Wednesday, May 23, 2012


     My philosophy of gardening can best be summed up with the phrase "mass quantities". If I like a plant, I want mass quantities of it. This year for the first time I am approaching having mass quantities of cypriprediums. For those who don't know,  cyps (as we in the know call them), are hardy orchids commonly called Lady's Slippers. I have tried and killed many cyps in my gardening career, and before I got the hang of them, they mostly amounted to incredibly expensive annuals. For those who have never bought a cyp, expect to pay 50 to 100 dollars per plant.
     Cyps are billed as shade plants, but I have found here on Bainbridge Island in the dark and gloomy climate we have that full sun generally equals shade in any other climate. So when I planted these orchids in the shadiest part of my garden they didn't thrive. It was only after I moved them to parts of the garden that got at least half a day of sun did they begin to do well.  My garden generally has very moist soil and I have added so much compost to it over the years that the soil is very good throughout the garden. I do not think cyps would do well in hot baking dry soils.  The other thing I have found about cyps is that they do not like competition from hungry tree roots.
     I only really began to have good luck with these plants when I ordered some from This is a mail order nursery which specializes in cyps. They send divisions of their garden grown plants and I have found that their plants are large and vigorous. This is in contrast to cyps which I have gotten from other nurseries which are pot grown and take much longer to establish in the garden. Also, the plants from Hillside Nursery are generally less expensive (although still not cheap) than those from other nurseries.
     Another factor in success with cyps is to grow hybrids rather than straight species. I have killed more Cypripredium reginae plants than I care to admit, yet I have had great success with cyps which are a cross between reginae and other species. The picture above is of Cyp. "Aki Pastel", a cross between c.macranthos and c. pubescens. Although I do have some straight species in the garden, they simply do not perform as well as the hybrids.
     Last year for the first time I divided a cyp and it felt like I was creating gold! I intend to do the same this coming year. The one I hope to divide has at least 9 flowering stems this year which should translate into 9 cyps when I divide it. Is that great or what!

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