Native orchids can be tricky. I’ve failed and failed again with several. The reasons sometimes confound me. I’ve studied and attempted to duplicate their native habitat, that is, except for the mysteries of their desired soil content which are occasionally difficult to match.
While non-native Bletillas (above) require no more than the willingness to make the initial investment that quickly multiplies to become a splendid value, pink lady slippers (Cypripedium acaule, below) have proven to be the easiest of the natives. Again, the price is steep, but the reward is considerable when planted in bright shade. Next, I must plants several yellow flowered lady slippers to replace a few that were damaged in too much sun and too little moisture a year ago.
Both yellow and pink lady slippers are occasionally seen along mountain trails in the area, and with premium prices, it is disappointing that pilfering of natives is common. Despite the cost, I am quite pleased to increase my collection annually through specialty suppliers.
I am highly distressed that the stem of a treasured yellow fringed orchid (Platanthera ciliaris, below) was severed earlier this spring, likely by one of the dastardly rabbits that seem to be multiplying (like rabbits) in recent years. A year ago this was a highlight of the summer, but now it seems unlikely it will come back next year. I’ve hunted, without luck so far, for sources to plant others, and when I find them there’s no doubt I’ll plant more than a few of this long flowering orchid.
The least showy of the native orchids is the questionably named Showy orchid (Galearis spectabilis, below), that also seems a cinch to grow. This is another orchid found scattered along local mountain trails along with Putty Root (Aplectrum hyemale), Cranefly (Tipularia discolor) and Downy Rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens) orchids (all shown below). While the flowers of this group of native orchids are small, my wife and I are pleased to find them along the trail, but happier when they flower in the garden.