Plant Preview

Welcome to Plant Preview, a blog dedicated to helping gardeners learn about gardening techniques and preview new plant cultivars. Read about new plants here first and hear how your "comrades in compost" are making use of new plant introductions in their gardens and landscapes. Blog author Geri Laufer is a life-long dirt gardener, degreed horticulturist, author and former County Extension Agent. Plant Preview is copyrighted by Geri Laufer.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

White Terrestrial Orchids now blooming in my garden!

   A gaggle of white terrestrial orchids are blooming on both sides of the path in my shady garden. My friend Mary couldn't believe they 1. grew in the ground, 2. liked rain, and 3. stayed outside all winter, and she had to be convinced. I brought her a pseudobulb and planted it in a raised bed in her garden amongst her Lilies-of-the-Valley. Perhaps they will aspire to become more like the orchid.
   I cut off the flowering stem and put it in a bud vase for her to enjoy, thus allowing the products of photosynthesis to be used to form roots rather than seeds and so grow into a strong plant. I realy like the pleated leaves which are about the same height as the flower stems.
   Bletilla striata 'Alba' flowers last quite a while, at least 4 weeks, and the graceful seed pods resemble a gooseneck-- or maybe a swan's graceful curve?-- lasting until next year's flowers.
   I ran across these orchid plants quite unexpectedly at a Big Box store, on a rolling rack pushed in the back by the bags of Nature's Helper, away from the other perennials. Who would have thought? I bought them all. They have been in the ground four years now and have multiplied quite nicely, spreading into drifts. I planted them high, and mulched with leaf litter and compost, but after that I have done nothing else. They're quite easy to look after, at least in Atlanta's Zone 7 climate.
I've got them planted beneath a couple of Pin Oaks, where the soil gets pretty dry. They gets slanting sunshine early in the morning but otherwise are shaded. They're not native, though; you can tell because they're sometimes called China Orchids or Hyacinth Orchids. Normally they do come in an orchid (purple) color, but these are the white form, and I love them! I hear there's a white-flowered, white-variegated- leaf form, but I've only seen it in photos and never for sale.
   My friend Adam of Terrestrial Landscape & Design is installing a whole garden of many types of terrestrial orchids for a client. Doesn't that sound dreamy? Do you grow any orchids in your garden?

   BTW, the vine climbing up the oak trunk is Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight'. It has reached the same level as the second floor windows.

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