January 2014 - Dan Newman

Dan NewmanDan NewmanWe are pleased to welcome Dan Newman of Hanging Gardens, Pacifica, CA, who will be speaking to us on ‘Dendrobiums: Jewels of Gondwana’. The genus Dendrobium is one of the largest and most complex orchid genera of Asia, Australia, and the Pacific, encompassing a great number of horticultural gems among its 1000-plus species.  People often ask how to grow Dendrobiums.  There is no simple answer for such a diverse group of plants, occurring in habitats ranging from the monsoonal foothills of the high Himalayas to the perpetually cool alpine grasslands and steamy lowland swamps of equatorial New Guinea, and from the tropical forests of remote Pacific islands to the temperate, seasonal regions of southern Australia.  Dan’s talk will focus on several popular sections of the genus, starting in the Himalayas and Southeast Asia and working southward to New Guinea and the Pacific, with photos of representative species and discussion of their culture in the context of the habitats where they originate.  The goal of this presentation is to encourage interest in these fascinating orchids and provide useful information about their cultivation.  Dan will be providing the plant opportunity table and also will be giving a talk on ‘Minature Orchids’ to the San Diego Society on Tuesday, January 7 at 7:00 pm should you desire to take in both of his talks.  

Dan first got interested in orchids as a teenager, following a visit to the greenhouse at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Southern California, where he grew up.  After reading an article in Sunset magazine and devouring the few orchid books available at the local public library, he mustered the resources to order three species orchid plants from Orchids by Hausermann in Illinois: Brassavola cucullata, Brassia gireoudiana, and Paphiopedilum venustum, whose exotic shapes and markings in one of the books' illustrations had captivated him.  Unfortunately, conditions in his childhood bedroom were not ideal (there may also have been issues with consistency of care), and those early subjects soon made the ultimate sacrifice, providing an early lesson in how not to grow orchids.

On a vacation to Hawaii some twelve years later, in 1982, Dan bought a tiny Dendrobium hybrid seedling at a lei stand in the Honolulu Airport.  The bright San Francisco apartment where he was living by then turned out to be a much better environment for orchids, and when the little Dendrobium grew into an impressive blooming specimen, he was hooked!  By 1996 he had 350 orchids in the same one-bedroom apartment.  That year he moved his plants to a rented commercial greenhouse in San Francisco.  He acquired the large species collection of his friend and orchid mentor, Walter Teague, and his hobby evolved into his nursery, Hanging Gardens.  Dan started growing orchids full-time in 2000, and moved to a larger greenhouse in Pacifica, on the coast a few miles south of San Francisco, a few years later.  He currently has 12,000 to 15,000 plants, mostly cool to intermediate growers (true warm growers are difficult in the cool coastal climate, but he tries to push the envelope as far as it will go!).  His collection includes a few hybrids but is mostly made up of species, his first love.

Dan joined the San Francisco Orchid Society in 1987, and served as its president in 1996/97.  In recent years, he has spoken on a variety of topics to horticultural groups in California and elsewhere.

Wed, 01/08/2014 - 6:30pm - 9:30pm