Vanda Ms Joaqium – the National Flower of Singapore.Among the enthusiasts, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this orchid, whether Ms Agnes Joaqium, of Armenian descent discovered it in her garden or hybridised it and she presented it to Ridley of the rubber trees fame in 1893. Only in 1981, was it named as our National flower, for its resilience and all year round bloom. But I suspect because of its 15-sec of fame and whether Ms Agnes discovered it or its truly the first hybridised orchid in Singapore, it secured naming rights here.
Until recently, I do not like this orchid. Singapore has many hybrids of orchids, and created an industry out of Orchid naming – and many of these hybrids are named after visiting Heads of State. For a cool $10,000 you can have an orchid named after you.
As a child, I’ve not been impressed with the Vanda Ms Joaquim. Its petals are papery thin, its never used in floral arrangements. The cut flowers do not seem to last beyond 3 days. Usually at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, you can spot the Vanda Ms Joaquim section, tall, lanky and pathetically flowerless.
Until we moved into this sunny apartment. And the only orchids which seem to thrive, is the Vanda Ms Joaqium. Maintenance-free. Mist it with orchid fertiliser. Grow it tall against a vertical support. At the WOC dinner, I saw beside a 3-time Chelsea gold winner (individual category) who taught me to experiment growing the Vanda flat on the ground. Every time a shoot appears, secure and tie it against a vertical support. Soon, you’ll have lots of flowers growing from it. One ingenious way of propagating Vanda. He learnt it from a Japanese physician-cum lover of Cattelya. This doctor loves his Cattelya so much, that he tends to it, morning, lunch, tea time and after dinner, in between tending patients.
If I have time, my next foray will be into cultivating my own Wrightia bonsais from scratch.