Chicago Botanic Garden

What's in Bloom

What's in Bloom — Highlight 12.21.12

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Timothy Christopher moth orchid (Phalaenopsis 'Timothy Christopher') is arranged in the small hanging balls in the Tropical Greenhouse.

Timothy Christopher moth orchid (Phalaenopsis 'Timothy Christopher') produces multiple spikes throughout the winter, each carrying dozens of yellow-lipped white flowers. This flowering characteristic is described as "floribunda type" by orchid growers. 'Timothy Christopher' has been used extensively in breeding work to create moth orchids with a large number of flowers that open simultaneously.

Moth orchids are among the easiest orchids to adapt to growing conditions found within Chicago-area homes. The large white flowers are a remarkably accurate mimic of a large white female moth native to southeastern Asia. Almost all orchid flowers depend upon insects to pollinate their flowers, and that is the reason this plant family has so many unusual and distinctive flower petal shapes, sizes, and coloration patterns.

Grow moth orchids in a well-lit room with the pot resting on a bed of gravel to hold water, increasing the humidity immediately around the plant. Repot the plant immediately after flowering is completed (in late winter to early spring) using a very well-drained soil mix composed primarily of bark, volcanic pumice, and charcoal.


Barbara Karst bougainvillea (Bougainvillea x buttiana 'Barbara Karst') is a strong, upright-growing, woody tropical vine that features masses of pink bracts tinted with apricot and red whenever the soil is relatively dry. This plant can be kept in a container for years, rotating indoors during the winter months into a bright lighted window for continuing bloom.

Barbara Karst bougainvillea (Bougainvillea x buttiana 'Barbara Karst') is growing in the Temperate Greenhouse, south section, against the wall.


Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Von Martin' is a dwarf form of the giant redwoods of California. About 6 to 7 feet tall, our specimens display a perfect pyramidal growth habit — no pruning is necessary! Excellent lateral branching creates a dense green canopy without the necessity of shearing or pruning.

Surprisingly, a small specimen of giant redwood has survived several winters in the Model Railroad Garden. Could this species be hardier than suspected?

Von Martin dwarf giant redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Von Martin') can be found in Nichols Hall behind the bungalows in Wonderland Express.


Forever Midi Red™ kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana 'Aroi') is covered in deep red blooms that do not fade throughout the winter season. A native of drier regions of southern Africa, this plant is well adapted to the low humidity found in most homes during the winter. If provided with bright light, this species has been known to be a very long-lived container plant.

Forever Midi Red™ kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana 'Aroi') can be found throughout Wonderland Express.


During the winter months, Charity Oregon grape holly (Mahonia x media 'Charity') produces an explosion of sprays of golden-yellow flowers at the tip of each compound stem of blue-green, pinnate leaves. Its bluish-purple berries are very attractive in fall, and a favorite of birds. Unfortunately, it is not hardy enough to be grown outdoors in the Chicago region.

Charity Oregon grape holly (Mahonia x media 'Charity') is in the Temperate Greenhouse.