I was born in São Paulo city and moved to Rio de Janeiro city 17 years ago. I came to do a construction and I stayed, I couldn't come back. I am 51 years old and since I was a boy I got involved with nature's stuff. I used to spend my holidays in a farmer we had in São Paulo State and I used to ride horseback through the wood observing birds and plants. Since I was a little boy, I helped my grandmother who had a big gardner. Thus, I got a good experience for cultivating plants in general.
In spite of having studying psychology aiming to be a psychoanalyst, I finished for being a landscaper. I feel that I should have studied biology but now it is too late. Nowadays
I do gardens and I am specialized in building room to animals specially birds. For more than 35 years I had a big and important bird collection. However, ten years ago, I finished with this and, nowadays, I have just some old birds.
Then I decided to do every thing I couldn't do before for lack of time. I dreamt to spend my Sundays on the beach as every person born in Rio de Janeiro city does. I was wrong, the emptiness provoked by the absence of the birds, having nothing to study, to learn or to research made me an easy catch to the virus of orchidophilia and, in a certain day, I finished for starting collecting something and getting inside the endless shelter-skelter provoked by so absorbing and intriguing hobby.

Why did you start to cultivate orchids? Have you been influenced for someone or something?
When I was 10 years, I visited a nursery and a country house owned by a friend of my grandfather. Noticing my interest for the orchids, he gave some plants to encourage me. As a matter of fact, I cultivated them and built small stagings in the back yard and kept them there successfully, I could say, blooming every year. I remember having bought a clump of Oncidium altissimum (Oncidium baueri) which had so long spikes that I tied them as a big crown. I got this big pot to an orchid show where it got a honorable mention. When I was 13, starting breeding birds, I completely gave up the orchids and put them on the trees of my home and my grandmother's home. Later, Sinésio Calore gave me some very beautiful hybrids but I got ride of them too. I guest that, in deep of my soul, I knew how dangerous was to start to cultivate orchids, a non-return way and apprehensive, I didn't got in. In fact, I didn't visit the World Orchid Congress in Rio de Janeiro and I regret a lot. In a wonderful day, going through Botanical Garden street, I saw a banner informing about the show inside the park. Not thinking about buying orchids, I got in and finished for buying two of them.


Cattleya Portia coerulea
I remember that I was charmed by a Cattleya Portia coerulea (I call it 'Prima’, and also a Brassolaeliocattleya Oconee ‘Mendenhall’, because they were different from the most of the hybrids showed there, they had their own personality. Oconee was the “sample” in the shelf of the seedlings which me compelled to come back on Sunday, the last day of the show to take it.

Blc. Oconee ‘Mendenhall’,
I bought some more, which became the embryo of my present collection such as a Bc Pastoral ‘Innocence’ .

Besides this, was there another influence (person or fact)?
At the beginning my old friends and people I knew helped me and were patient to answer my endless questions about orchids. In Rio, Dr. Etienne Bèraut's garden taught me a lot about the vegetative appearance of the botanical orchids because he has a great collection of beautiful and rare orchids growing on the trees. This garden is 80 years old! In São Paulo, I received a lot of help from my friend Samuel de Mello and also Gerson Calore. Finally I became associated to OrquidaRio, where I did many friends who gave many good tips. The list of discussion in the internet competed what was missing. Concerning the scientific part, my masters were Rolf Grantsau, ornithologist and naturalist and Paulo Rotter. Serious people and scientists, they learnt me that science is not an adventure and to be a scientist in the field is not to be a Indiana Jones.
It is very important when we compile data about orchids, to think that one day, someone else will enjoy, besides you.


How long have you been cultivating orchids?
Four years.

How many plants do you have?
About 900 plants, almost matured.

How long do you spend taking care of your orchids daily?
It depends. I go to the nursery once a week because it is placed in a far-way suburb, Guaratiba. Some times, I go more than once. All plants which are in bud I bring with me to take photos and those which need to be to repotted. In this way, I can take care of them during a break time, launch time, in the afternoon and during the week-ends when I don't go the nursery.

Hybrids or species? Why?
I can't concentrate my attention in a specific group. I have few of every thing, but I try to have the best inside each group. The limitation is only the climate. Unfortunately my nursery is located in a too much hot place for orchids and I hope, one day, I can move to a closer place and with a pleasant temperature. I look for good hybrids and species but I have a special preference for Cattleya in general, species or hybrids.

Which are the criterions you adopted to form your collection, I mean, how do you do your choices?
Before going to a nursery, I visit the site and try to know which are the best plants in their collection, so I try to buy them, a plant or a division, even though it takes time. I don't buy a inferior orchid if I know there is a better one. I prefer waiting for a best occasion. For instance, visiting a nursery, in 2005, I saw a spectacular Cattleya trianaei amesiana. I have a beautiful one but it is not so good, so I would like to have a better one. The plant I like was too small to take a division and it was not to sell. After that many people offered me good Cattleya trianaei amesiana, but not so good as that I saw but I could not buy. Even though it takes years, I will wait for a division of that plant which I consider as the best Cattleya trianaei amesiana. The same thing happens with hybrids. I don't want to buy a self or a cross of a meristem.
It is very important to choose the nurseries because only those which are serious have quality plants or are concerned about the correct identification. Classic orchids or old clones with a history interest me. I have always been interested in the story of those old orchids because researching them, I discovered the story of the orchidophilia.
Another important thing is always to buy small quantities. Good plants are expensive plants and no one can withstand this.

You have a good plant, Slc Ayrton Senna, bright red and good shape. Have you bought it as a seedling or it was already matured? If seedling, how many have you bought?
Visiting the walkeriana exhibition at Wenzel, in June 2004, I saw a wonderful spectacle with, at least, 30 selected Slc Ayrton Senna, in different colors. César Wenzel will meristem the best and they will receive the clone name of a trace where Ayrton Senna run. He was selling the seedlings of this cross (Golden Acclaim x California Apricot) which hadn't bloomed and some was in bloom but they were not so good as those in the podium. Of course, I became interested for those selected but unfortunately they were not to sell. To get the best is easy if you wait years to see them blooming and then you buy the meristems but I would like to start enjoying them immediately. I stayed one day more and I went to Wenzel's nursery, this time without the mess of a show and tactfully I insisted. I found a wonderful yellow with the clone name of ‘Hockenhein’ which had a part of the rhizome getting outside the pot. A division was possible. Further more, I saw this beautiful red (without a clone name) that could have a division and, luckily, I got it. To the red I gave the obvious name of ‘Red’.

Slc Ayrton Senna ‘Hockenhein’

Slc Ayrton Senna ‘Red’
There were many beautiful red but I didn't expected so many flowers.This hybrid blooms any time of the year, with a peak during june and July. May be César will want, one day, to do a meristem, how knows?
Among your plants, do you have a favorite one?
I should say some. Concerning species, I have a Cattleya trianaei caerulea which is really very good.
It is a cross of ‘Luna de Fusa’ and ‘Ikirá’. It became a big specimen and asks for division. I intended to meristem it.

Cattleya trianaei caerulea pincelada

Cattleya percivaliana ‘Carla Porto’
Another one is a Cattleya percivaliana ‘Carla Porto’. I don't know another clone so good.
Among the hybrids, my favorite is, no doubt about, Lc Sheila Lauterbach FCC/AOS. I should say that it is one of the most beautiful flower in the world. It is a pity because in the photo it never is so good. You should see the flower itself to admire the beauty in the totality. The sepals and petals pearl-color, the velvety of the lip...

Lc Sheila Lauterbach FCC/AOS
The Blc Chia Lin ‘New City’ AM/AOS is also is good at anything. Besides, it exhales a fantastic and penetrating scent, a mix of candy and wood. An enormous and spectacular hybrid.
Concerning the botanical species, I have a Dendrochilum wenzelii which is, for sure, my 'sweet heart'. A ball of thin leaves with wonderful red flowers. It is a big plant. I have already seen awarded plants with a third of its size however mine never blooms in the same time as a good show. The very worst, I will never take heart to exhibit it. I don't like to put my orchids in shows. I am afraid of losing them.

Blc Chia Lin ‘New City’ AM/AOS
 
Dendrochilum wenzelii
Which are the climate conditions in your place?
My greenhouse is unfortunately located in a quite hot place. There I cultivate some ornamental plants to my landscape work and it is located next to the woods so the nights are fresh and there is an environmental humidity coming from the next mountain. The place is well ventilated, with wind circulating all the time. All this help a lot but is far way from being the suitable place as if it was situated in a mountainous region where the mist reaching the trees and the rock, dropping the temperature at night and watering with the dew watering every thing. That will be the ideal place to a nursery.
In my nursery, orchids such as Sophronitis, Lycaste, some Paphiopedilum and other plants coming from cold regions do not thrive well. However the hybrids grow without problem, since I find an adequate place in the nursery.


What could you tell us about fertilizer and watering?
There is not a regular frequency for the watering, it depends on the climatic conditions of the moment. The housekeeper has already learnt the moment to water again however, I am, of course, always supervise when I am there. I take the baskets, verify the temperature outside them touching with my hand, I feel the weight, put my finger in the substrate, and so on. It is quick and automatic, almost a cacoethes. The fertilization is done once a week, in general, I apply Peters, NPK 20-20-20. I also apply 30-10-10, mainly with the seedlings and 10-30-20 I start just before the begging of springtime when I have more blooming plants. Even though, due to the fact that I don't have a specialized culture and the plants are mixed, many orchids bloom without receiving a phosphate fertilizer before the blooming season. It hope I can build a bigger greenhouse so it will be possible to separate the plants according to their basic needs.

Do you have a cultivation tip to share with us?
I did in my greenhouse exactly what I tell people not to do. I mean, I spent a lot of time and money searching the plants, which is more pleasant and didn't take care of the greenhouse which is fundamental. Nowadays, my greenhouse is small, full and needing a maintenance
.
My intention is to move but, you know, everything is much more expensive, nowadays. So, my tip is, do not do what I did, take care of your nursery and then buy the plants. On the contrary you can get in a complicate situation and be on a tight spot if an accident happens with the structure destroys everything inside. First, I used the classical clay pot with tree fern fiber with a drainage done with clay shivers.
Then I started to look for an alternative substrate. I imported sphagnum from the Chile and I got great results. At the same time that sphagnum keeps the humidity, it is ventilated, neither suffocates nor rots the roots. Before if I watered too much, the roots rotted and if I watered less, the orchids dehydrated. I don't have high humidity which will allow the orchids stay long time without watering. To give more "life" to the sphagnum and in order to make it more profitable, besides letting it more "opened", I mixed, in a proportion of 1/3, a substrate for paphio bought at Aranda. It is a mix of pine bark, coconut fiber, charcoal, rocky crushed and I don't know else. I just know that the result is quite good. Considering that it is easier to water than to dry out, I use open wood baskets, all hanged thus the substrate dries out quite quickly. I still have some plants in tree fern fiber which are progressively transferred to this substrate. Some orchids such catasetineas, Laelia pumila, fidelensis, botanical orchids, bifoliate Cattleya in general and the genus Sophronitis increase immediately when planted in the sphagnum. Hard Cattleya such as Cattleya velutina for instance, when cultivate in sphagnum double the size of the pseudobulbs. I think there is an wrong evaluation about roots outside the pots. In general people think that it shows health and the plants like the substrate. I see it as an unsatisfied individual with the environment and it is throwing roots looking for another place to move on. If you look, you will notice that the roots are outside looking for something new. As I believe that roots are everything for the orchids, I think it is important that the grower examines if the roots are inside the pot when it starts to throw roots outside. I prefer see the orchids with very well developed roots since they are inside the container.
Cattleya walkeriana loves peroba's bark do I planted it in the bark and put inside the open basket and fill the gap with sphagnum. Walkeriana rhizome gets off the sphagnum because this species doesn't too much humidity but the roots grow down towards the sphagnum or around the open basket and get in again. Although the plant is dry, the roots have their tip humid, absorbing the vital energy from the water.
I have set up an equipment producing mist. It is a kind of electric fan conjugated with a sprinkler moved by a centrifuge and the results are promising. As a result, I water less and the walkerianas and Vandas loved it. I set up them closer to the sprinkler, being careful in order to avoid the humidity of the gets the Vandas leaves, just the roots. More and more, I see a great affinity between Vanda cultivation and Cattleya walkeriana.
Is there a short or an amusing story connected to orchids you can tell us?
I don't grow orchids for longtime so there is not too much to tell but I met some senior growers who are themselves very interesting. I met Sebastião Nagase, a well known creator of hybrids
of Dendrobium nobile and Miltoniopsis São Paulo. He is said to be the best in those plants. He told about the travels he did to Mato Grosso and Tocantins to see Cattleya nobilior. He told that people use to tie them root naked in string to decorate the back yard. He also mentioned that the plants survive and bloom. Then I asked him about the philosophy which guides him in the hybridizing and which were the basic directives which orientates him. He answered he took two parallels ways: obvious hybridizing, done through well known ways maintaining his nursery, the ordinary production. On the other hand, he should innovate, create, he did "high risk hybridizing", as he said. From the most improbable and absurd crosses, we can have the true beauties and unexpected novelties. Two complete different flowers, believed as totally incompatible, can generate something incredible beautiful. This kind of cross is expense, the investment is high and the result has a very low output. Even though, with the meristem, this "mad cross" calls attention. He produces until 5.000 seedlings for each cross but on the average is 2.000. He should wait for the blooming and, if he is luck, there will be a plant with fantastic flowers. Many times the appearance of the plants is so bad that he should discard. One among 5.000 is really beautiful, so perfect and so different that it goes to Japan to be meristem ed, be produced by thousands and sell all around the world. I think that Dendrobium Stardust is a good example of this statement although it is not his creation. This new flower, this new discovery represents a new way to be explored in hybridizing. Without this kind of hybridizing, he gets into sameness and will be erased by bigger competitors.


One said that orchidophilia a soft manifestation of madness. Have you done any "orchidophilic" insanity?

Well, as I blundered too frequently into the suspended open-work baskets, I decided to wear my motorcycle crash-helmet
Now, when I have to pass through the corridor looking for a lost orchid, I wear it. I wander what people outside think when they see me wearing it. However I recognize that I do a true orchidophilic insanity when every end of the month, I can't equilibrate my accounts due to the expenses I have done buying orchids. Every month I swear I will not buy any thing but once again, I finish for buying something.This is to me a kind of madness, an addict, without talking about the cost of the upkeep of the greenhouse. The beautiful flowers recompense all troubles, the postponed car repair or the travel I couldn't do. In fact, more and more, I don't want to travel because I don't want to lose the blooming of none of my orchids.


Photos: Carlos Keller

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