Member Snapshot: David Butler

Our Member Snapshot for this month is David Butler. David has won many awards for his excellence in growing orchids including the Ira Butler Trophy in 2015. This month he kindly shares with us his story on growing native orchids and being a member of A.N.O.S. Sydney.

Q: How did you come to be an orchid enthusiast?

David:  I have always liked gardening and became interested in orchid-growing in my early teens. It was a much cleaner hobby than normal gardening and much more of a challenge.

 

Q: Which are your favourite native orchids and why?

David:  Over the years I have had many favourites, both exotic and native, but I think the really enduring favourites are the Australian Sarcanthinae which are constantly improving and play a big part in my hybridising program.

Q: Approximately how many “pots” in your collection?

David: I breed the Sarcs and in order to maintain a breeding collection it is necessary to grow on a lot of seedlings, usually from flask. A quick count indicates 260 flowering size, 1200 seedlings, and 30 flasks waiting to come out when the weather cools

Q: How did you come to be an orchid enthusiast?

David:  I have always liked gardening and became interested in orchid-growing in my early teens. It was a much cleaner hobby than normal gardening and much more of a challenge.

 

Q: Which are your favourite native orchids and why?

David:  Over the years I have had many favourites, both exotic and native, but I think the really enduring favourites are the Australian Sarcanthinae which are constantly improving and play a big part in my hybridising program.

 

Q: Approximately how many “pots” in your collection?

David: I breed the Sarcs and in order to maintain a breeding collection it is necessary to grow on a lot of seedlings, usually from flask. A quick count indicates 260 flowering size, 1200 seedlings, and 30 flasks waiting to come out when the weather cools.

Three Champions at the Sarc Show!

David’s Nursery

Q: How often do you water your orchids?

David: As a general rule I water when the potting medium is almost dry, unless hot weather is forecast and then I will water the plants well the morning before.

This way they are damp but not wet on the hot days to follow.

My Sarcs seldom appear ‘wet’ (even the seedlings), but when necessary a moist humid environment is maintained by wetting the floor and fogging the shadecloth and plants. Fogging is designed to cool the plants, not to make them ‘wet’ to the extent that water remains in their leaf axils.

 

Q: Do you fertilize your orchids?

David: Yes, frequently, using mainly Peters XL Hi-K Finisher alternating with other types of chemical fertilisers and occasionally seaweed extract (Acadian). I make a concentrate solution which passes through a Hozon Syphon Mixer into the normal hose and watering wand. Fertilising the whole collection, including hanging plants and mounts, is quick and easy this way.

 

Q: What are the common pests that attack your orchids and how do you control them?

David: I have good air movement so by spacing the plants on wire benches I have little need for fungicides and insecticides. My bush house is virtually bug-proof which helps control crickets, grubs, beetles and other nasties. A solid acrylic roof helps control watering and the associated fungal problems.

 

Q: What was the most memorable orchid collection you’ve visited?

David: I’ve visited many great collections over the years but my current favourite is my own in spring. I call it fairyland (says he modestly).

Fairyland

Q: Which is your favourite nursery to purchase orchids from?

David: There are several good orchid nurseries. All are worth a browse.

 

Q: What was the worst mistake you ever made growing your orchids?

David: I grew up in Camden where temperatures get a bit extreme. At about age 14 years I built a small glass house to house my first lot of orchids. This cooked them in summer and froze them in winter. Experience is a good teacher.

Q: What would you advise novices thinking of or just starting out growing orchids?

David: Grow orchids which suit your conditions and leave the challenging ones till you are more experienced. Learn by listening and observing and remember that there may be more than one way to do something but that, with orchids, there are underlying rules such as thinking twice before watering, and not overdoing the TLC.

Q: What do you like about our club ANOS Sydney Group and what activity do you enjoy the most?

David: The Club brings together like-minded people who are happy to share their experience and friendship with a bit of friendly competition thrown in. I joined over thirty-six years ago and have seen many changes but it has always been most enjoyable.

Q: What is on your orchid wish list?

David: Always trying to breed the perfect Sarc, whatever that is!

 

Q: Is there anything else you may want to add?

David: I am unable to attend as regularly as previously but will always cherish my life membership.

Wide range of colours in modern Sarc breeding