THIS winter certainly has been cold and windy, but our gardens don't have to be bleak.
Japonica camellias, "queens of the winter garden" are magnificent, the brilliant yellow and gold of wattles are warming - add Cymbidium orchids to indoors and we have the wow factor.
Use them to the max inside and then they can be planted into the garden in filtered light - morning sun is ideal.
Cymbidium's long strappy leaves are highlighted by the long stems of slow-opening blooms which can be used to create a dramatic effect, making them ideal for both modern and traditional decor.
During winter be careful not to over water - cymbidiums prefer an open composite mix which allows air to circulate.
Cultivation of cymbidiums in pots requires a pot one size larger than the root ball to allow new bulbs to form.
When flowering has finished, if necessary re-potting should be done in early spring using a designated orchid potting mix which should then be followed by regular feeding using a specific orchid fertiliser.
These simplistic instructions apply to the amateur grower, whereas fanatics will be more thorough with feeding regimes, using different products for summer and winter fertilising.
It should be noted that if lush green leaves are produced without flower spikes, it is an indication of insufficient light.
Cymbidium orchids need only be re-potted when the bulbs totally fill the pot, which will ensure flowering for the next season. Plants that are divided may take two years to re-flower.
Diseases and pests are few, but prevention is better than cure.
When not in flower use a monthly spray of white oil to control scale and mite.
Fungal diseases can be sprayed in spring and autumn with Mancozeb to eliminate fungal problems.
■ THE Maitland and Coalfield District Orchid Society will be holding its winter orchid show at Cessnock Market Place from Thursday, July 24 until Saturday, July 26.
The show is a great opportunity to get advice from experienced orchid growers.