the leaf about the size of my thumbprint.

Corybas pictus – Wikimedia

Corybas has about 120 species, distributed from the Himalaya, through asia and Australasia. The more tropical species such as C. pictus are rather more strikingly marked but the two species I grow and want to talk about here are the more understated C. diemenicus and C. incurvus, from Australia. As with other Corybas, they grow in fairly damp, cool positions in the wild (for example in moss on tree fern trunks). Both these species hide away from hot dry conditions in summer by dying back to a buried tuber, only growing again once conditions become cooler and wetter in the autumn. In this respect they follow the same pattern as many ‘bulbs’ from summer-dry parts of the world.

Corybas diemenicus
Corybas incurvus

Here in the UK they are rarely cultivated and can be quite tricky but I have maintained both these species for almost twenty years now. They must be grown under glass, kept dry in summer and cool but frost-free when in growth through the winter. After their summer dormancy I wake them up by watering in September. They are then kept just moist until the shoots appear – often around Christmas time. At this point the embryonic flower buds are just visible at the base of the leaf and must be kept in humid conditions or they will abort without opening. A simple plastic container inverted over the pot is enough. This can be removed when the flowers open, usually in February here. Slugs and snails also like humid conditions and like to eat Corybas flowers so some protection is advisable.

The flowers last in good condition for around two weeks. Once they shrivel they are best removed or they go mouldy. As the sun gets stronger in March I move the pots to a shady position until I let them dry out and go dormant in May and they are kept dry all summer. Every two years I repot the tiny white tubers when dormant, into a lime-free mix that is around 30% humus (composted bark or similar) and 70% mineral. Using Perlite is inadvisable as the little round white granules look just like Corybas tubers which makes finding the tubers at repotting time a challenge.


  1. Hi Darren. Molly is so adorable. I can see why you like having her around. I can’t have the usual pets at home; my husband is allergic and both my son and daughter are asthmatic… We have a lizard, a beautiful orange Uromastyx which doesn’t do much but eat veggies. I’m thinking of giving him some chilly to make him more active (Just kidding!). I love plants and flowers but I don’t have a green thumb so it’s a pleasure to learn about it from you. One of my friends at work gave me an Orchid recently. So far so good: 9 days undead! I’m glad that the gym workout helps you sleep better. Please, be careful with the chemical products… I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. Take care my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am actually a bit jealous, I like reptiles but Susan doesn’t so they are not likely to happen here. She does admit the bearded dragons at college were cute but they were not very active either, just good at looking cute ! I did once have some tree frogs for ten years! I promise to be careful. 30 plus years in labs means i can do most jobs on autopilot but that, of course, is when accidents happen as one stops paying attention. I did once get a piece of acid coated wire right through my left wrist but it amazingly missed anything important, it just hurt lots. My most embarrassing lab accident was poking myself in the eye with the arm of my safety glasses when putting them on…
      I also once spilled a full 5 litre container of liquid nitrogen down my legs and groin. Was a bit worried at the time as I had only seen terminator 2 a couple of years earlier. Luckily nothing went brittle and snapped off.

      Sorry, too much information yes?!

      Molly and Susan are just getting home so must go put the kettle on.


      Liked by 2 people

        1. They are and I’d love one of our own but it just isn’t practical at the moment. My wife gets to be around Molly all day at work too as she belongs to the owners of the flower nursery where she works (lucky woman). I did stop on my way out this morning to greet 3 dogs being walked by their owners near my house and almost missed my bus as a result!

          Molly was a real pain at work on Saturday apparently – trying to steal cake and picnics from customers and getting in the way generally. My wife always forgives her though!

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Apparently Molly just went to the salon with Susan to book me a massage. She headed down the steps toward the eyebrow salon but Susan warned her this was where they do the waxing…. She behaved after that!

      Boring paperwork this week – not a chemical in sight 😦

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Jen. Molly sadly goes home tomorrow 😦

      But we may get another visit later in the month:)

      To be honest she sleeps much of the time now but a few weeks ago we got pictures of her awake. See the monday molly post!


  2. I absolutely love orchids, so this is super cool. And hey – please don’t ever feel you’ve let yourself down. If anything, you’re in tune with what your needs are, and if that wasn’t going out with colleagues – so be it!

    Much love, Darren.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. I ended up here after seeing a comment of yours on Roda’s blog. I figured artyplantsman would be a fun blog to check out, but wow! Orchids, art, dogs…and you are an introvert! We are very much alike and I have to follow. Those orchids are lovely. I am pleased when I can get a Phalaenopsis to rebloom. I can’t even imagine having your green thumb!

    Liked by 2 people

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