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Thread: starting a Cypripedium garden this spring.

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    Your one and only pest! Ant's Avatar
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    starting a Cypripedium garden this spring.

    I have been trying to get my mom to plant interesting and native plants from our area in her garden. Mostly I received a plain no from her but, I have received a yes about a queens lady slipper. I have read the basic care for them on a few places. I live in South eastern Massachusetts. I have heard these plants were quite common when my mom was young but, I have never seen a single one in person. The only wild plant I know of is in my cousin's aunts house that lives in central New Hampshire and I rarely visit them. I am hoping you might be of help choosing a good soil mix and spot in my yard that would be most likely to hold long term success. I have a spot in my back yard that is shaded by a few large maples and is moist and cool to the touch. The spot is on the north side of my yard and gets only a few hours of direct early morning sun then is shaded by the trees the rest of the day. The area is also raised about 6 inches from the rest of the yard. I believe this may be the best spot though I have no idea if the soil in neutral or not. I believe my soil is already naturally acidic in nature and any mix I plant will also become acidic over time due to the rain. Would this spot be good or should I look for a different spot and should I use the soil there replace the area where the Cypripedium will be planted?

    I also have another question. Is Cypripedium reginae the only species that is native and if not what species also live here? I would like to get a few species planted if so.

    edit: I meant to say "this coming spring" not "this spring" in the title.

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    Tony Paroubek's Avatar
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    The place to go is...

    http://www.vtladyslipper.com/index.html

    If you go to the sales list and click on each species it will have details on culture requirements, hardiness zones etc
    Is that a Nepenthes in your pocket or you just happy to see me?

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    lambdlth's Avatar
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    I used to grow many cyps in northern Minnesota, USDA zone 4. I'm guessing you are zone 5 (?) You can amend existing soil with sand, perlite, peat, but it is probably easier to create a mini-bog which will give you good control over your conditions. This was copied from another web site, but is exactly how I used to grow mine. You can make your bog larger, but smaller is not recommended as it becomes more difficult to maintain moisture levels. These plants like moist conditions, not overly wet.

    "Most will grow in 1/2 sand 1/2 peat moss mix. If you don't have the right soil, you can build an artificial bog. Dig a hole 2’ x 2’ (or larger) x 12” deep. Using 2” x 6” cedar, build two 2’ x 2’ square frames. Line one frame with heavy plastic and drop it in the hole. Fill with clean sand (silica is best). Drop the other 2’ x 2’ frame on top of the first one and fill it with the potting medium described earlier. This will act like a bog, providing a constant source of moisture to the roots even during a drought. Keep the area free of competing weeds."

    There are a variety of orchids that will grow in these conditions. Here is a brief and far from complete list: Calopogon tuberosus (Grass pink), Calypso bulbosa (I have found this plant impossible to grow, but sometimes it is available in the trade), Cypripedium acaule (again, has been challenging. They like somewhat different conditions), Cypripedium arietinum (ram's head), Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens (easy), Orchis spectabilis (easy), Cypripedium reginae, and members of the platanthera group. This names a few, there are many others, although not likely available in the horticultural trade. Depending on your zone, you may even be able to pull off Cypripedium guttatum (2-4) from Alaska, which is becoming more available every year.

    Hope this helps. They are breath taking when they flower and worth the extra time and effort.

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    Your one and only pest! Ant's Avatar
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    That bog sounds perfect. Should I make the actual bog before or after winter? Also, yes I am in zone 5.

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    I have always wanted to try to grow cyps too!
    never did much research on it, so I will be watching this thread with interest!

    just be aware its illegal to collect Cypripedium from the wild in many places..

    here is some info for Mass:
    http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/2712/

    getting them from a nursery, just like CP's, is really the way to go..

    Scot

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    Your one and only pest! Ant's Avatar
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    I sent an email to a guy that grow them in labs. If he responds I might be getting seedlings that wont bloom for 2-4 years because they are just so cheep and the site was extremely informative. I gonna see if my dad will let me make the bog, he has a problem with digging even if he doesn't have to do any of it.

    I made a mistake. I am in zone 6a, not 5b. lol, its to hard to look at those maps online for my state.

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    lambdlth's Avatar
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    From experience, I would make the bog before winter and let it settle. These plants, much like carnivores don't like their roots disturbed. What I learned the hard way, is the soil settles and you find your plants one, two or three inches below the wood liner of your bog. This is an esthetic thing and will not affect the plants. If the soil settles you can just add the appropriate amount in spring to get it to the rim of the box and then install your plants. It is better to get this out of the way so you don't have to dig up the plants and add more soil if the appearance bothers you, weakening and setting back the plant for another season.

    The plants I listed above are all mentioned in Wild Orchids Across America and were specifically mentioned for your state. While I'm certain Mass. has more than one zone, try a plant and make sure it over winters in your climate. You will notice, most of these plants are listed Zone 3-5. But I know they have an amazing range and zone 6 might not be out of the question.

    One other thing, you might want to invest in a blooming size plant at first (if you shop around, the prices have really come down). The main reason I say this is they are stronger and tend to establish better, and they are "less" likely to be predated. Slugs love the seedlings and can wipe out a colony overnight. Also, be aware of squirrels for the first year, they love to dig them up.

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    herenorthere's Avatar
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    I've never ordered from it, but Spangle Creek Labs - http://www.spanglecreeklabs.com/ - has the lowest prices (for very small plants). Reputable sellers charge big prices for big plants, even if the prices aren't as shocking as they were a few years ago. The various yellow ladyslippers are generally considered the easiest in our region, but I had no luck with them. I used to have Cyp acaules in broad, shallow pots, but squirrels uprooted them late one fall and they never recovered. I have a pot of Platanthera ciliaris and it has been a much more durable & reliable plant.
    Bruce in CT

    Madness is something rare in individuals — but in groups, parties, peoples, ages it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

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