No doubt, through the year the gardener is swayed in picking favorites by what’s blooming at the moment, and how could he be blamed for ignoring this beauty? But, in the gray bleakness of January, his mind wanders to plants that are most favored, regardless of the season. Choosing favorites is a matter for consideration most often in winter when there are fewer distractions and hours of unoccupied time, so if I’m looking to add to a favored collection that’s not available in the garden center, the winter months are the time it’s done.
Catalogs with flower filled covers arrive regularly, not weekly as a few decades in the past, though there is also a daily assault of email offers that are more easily ignored, but many with discounts enticing me to order today. And no matter that I am distracted and overjoyed by earlier than usual blooms of snowdrops and witch hazels, I have ordered more than my typical share for spring delivery.
My latest fascination (this week) is orchids, hardy terrestrial types (Bletilla striata, above and marsh orchid, Dactylorhiza maculata, below) that are completely cold hardy in this northwestern Virginia garden. Already, there are handfuls that have spread rapidly enough that I’ve transplanted them around, and shared divisions with our gardening sons. While expensive enough to cause hesitation in making the initial purchase, there is no question today that these were a bargain.
Native to our local forests, Putty root (Aplectrum hyemale, below) and Cranefly orchids (Tipularia discolor), each with a single leaf through the winter months and flowers that are hardly conspicuous in mid spring, have begun to spread. But slowly. I doubt there will ever be enough to share, and it’s doubtful that visitors will ever notice them, in bloom or not. Still, I am quite pleased that the small groupings are surviving in this dry shade.
With encouraging successes, I now have no hesitation ordering any new cultivar that varies in color or size. And I’ve made several purchases, but also my first Lady Slipper orchids (Cypripedium) that I long considered as prohibitively expensive.
While I’m pretty certain picking areas for successful planting of terrestrial orchids (part sun, well drained soil), I must be particularly conscious to provide the right spot for the Lady Slippers. I’ve told my wife, if these are a success, watch out, there are many more to come.