Rare plants at upcoming auction

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tropical Fern and Exotic Plant Society’s annual auction on Monday, Oct. 22, at Fairchild will feature some rare plants that you may want to add to your collection.

Angiopteris smithii, a rare fern.

Dr. Jeff Block, a horticulturist par excellence, is donating some fine plants, including Angiopteris smithii. This large and rare fern from Borneo and Sumatra has leaves that tend to resemble cycads in the genus Ceratozamia. When I asked how he grows it, Dr. Block said the key to successfully growing Angiopteris ferns is to keep them from being root-bound in pots, and never let them totally dry out. They like an open, porous mix. He has planted A. smithii in the grounds of his home landscape, called Block Botanical Garden, and says he dug a bigger and deeper hole than normal and used a porous mix. “It likes the winters,” he said. “As the temperature cools, it results in larger leaves.”

Just last month, Dr. Block won best in show in the non-commercial category at the World Bromeliad

Vriesea fosteriana 'Red Chestnut'
took first place at World Brom-
eliad Conference.

Conference in Orlando with a tessellated Vriesia fosteriana ‘Red Chestnut.’ He is donating a similar bromeliad to the TFEPS auction, but one with more red in it than his champion plant. He grows his bromeliads in lava rock.

He also will give the society a Begonia Dr. Block,’ which is a Rex begonia with a chartreuse background and black mottling on the leaves. Tim Anderson at Palm Hammock Orchid Estate in South Miami created it.

For all of his plants, Dr. Block uses a reverse osmosis watering system with a small amount of liquid fertilizer. “Water makes a huge difference,’’ he said.

Bob Pope, retired Miami Dade College biology professor, attended the openind of the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore and has donated official stamps depicting the enormous botanical wonder.

Reggie Whitehead, founder of the group, and Marnie Valent, president, estimate that about 100 plants will be available.

The auction will begin at 7 p.m. in the Garden House. But arrive early to get auction paddles and preview the plants.