Road Trip Visit to the Master and the Bush Basher!

Last September, Barry Moore and I took a trip up north to visit fellow members Henk van den Berg in Maitland and Mark 'Bush Basher' Daniels in Clarence Town.

 

We first dropped in on Henk who after tea and coffee, gladly showed us around his orchid shade houses and was so generous in sharing his knowledge on how he grows his champion native orchids.

Here are just some of the lessons we learned off Henk:

 

  • In nature, most native orchids grow on the branches of trees and are exposed to gentle breezes most of the time. Henk has fans running inside his orchid houses to maintain that airflow around his plants.

  • When using composted pine bark mixed with charcoal, make sure to re-pot with a fresh mix every 2 – 3 years. Charcoal absorbs salts and over time this can be detrimental to your plants.

  • The floor of Henk’s orchid houses are covered in a thick layer of river pebbles. He wets this down in summer to increase humidity and help cool down his shade houses.

  • Spanish moss (tillandsia usneoides) is hung on the sides of the orchid benches. This is also wetted down to help maintain humidity.

  • Once a year, you can make a lime water mixture (1g dolomite lime per litre of water) and apply this to your plants to reduce the acidity of your mix. Don’t worry about the fine bits that don’t dissolve in the water. Just let this settle down to the bottom of the container. The water will have enough dissolved CaCO3 & MgCO3 to do the job.

  • Aside from using a liquid chemical fertiliser (e.g. Peters or Alan's Merri-Fert), you can make a tea out of chicken or cow manure and apply this once a month during the growing season. Although Henk didn’t tell us how to make this tea, other orchid growers have told me that they place the manure inside a hessian bag and leave it in a 50 – 70 litre container of water for a few weeks until the water turns dark. They then mix a litre of this “tea” with 10 litres of water and use it on their orchids.

Native orchids grown the Henk van den Berg way!

Early morning class with the Master

(Take note of the port pots Henk uses for his plants).

Fans maintain airflow rain or shine!

We spent pretty much the whole morning at Henk’s place and as we were about to leave and meet up with Mark Daniels up in Clarence Town, Barry noticed that his car had a flat tire! Henk again was very kind to offer to drive us in his car instead. Henk took us through the back roads around the Hunter region, passing through some very picturesque farms and the historical town of Paterson where bushranger Frederick (a.k.a. Captain Thunderbolt) Ward’s wife, Mary Ann Bugg (one of two known women bushrangers), was tried at the Paterson Court House during the 1860s.


Mark Daniels lived on a property in Clarence Town where he grew his native orchids and ran Strongrow Orchids. He and his wife had decided to wind down his orchid business and had just sold their property. Barry and I wanted to buy a few of his native hybrids and agreed to meet up with him at a cafe in Clarence Town for lunch before heading out to his place on Limeburners Creek Road.

 

Carefully crossing the busy main street of Clarence Town.

Smiles and smiles to go after a delicious lunch of country style beefburgers and chips (L-R: Henk, Mark & Barry).

Mark and his wife Anna were in the middle of packing their things to take with them to their new home in Macksville. Mark was also dismantling the orchid houses and preparing to move his orchids over to his friends Kevin Hipkins from Royale Orchids, and Tony Blewitt in Kempsey. Nevertheless, he took the time to show us some of his orchids and Anna very graciously prepared some afternoon tea for us!

After that it was back to Henk’s place to change the tire on Barry’s car, transfer the orchids that we had bought from Mark and make the trip back to Sydney.

 

A really big thank you to Henk, Mark and Anna for a great day of enjoyable and interesting conversations, plenty of laughs and wonderful company!

 

Mark, I know you said you weren’t going to keep more than a hundred plants in your new place, but I don’t believe you! You can’t keep a good orchid man down. The ‘Bush Basher’ will be back.

- Charlie Moraza

A few of Mark’s beautiful hybrids were still around.