Today was my day off. It is Melbourne Cup Day tomorrow. By using only one of my leave days, I can get a four day weekend. This public holiday is based around a horse race The Melbourne Cup. This horse race is not any old horse race but 'The race that stops the Nation!'. Nothing like a bit of hyperbolic language. I grew up with horses. I got a horse for my 7th birthday, a filly named Princess. I think having to shovel horse s__t every day from the age of 7 until I turned 17 has permanently put me off horses. My dislike looking after horses could have been triggered by Princess throwing me off on my first attempted ride and biting me when I tried to feed her strawberries. I did laugh when she used to steal my fathers tobacco pouch out of his back pocket. She was a very clever horse. Don't get me wrong, I like horses but I will never again own one. I prefer orchids. They don't leave 'droppings'.
It amuses me that I would be heading to a rural store to pick up some supplies for my greenhouse. My parents used to drive me to the West Chester Rural Store to pick up hay, straw, molasses-soaked oats, chicken feed and laying mash. Today's trip was much different. First of all there was just one person in the car. Secondly, it was well over an hours drive to get to this rural store. This was a special trip and a special rural store. Monbulk Rural Store specialises in greenhouse supplies as well as the normal farm 'stuff'. On the way up I thought about Princess and the sights, sounds and smells of the West Chester store. I remember the smells in particular. Molasses oats held a particular fascination. The horse ate the oats, surely they were good enough for a seven-year-old?
My reverie came to a screaming halt upon sighting the CLOSED sign on the front door of the rural store. Dang, an hour and twenty minutes drive and nothing to show. Now it was another hour and twenty home. Hmmmm, what to do in the hills? The Dandenong Ranges is a wonderfully scenic area and very popular with tourists. Nearly every little town has a specialist bakery, deli and plant nursery. Hmmmm, eating and looking at plants. It was a tough assignment but I was up to it. Lets see, savory or sweet? Coffee and pecan pie would have to suffice. Such suffering.
Now, what plant nursery to look at? Too late for spring bulbs so how about alpine plants? Gentiana Nursery it is. Those boys certainly know how to grow a plant! Do I really need that blue Corydalis? No, not today. Lilium canadense? Yep, can't do without that. A couple of more Cyclamens for my collection? Why not, you can never have too many forms of C. coum. While many of the plants are beautiful, they are not really the love of my life.
The orchid twitch was getting to me. I rarely get over to this area. Why not visit one of the orchid guys. Thank goodness for smart phones. One quick phone call and down the road we go. Lunch first. Forget fancy food, orchids are more important. Quick sandwich and a drink and back in the car. Isn't it amazing when you are anticipating something? You can never get there quick enough.
Even though it is supposed to be the end of the Cymbidium season here in Melbourne you wouldn't have known it walking into the sales area of the nursery. What a riot of colour. There were some of the more widely known Cymbidiums there including the hybrids with the Australian native cymbidium species canaliculatum, madidum and suave. There were a range of the grex Phar Lap in full flower, notably the clones 'Geyserland', 'Apricot Gem/Glow' and the monstrous deep red 'Red Rider' . Appropriate really that a Grex named after a famous race horse should be in flower for Melbourne Cup Day!
The bench on the side of the sales area was strictly a display area, all the plants clearly marked NFS. This small area, next to the cash register, contained all the really interesting plants. Below are a few of the plants that caught my eye. They are not really my taste in Cymbidiums but you just can't walk by a plant that screams out at you. The first two are, to me, are bizarre. To some in the Cymbidium world they would be very precious. As the nurseryman said 'Any plant that produces the 'green stuff' is a good plant'. He wouldn't be getting my green stuff for these plants, even if they where for sale.
Cymbidium Tethys x sanderae
The plant above caught my eye first and then perplexed me when I saw the label. Tethys 'Black Magic' is a large spotty purplish red. Sanderae is considered by many to be a species, some question this. The flowers of sanderae are white with a pink suffusion and a large heavily red-marked labellum. It would appear that the sanderae parent has been totally dominated by the Tethys parent in the above cross.
George Formby (Tethys X Esk Claret)
Another hybrid nearly totally dominated by the Tethys parent. Esk Claret contributes the red colouration. There was water on the flower, hence the shiny bits on the labellum.
(Electric Ladyland X Vogelsang) X Last Tango
(Electric Ladyland X Vogelsang) X Last Tango
While more conventional looking than the other plants this was a real standout on the display bench. The flower spikes were vertical in their lower half and abruptly arching in the upper half. What a colour and what a beautiful display. The Vogelsang hybrids are particular favourites of mine. I would have bought this one!
The visits to the cafe and nurseries were more than ample compensation for not being able to make a purchase from the rural store. I got to think about my childhood, had a good feed, saw some amazing plants and even brought a couple home. A good day really. Maybe it was more than a Pleasant Monday Afternoon. For the first time in my life I have entered a sweep on the Melbourne Cup tomorrow. I am praying that horse #22 does well!