Friday, May 28, 2010

They look so tropical. . .

My friend Sean spotted these at Stony Brook Wildlife Refuge recently.

I remember being told as a child that orchids only grew in the tropics. Nope! There are cold-climate orchids, as well, including orchids that don't grow much farther south than Alaska.

This one is pink lady's slipper, or Cypripedium acaule. I have never seen them in the wild, myself. Hopefully I'll have time to go hunting for them this weekend.

And the requisite disclaimer: do not dig these plants from the wild. They take a very long time to grow, and because they rely on particular fungi in the soil to grow, transplanting them typically kills them. They are rare in the wild in part because well-meaning gardeners who haven't done their homework dig them up and attempt to plant them in their home gardens. Gardeners who have boasted of transplant success make me suspicious: it is possible that their transplanted orchids are merely dying a slow death over several years.

If you absolutely must have lady's slippers in your garden, you can buy propagated native orchids at Garden in the Woods. Be prepared to pay a lot for them - $60 a pop, if I remember correctly. And be sure to talk to someone who works there for planting guidelines, so that you don't waste your money and a perfectly good orchid.

I'm not ready to attempt planting orchids in my bit of woods yet, because I simply don't know enough about them. Contrary to what I may portray here, I kill a lot of plants. In the mean time, I am experimenting with another hard-to-grow native: ramps, Allium tricoccum. It's a guilt-free experiment: I bought a dozen ramps that were being sold as food at Whole Foods. If they die, I'm only out a few bucks, and maybe a gourmet meal or two. But they may live: even though the leaves withered away, four of the ramps are getting ready to flower. I will be sure to do a post on them when the buds open.


dkgarber said...

I would love some in my garden! I saw them at GITW last year and almost fainted when I saw the price.

On a side note, I saw a display of "native wildflowers" at lowes the other day-all bareroot stock, 3 in each package for like 3 bucks. Garden in the Woods swears that anything sold in bulk, that cheap is pulled form the wild. I had some toad lilly in my hand, then decided I didn't want to possibly support such a business practice..

Michelle said...

Hi Dkgarber! Yup, I had the same reaction to the proces, and I have had similar moments at big box stores.

Michelle said...

Oh, haha, hi Diane! I didn't realize that was you. :D