Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Orchid of Perseverance

It's a good thing, I think, to be reminded where perseverance will get you. If you are a plant in my garden, it's a requirement for survival. I generally fail when it comes to planting bare-root plants that come in the mail. The people selling plants assume I know what I'm doing and mean well. I mean well when I order them. The plants sure mean well. I like to believe they want to live.

A couple Winters ago, I had some pots stored in the garage. One such frigid pot contained the scraggly bare-root of a small, fragile-looking native orchid called an Epimedium. It was in a pot with some dirt as part of the "meaning well" journey of coaxing it to sprout, the idea being then I would plant it. It did actually sprout, and I set the pot in the garden. That's my trick for figuring out where a plant wants to live, but you could also call in procrastination. I never did actually get it into the ground. I stuck the pot in the garage with the rest of them, and pretty much forgot about it.

In the Spring when I started inspecting pots to move them outdoors, something looked weedy; it had all this unkempt leggy growth from being in the dark, and I actually thought it was remnants from the previous summer. Imagine my surprise to find it was that little orchid, persistent as all hell, not only alive, but blooming in the dark of my garage. I planted it as soon as the ground was workably warm, close to the edge of the garden. The flowers are small and deserve to be seen close up. After a season of growing, and another Winter, it is blooming again. What a treat!

Epimedium rubrum

The plant is also called a Bishop's Hat Orchid because of the shape of the flower, not owing to any divine intervention in its survival success. The persistence of this little plant turned a lot of our gardening towards native woodland species. Living in zone 5, we have a fair number of options for climate. Living in solid urban deer country limits that severely. Last year they ate hostas, lupines, tulips, columbines, geraniums, and I don't remember what else. They don't generally eat woodland regulars. Epimediums are considered ground covers (less invasive and far more interesting than Lily of the Valley). I was thrilled with the idea of masses of them in the gardens.

So... we added more. About 7 more. Three different varieties total.

Here's another now blooming, yellow flowers: 

Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'
One more variety yet to bloom, a lavender-pink color bloom I think. If I find any more colors, I'm sure I can find room for them too.

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