Not only are bletillas one of the easiest ground orchids to grow in the garden or in containers, they are also one of the few that are easy to grow from seed. We’ve been growing seedlings for the last decade and having discarded several thousand plants (hint…they are all nice), we’ve narrowed them down to our final few selections, a few of which are pictured below. In addition to the differences in flower color, flower size, ploidy level, there are dramatic differences in flowering season and height.
Below is a Peter Zale hybrid, Bletilla ‘Candles in the Wind’, which Plant Delights will be introducing in spring. The floriferousness and height are the first two things you notice…there just aren’t many 4′ tall bletillas. In the eight years we’ve trial this, it has spread from a small plant to form a 6′ wide patch. This is a truly astonishing selection.
We field quite a few calls each year from folks who think they’ve just found the next million dollar plant and want to know how to monetize their discovery. Sadly, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Take our latest discovery above…a nearly albino form of the hardy orchid, Bletilla striata that popped up here in our propagation department.
Despite it looking amazing, does it really have value?
Since it is a near albino, growth will be very slow due to a lack of chlorophyll, so that rules it out immediately for quantity production.
Will the next division also be equally as variegated or will it go back to green? The answer is…we don’t know.
The question then becomes how many people would purchase it, knowing it’s going to be difficult to grow and it may never multiply or could revert to green?
In cases like this, a venue like EBay could be the best opportunity to match it with someone willing to take a chance. Each plant is different…so what do you think we should do with this one-of-a-kind?
I was looking at our patch of Bletilla ‘Brigantes’…a hardy orchid hybrid between Bletilla striata and Bletilla ochracea and wondering what its offspring would look like. I recalled that the late plantsman Don Jacobs grew bletillas from seed in his window sill, so I figured we’d give it a try. If you’ve never handled orchid seed, it’s a bit like handling tiny dust particles. We harvested the seed before the pods cracked open and sowed them like we do our fern spores, and sealed them in a ziploc bag. Sure enough, they germinated, and two years later actually flowered. These are a sampling of the amazing variation from the 200 seedlings we potted. We’ll select a good representative sample of the variation including any unique individuals and plant them out in trial beds and watch how they develop. How exciting!