Looking particularly good this week is one of the Southeast US (NC to Texas) native water orchids, Habenaria repens. This gem flowers through most of the growing season, and hasn’t slowed down as we enter November. Water spider orchid can grow both as a marginal or as a true aquatic. Our plant is growing in one of our crevice garden seeps. We’re working to get this really cool native propagated and available in the future.
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.
Our oldest clumps of the hardy orchid, Bletilla striata are just amazing…once we learned that these aren’t shade plants. These are under a tall pine and get 1-2 hours of sun.
The first hardy orchid to flower for us each late winter/early spring is the amazing Cymbidium goeringii ‘Early Riser’. The foliage looks similar to a liriope, until it’s topped with the fascinating flowers. This species is quite easy to grow in average to fairly dry shade.
It was a real thrill last week to visit a population of Cypripedium kentuckiense (Kentucky Ladyslipper Orchid) in Texas with native plant guru, Adam Black. Adam has made numerous trips to this and other nearby sites, carefully pollinating the orchids to ensure seed set and enhance reproduction. While we’ve offered this species as seed-grown plants (8 years from seed to flower) for years, this was my first chance to actually study them in the wild. Cypripedium kentuckiense is one of the easiest ladyslipper orchids to cultivate, thriving in a wide variety of woodland conditions. Here, they were growing just above a seasonally flooded stream in very sandy soils.
It’s hard to believe that spring open nursery and garden days is almost here. Spring is always a busy time of year and our nursery and garden staff have been working tirelessly making sure the gardens are in prime condition and our sales houses are brimming with beautiful plants.
Take advantage of shopping our sales houses for many unique and rare perennials, many exclusively available at Plant Delights Nursery. We are offering nearly 20 varieties of Baptisia this year, more than you will find at most garden centers. Many are from our own breeding program at Juniper Level Botanic Garden and include two 2019 introductions you will find no where else.
The hardy orchids also look amazing this year, with seven different bletilla and over 30 varieties of ladyslippers and calanthe available, you are sure to find one for that special spot in your garden.
As part of our Gardening Unplugged chat series, our nursery manager, Meghan Fidler, will be discussing hardy orchids in the garden and how you can be successful growing them in your garden.
The pitcher plants are blooming and our hosta house is bursting with color that will brighten any shady nook. Be sure to mark your calendars and join Tony Saturday, May 4 as he explores the fascinating world of our native pitcher plants, and come back the following weekend as Tony showcases hostas in the garden and our hosta breeding program at JLBG.
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!
Cypripedium, Lady Slipper Orchids, is a genus of woodland garden plants that are among the most desired of all native hardy orchids for sale, despite their often finicky requirements.
Plant Delights Nursery is excited about our bare root shipment of responsibly grown, flowering size, cypripedium orchids we received yesterday. These plants are nursery propagated and not collected from the wild.
Fall is the best time for planting your hardy lady slipper orchid. Beds should be well-prepared and amended with compost unless you naturally have rich, organic soil. Dig a shallow but wide crater, spread the roots out flat (with eyes pointed upward), cover them with 1″ of soil, and water in well.
You should avoid planting your lady slipper orchid near aggressive groundcovers (such as ivy, vinca or Japanese pachysandra) or near the base of trees or large shrubs due to root competition. Check out this article on Cypripediums for more in depth information.
Other varieties of Cypripedium we just got in for sale include C. kentuckiense, Hank Small, Michael, and Philipp. All plants have been potted to keep the roots from drying out and for shipping, but the mix can easily be removed for fall planting and incorporated into the planting site.
I remember when I discovered we could actually grow ladyslipper orchids in the garden, despite so many stories of them being impossible to cultivate. The reality is that one ladyslipper, Cypripedium acaule is tough to move. Otherwise, they’re easy. I just took this photo of our clump of Cypripedium ‘Hank Small’…32 flowers this year! I hope you will give these a try in your light shade garden. A slightly moist soil is best, although this one is grown much too dry under a giant pine tree.