Native and not

The garden’s native orchids have been slow to emerge through piles of leaves, though the yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum) is now flowering. Barbara and I have enjoyed abundant pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule, below) hiking along mountain trails in recent weeks, so the delayed display in the garden is a bonus.

Pink ladys’ slipper along a nearby mountain trail

Non-native Calanthe orchids (below) have faded from bloom. I plan to dig and divide a long established clump that I fear will soon be overwhelmed by vigorous clumps of toad lilies (Trycirtis) and seedlings of Verbena bonariensis. Another clump, struggling a bit in damp soil, was split into two and transplanted a year ago into drier ground where both divisions have doubled in size in a year.

Beltilla orchids (also non-native, below) grow to form dense clumps scattered through the garden. I am somewhat thrifty as a gardener, willing to purchase many plants, but hesitant to spend much for any. Somehow, I became convinced to make an initial orchid purchase, with the expense now feeling like a bargain with dozens moved around the garden and others dug and passed along to our sons.

Bletilla striata

Flowers of native Showy orchids (Galearis spectablilis, below) are small, but the colors catch the eye on the trail and in the garden. In deep shade, the showy orchids have been slow to rise through the leaves, so while we’ve seen wild ones flowering for weeks, they’ve just begun in the garden.

With difficulty duplicating the soil demands of native orchids, it’s fortunate that small groups have survived. Bletillas and calanthes are as easy as any plant in the garden, but lady’s slippers, Putty Root (Aplectrum hyemale, below), and cranefly orchids (Tipularia discolor) slowly fade and perish if the soil is lacking. A vigorous patch of craneflies along a nearby stream alerted me that they might flourish in slightly damper ground, so if I can keep the squirrels from digging them up, there might be a few to move.

Putty Root orchid flowering

While native Rattlesnake plantains (Goodyear pubescens, above) will flower in summer, I’m uncertain what’s happening with yellow fringed orchids (Platanthera ciliaris, below). Several flowered dependably until our resident rabbits snapped each off just before blooming a few years ago. I expected the orchids would return, but they did not, and subsequent plantings have been plagued by my inattention and cold weather. I think a few have survived, and hopefully they’ll flower this year.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. lookingforthegulch says:

    Hi Dave, I’ve been reading and (very much enjoying!) your blog for quite a long time, and I have forwarded it on to many other gardening-addicted friends. While I am from this area (MD) we are soon moving to the FL panhandle. I have done preliminary research on it and it appears to be either zone 8b or 9a. (Freeport, FL). The ‘soil’ appears to be totally sand to me, which is bizarre after living with MD clay my whole life. All new construction homes routinely have built in sprinkler systems at least. Do you have any tips, recommendations, ideas, etc. for me to start my planting down there (aside from amending the ‘soil’ with whatever I can find at local nurseries down there)? I am especially interested in all things scented and flowering. Thankfully our house backs up to a tree save area so I will have some shade areas as well. Thanks in advance for anything you can share in response, Gail

    1. Dave says:

      I was just talking with someone about gardenias. Recent introductions that have increased cold tolerance have failed to survive in my garden, though I’ll probably give them a third try. Evergreen with outstanding fragrance, can’t beat it, but there are many others including Osmanthus fragrans if you need a larger, fragrant evergreen. Edgeworthia is marginally cold hardy here, but should be available down there.

      1. lookingforthegulch says:

        Excellent! Thanks so much for that! Yes, I LOVE Gardenias (and admit to trying them at least three times in my MD garden – even succeeding through one winter with one of them!) and definitely hope to grow them down there. I will try to find your other suggestions too. Thank you very much!

  2. tonytomeo says:

    Bletilla striata got a bad reputation for being invasive. I have not seen much of it in many years. I do not remember that it was ever a bother. In fact, it did not survive relocation to the garden here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s