We are just starting with the first wave of Cypripedium (ladyslipper orchids) in the garden this week. One of the earliest selections to put on a show is Cypripedium ‘Rascal’, an outstanding cross of Cypripedium kentuckiense and Cypripedium parviflorum var. parviflorum…all US natives.
Here is a clump of Calanthe ‘Takane’ in our garden in early April. This amazing and easy-to-grow terrestrial ground orchid forms a dazzling clump with age. This mass started as a single division in a 4″ pot, 17 years ago. Not only do they thrive in the ground, but in Japan, they are prized as container plants.
Calanthe ‘Takane’ is a group of hybrids between Calanthe sieboldii and Calanthes discolor, so each seedling is slightly different in flower color. The foliage remains evergreen during most winters for us, but when temperatures drop near 0 degrees F, the foliage will die back completely. Calanthes thrive best in light shade. Winter hardiness is Zone 7a-9a.
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.
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!