Dendrobium Gatton Sunray

Week 60: May 24, 2021

Dendrobium Gatton Sunray

(Den. pulchellum x Den. Illustre)

New candidate for this week is Dendrobium Gatton Sunray (Den. puchellum x Den. Illustre (chrysotoxum x puchellum)

This special cross is a hybrid originated by Sir Jeremy Colman and introduced to the RHS in 1919. This plant has a very commanding presence and after all these years is still a stunning plant to behold when in flower. It was first awarded in 1936 by the AOS and then awarded 8 more times. This cross was never mericloned. The grower has had this plant for some time and thinks it could be a division of the original awarded plant, however there is no clonal name on the tag. There was an CCM/AOS award given to Wilford Neptune in 2000 in the Northeast Judging Center which had the clonal name of 'FCC/RHS' and a CCM/AOS award in 1995 at National Capital Judging Center to another grower for a plant with that same clonal name again. There have certainly been divisions of this plant circulating in this region.

Previous Awards:

There are 9 AOS awards for this cross since 1936 - 1 FCC, 2 AMs and 6 CCMs. The most recent award was an AM/AOS 81 pts in May 2013.


This candidate has 79 flowers on 7 inflorescences measuring up to 25 cm. In addition, there are 10 unopened buds on an eighth inflorescence. The plant has 11 canes and is growing in a ten inch clay pot.

Substance - firm

Texture - semi-waxy

Flower Measurements:

NS H - 10.0 cm; NS V - 8.5 cm;

Dorsal Sep. W - 2.3 cm; Dorsal Sep. L - 4.2 cm;

Petal W - 3.9 cm; Petals L - 5.3 cm;

Lat/Sepal W - 2.2 cm; Lat/Sepal L - 4.5 cm;

Lip/Pouch W - 4.3 cm; Lip/Pouch L - 5.0 cm.

Judges' Comments

Kristen Mason (Accredited Judge, Cincinnati Judging Center)

Nice even color on the sepals and petals. Lip is beautiful. Reasonable size. Needs more fullness in the base of the petals. Dorsal sepal cupped. Slightly crowded display. Very nice pot plant. I would pass on a quality award. While nicely grown and flowered, needs more flowers and better overall display for a cultural award.

Al Messina (Accredited Judge, Northeast Judging Center)

Seventy nine relatively large flowers and ten buds presented on eight staked erect canes holding eight pendent inflorescences growing on a "special cross" plant, likely a division of an old cross registered by prior RHS Chair multibillionaire mustard magnate Sir Jeremy Coleman. While this candidate is light on the number of flowers presently, flower characteristics could qualify for a lower flower award, HCC/marginal AM. Flower count per inflorescence is close to par.

Note: It seems that all awarded plants for which photos are available were displayed staked erect, which might be/have been convenient for the growers but not for the plant, a Dendrobium ,whose very name means 'lives in trees' (dentro=tree, bios=live). For anyone with the space available, this would be the plant to be grown on a strong mount, placed high in the greenhouse and allowed to grow naturally. The results might be astounding. Just my opinion.

Ginna Plude (Associate Judge, Northeast Judging Center)

The plant is well grown and the sunny yellow flowers put on a nice display. The flowers in form, size and count per inflorescence seem to be fairly consistent with the recent examples in the award record. In a couple of the photos thought it appears that some of the flowers or possible a whole inflorescence appears to be passing. Another downside to trying to judge via photos unfortunately. If all the inflorescences were fresh I might consider nominating it for a lower point culture award, but if the flowers are indeed passing that would take it out of consideration for me.

Roy Tokunaga (Emeritus Judge, Hawaii Judging Center)

Den. Gatton Sunray is perfect. Has never been duplicated or surpassed since its creation. I tried making Ilustre several times and failed.

The flowers are good. It has always been a show stopper. High merit score is because the hybrid is showing the best from both parents. The size from pulchellum and color from chrysotoxum. I normally give size and flower count 20 points each. I steal the points from other categories.

Take care,


Deb Boersma (Student Judge, Great Lakes Judging Center)

Dendrobium Gatton Sunray

What a beautiful, well grown plant with 79 flowers, really makes an impact. I like the vibrant yellow colour of this flower with the contrasting burgundy spot on the lip. The lip has a band of darker yellow and really adds to the contrast of the burgundy spot. The lip has a nice hirsute margin. The colour appears to be much more vibrant and saturated than the AM awarded ‘Jardin Botanical De Montreal’ cultivar. This might just be the result of the photography. In terms of the form, the flowers are somewhat cupped but no more than the AM awarded plant. Some of flower segments are slightly smaller and some slightly larger than the AM awarded cultivar. Flowers of the CCM plants are somewhat smaller, likely due to the large number of flowers present. It is less floriferous than the ‘Jardin Botanical De Montreal’ cultivar. Flowers are not arranged fully around the plant but do make a nice presentation.

I would nominate this plant for a quality award. I think what it lacks in floriferousness and size is made up by the vibrant colour. I would score at a mid HCC 77-78, an AM if it had more flowers and flowers were slightly bigger.

In terms of a cultural awards, I don’t believe that it is floriferous enough to qualify.


Sergey Skoropad (Associate Judge, Northeast Judging Center)

Dendrobium Gatton Sunray (Den. puchellum x Den. Illustre).

Very lovely flowers, well grown Dendrobium, very healthy plant. Surprisingly, after one hundred years this cross still looking great, never been mericloned (as many experts noted).

I found that flowers of current candidate well shaped, with great vibrant colors (especially lip). Size of the flowers is larger than most of the awarded flowers (except the last award). Number of flowers per inflorescence is just right.

I would nominate for flower quality award and score high HCC. Scoring could be few points less or higher if I see flowers and plant in person, but flowers are definitely awardable.

Regarding cultural award I would pass, I believe the plant needs more flowers (even compare to the current size of the plant). Although I love natural cascading arrangements of the flowers, I think distribution of the flowers could be better (more evenly around the plant).

Kudos to the grower, great job.

Can’t wait to see this plant next year in person.



Deborah Bodei (Associate Judge, Northeast Judging Center)

Dendrobium Gatton Sunray (Den. pulchellum x Den. Illustre (chrysotoxum x pulchellum)


Seeing this cross is always uplifting. It is the most awarded cross for both chrysotoxum and pulchellum and easy to see why. Those big waxy blooms do look like pure sunshine. This plant is well grown so kudos to the grower.

The form, color and even size of the blooms is good but strongly suspecting that this plant is indeed a division of the original awarded FCC/RHS, it does leave a dilemma when trying to figure out if this bloom is an improvement over the first awarded. There are no official photos available for comparison.

When considering a cultural award, it has the right number of flowers per stem. It looks well flowered when we take into account it is a smaller division compared to the previously awarded of the ‘FCC/RHS’ clonal name. I may have considered a nomination, but it looks like the upper portion of a number of growths were folded down unnaturally (perhaps for the photo?) and some of the leaves look like they are beginning to wilt. This has an impact on the overall appearance of the plant and deducts from the largest group of points when considering this award. There are weeds in the pot as well that should have been removed prior to exhibiting the plant.


Based on the observations above I would have to pass on a nomination on this flowering, but potential remains for a cultural award in the future if staked and groomed for better presentation.

Thank you,


Exhibitor - Faye Arnett, NJ

Virtual Award Description

Seventy-nine relatively large flowers and 10 buds on eight pendent inflorescences up to 25cm from 11 mature canes total, flowers golden yellow, sepals elliptical, slightly cupped, petals ovate, lip heavily canescent distally, dark red-maroon lateral blotches, veined red-maroon centrally, substance firm, texture semi-waxy.

Grower's Advice

I have had the plant 12 to 15 years and have divided it once. It grows well in tree fern. One advantage of the tree fern medium is that repotting is infrequent. I have always let the plant become pot bound before repotting. In summer the plant lives hanging under a big Japanese cherry and in winter it is in the community greenhouse. I water frequently in warm weather and reduce watering in cold weather to once every 2 weeks or so. Fertilizer is withheld from early November until early March.