Archive | September 2013

Memories are made of this

 

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Kenya friends reunited – or at least united!  From left, Karin, Marcia, Jill, Robin,John,Barbara and Graham.  Jinx had already gone home and Ruth is taking the picture.

 

 

Why is it, I asked myself this morning, that I am driving for over an hour to have lunch with a bunch of people, most of whom I’ve never met before?  And that gave rise to another question – what is it about Kenya that seems to bind those who grew up there, or ever lived there, in such a way that after all these years we still enjoy getting together with those who share our memories?  It’s because Kenya was – and in many was still is – a special place.  And that makes us all a bit special too.

The luncheon today was for members of the Kenya Friends Reunited Facebook sub-group, or at least those few members who live in south-east Queensland.  Most of us had not met before, yet we immediately felt like old friends.  Such is the power of Kenya – and of those childhood memories we all hold in common.

It’s also a tribute to the power of Facebook and let me say this, knowing that there are those out there who don’t seem to approve of this wonderful social network facility – Facebook has added a whole new wonderful communications dimension to my life and I am proud to be a subscriber.  I have an often insanely busy life, many friends, plenty of hobbies and interests. And Facebook makes all that easier for me because I can so readily and pleasantly keep in touch with friends and relatives around the world and “see” what they still look like and what they are doing.  As far as KFR is concerned it has reunited me with many old friends and brought back many memories – wonderful!

Anyway, back to our first KFR lunch in this part of the world.  The venue chosen was The Lighthouse Restaurant at Cleveland, a bayside suburb of Brisbane. It’s situated at the end of a narrow point of land pointing straight into Moreton Bay – Brisbane’s Bay of Islands.  On a fine and sunny southern hemisphere sub-tropical spring day this should have been a splendid setting but, alas, the weather was not kind.  It blew a gale, sent down a shower or two and forced all the diners at this large restaurant/pub/cafe complex to eat indoors.

This was a particular shame for Robin Swift who had suggested the event – and the venue.  There he was when I arrived, having set up a large table at the side of the restaurant, complete with Kenya flag, and it was all being blown away.  Thanks to Facebook, Robin and I recognised each other immediately.  And fellow KFR members will be glad to know he is just as lovely as we all thought he must be!  As is his wife Jinx though, poor girl, she had to put up with all we Kenyans reminiscing like crazy.  Jinx, I should explain, comes from That Other Place stuck between SA and Zambia that’s ALMOST as nice as Kenya except it doesn’t have beaches and decent-sized mountains.  It does, however, have that well-known humanitarian Robert Mugabe – which is probably why Robin and Jinx and their family don’t live there any more.

Sitting with Robin and Jinx was Graham (can’t remember his second name), another ex-Kenyan who had been at the Duko with Robin.  As is always the case, we immediately found we knew people in common and were busily investigating this when Ruth Davies arrived.  Ruth is a KFR member who never contributes (too busy) and she and I were at both primary and high school together and our mothers were friends.  So we get together pretty often…but never often enough.

So there the five of us sat, waiting for the others to arrive.  Waited…and waited…!  The weather drove us indoors and we went to the bar section – very cosy on a wet day – and ate fish and chips.  After  a couple of hours of reminiscent chat along came Karin Blowers who told us that she and the rest of the expected guests had been sitting in the restaurant section, wondering what had happened to US!  Just a bit of a mix-up made worse by the weather that forced us to abandon our outside table. So we picked up our glasses and joined the others – and met Marcia and Anne, Barbara and John.  More reminiscent chat.  More old ties established.  I knew Anne’s parents (as did my husband and father).  Marcia’s son lives a street away from my home at North Tamborine.  And John and Barbara live down the bottom of the mountain.  Though none of us knew any of this before. Even more surprising, I only found out just before I left home this morning that the Swifts are the parents-in-law of the son of one of our close friends on Tamborine Mountain!

We forgot the horrible weather in sharing our memories as well as our Australian experiences.  The time went all too fast and given the distances some of us had to travel (only Robin and Jinx live near Brisbane, the rest of us came from either the north or south coasts which means at least an hour’s driving) we decided to call it a day at about three o’clock.  And wouldn’t you know…the clouds rolled back, the drizzle went away, the rain died and the sun shone brightly, just as it’s done for weeks now. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and meeting people in the flesh whom I’d got to know through Kenya Friends Reunited.   We are planning another such get-together down the track and next time we’ll make sure we all meet up at the right time in the right place.  Here are the photos:

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 The venue – this is the cafe/bar side of The Lighthouse Restaurant at Cleveland Point, bayside Brisbane

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The actual lighthouse after which the restaurant is named – looking across Raby Bay.

Jill, Ruth, Jinx, Graham and Robin in the bar, wondering why the others haven't turned up.

Jill, Ruth, Jinx, Graham and Robin in the bar, wondering why the others haven’t turned up.

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After she's come in search of us - and found us - Karin returns to finish this very large fish.  Looks like she's enjoying it!

After she’s come in search of us – and found us – Karin returns to finish this very large fish. Looks like she’s enjoying it!

And now we get to meet Anne and Marcia, both of whom live well over an hour's drive away

And now we get to meet Anne and Marcia, both of whom live well over an hour’s drive away

We also get to meet John and Barbara - and that's Ruth on the left of them (our left)

We also get to meet John and Barbara – and that’s Ruth on the left of them (our left)

Another pic of Ruth, this time in typical pose

Another pic of Ruth, this time in typical pose

And here she is again, with John.  Ruth is one of my favourite people in the world so I like to have lots of pics of her

And here she is again, with John. Ruth is one of my favourite people in the world so I like to have lots of pics of her

And here's lovely Robin who got us all together

And here’s lovely Robin who got us all together

Anne and Robin confer, Karin concentrates on her lunch and Graham hits the bottle - but its only water!

Anne and Robin confer, Karin concentrates on her lunch and Graham hits the bottle – but its only water!

Jinx takes a pic of the rest of us taking pics!

Jinx takes a pic of the rest of us taking pics!

Karin is probably thinking about the trip she's going to take to Tanzania soon - or else just digesting that enormous fish!

Karin is probably thinking about the trip she’s going to take to Tanzania soon – or else just digesting that enormous fish!

Graham shows us how he used to land his plane when he was a pilot in Kenya!...seriously though, he's going to kill me for publishing this pic.  Good job he lives two hours away!

Graham shows us how he used to land his plane when he was a pilot in Kenya!…seriously though, he’s going to kill me for publishing this pic. Good job he lives two hours away!

View from the restaurant - no sitting out on the verandah today, alas.  Though the weather was soon to clear.

View from the restaurant – no sitting out on the verandah today, alas. Though the weather was soon to clear.

And here we all are at the end of a very enjoyable afternoon - all except Jinx, that is.  And me, who was taking the pic.

And here we all are at the end of a very enjoyable afternoon – all except Jinx, that is. And me, who was taking the pic.

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The king of orchids

This orchid is grown on a smallish rock on the ground, with overhead shade and early morning sun.  It gets better every year;  this year there are 16 flower spikes.

This orchid is grown on a smallish rock on the ground, with overhead shade and early morning sun. It gets better every year; this year there are 16 flower spikes.

THE KING OF ORCHIDS

Sue Horder wrote to me recently asking for help with her king orchid (Dendrobium speciosum), also known in Australia as the rock orchid.

This really is the king of orchids for its sheer size and magnificence, once it reaches sufficient maturity to produce four or more spikes, And it’s very easy to grow – provided you give it the right conditions.

All a king orchid actually needs is something firm on which to grow and a position in light shade or direct sun in the morning only. The fork of a tree that’s either briefly deciduous in late winter, or has a light canopy of foliage (such as a jacaranda, erythrina or frangipani) is ideal Or a rock with light overhead shade. The orchid in the picture (above) is grown under the eaves of a house with an easterly aspect; it gets plenty of early morning sun in the cool season but is shaded from direct sunlight for most of the day in summer.

This type of orchid is an epiphyte, which means it occurs naturally on trees or rocks where it gets strong support, good aeration and perfect drainage. The roots can spread where they will without constraint. Nutrition is supplied by insect carcasses and plant debris, with some minerals taken from the bark or rock over which the roots spread. An epiphyte is not a parasite so the plant does not take its sustenance from the host.

Grown in the fork of a tree, this fine specimen has spread its mat of thick, fibrous roots over the bark, giving it very strong support.

Grown in the fork of a tree, this fine specimen has spread its mat of thick, fibrous roots over the bark, giving it very strong support.

In cultivation, king orchids should be given a growing environment as close to nature as possible. If a tree branch (preferably a fork, for stability) or a large rock is not available then a tree stump will do. If you have bought your plant from a garden center then it will be on some sort of support already and you merely have to place this somewhere the orchid has plenty of space to grow – because king orchids can get very large indeed. If you have obtained your plant from, say, somebody else’s garden then you will need to fasten it firmly in place with string or thin rope made from organic fibre that will rot away once the plant roots have established themselves in the new habitat. (see photos).

A wicker basket also makes a suitable growing environment because it provides perfect root drainage if filled with bark and leaf litter or an open orchid-growing mix. A couple of small rocks will add stability and enable to orchid’s roots to extract important minerals. The basket can be placed on the ground (slightly raised on rocks or timber is best) or suspended on strong supports. Choose a position which is lightly shaded all day or which gets direct sun only in the early morning (no later than 10 a.m.).

WATERING
If your orchid is in a tree,and if you live in typical king orchid country with plenty of summer rainfall, you don’t really need to water it at all. In the dry season the orchid will still be able to extract water from the tree bark. In an artificial growing situation, however, and especially if you live where prolonged drought is common, it’s best to sprinkle lightly every couple of days in dry weather. If you have a misting attachment on your hose, this is excellent as king orchids grow mostly in environments where mists are frequent and provide much of the moisture required by the
plant. Always bear in mind that these are plants that like a lot of moisture in the air for most of the year and don’t like aridity. So the important thing to remember is that the root system SHOULD NEVER BE WATERLOGGED YET NEVER ALLOWED TO COMPLETELY DRY OUT FOR TOO LONG. A dry spring, however, will produce larger and more prolific flowers and at this time just a light misting is all that’s needed.

FERTILISING
Feeding king orchids is not really necessary, especially with tree-grown plants. However, blooms will be more and better if you give your plant a feed once a month from June – August, using a cheap soluble all-purpose formula such as Thrive or Aquasol mixed in a spray bottle at half the strength recommended for pot plants. The less “natural” your orchid’s growing environment the more it will need to be artificially fed because it may not be able to get adequate nutrition otherwise. I fertilise my king orchids again after flowering is finished, to promote new stem growth, and again in December – January. I have one “kingie” in a tree and that one I never feed at all!

GENERAL CARE
If grown as recommended here you shouldn’t have any problems. I’ve never seen an insect attack on a king orchid that was worth bothering about though you might like to remove unsightly spider webs if they form (I don’t: I think they help feed the plant and also keep more harmful insects away). Stem rot can occur from injury that allows harmful bacteria to enter the plant – if you see any obviously unhealthy browning of the stem, cut it away with a clean and sharp knife. The most common problem is root dry-out during drought. If this occurs the foliage will droop and the stems will look yellowish and unthrifty. Just keep watering the plant well (these orchids are amazingly tolerant of hard times) until it responds with fresh new growth.

It’s easy to move a king orchid. Just cut the roots very carefully with a sharp, clean knife and remove gently from the supporting structure. Pack in damp hessian (burlap), peat moss or some other soft, moist material and keep this with the plant when you transfer it to its new home. Tie firmly in place (including the wrapping material which will supply protection and moisture), spreading out the roots gently over the new surface.

And that’s it. A very easy plant that, if given the basics of horticultural care, will reward you with splendid flowering that just gets better every year. Do remember, though, that this glorious flowering period is brief, so don’t put your plant where it needs to offer a spectacle for the rest of the year.

King orchid growing in its natural habitat, high on a mountainside overlooking a ravine.  here it gets its moisture from summer rains and frequent mist.  An epiphytic plant like this won't thrive with its roots in deep soil - such as a pot.

King orchid growing in its natural habitat, high on a mountainside overlooking a ravine. here it gets its moisture from summer rains and frequent mist. An epiphytic plant like this won’t thrive with its roots in deep soil – such as a pot.