It is always exciting when a plant in my collection blooms for the first time, especially so when the plant is an orchid. I find that I am often surprised by the size of a new flower. Orchid books and websites usually include closeup photos with very few indicators of scale, so I often imagine the plant much larger or smaller than it actually is. This week, a hardy terrestrial orchid is blooming for the fist time in the garden, and I find that once again, I had somehow developed a mental image at odds with its real size.
The Kew checklist gives Calanthe striata as the accepted name for this species, but for now, I’ll stick with the name that is more commonly used in horticulture.
Like many plants from Japan and adjacent regions of China and Korea, C. sieboldii does very well in our climate. I planted it under a dogwood tree last summer, so it gets full sun now but will be shaded when the canopy fills in over the next few weeks . Before planting, I amended the native clay with permatill, a little peat, and rotted wood chips left over from the last time we had some trees cut down.
None of the calamities that I feared came to pass, and the buds on my plant opened this week. The flowers, yellow with a hint of green, aren’t as intensely colored as the yellow daffodils, but they are nevertheless very pretty. They’re significantly larger than I expected for a hardy Calanthe. I had only seen the diminutive Calanthe discolor in bloom previously, and this plant is larger in all aspects. Incidentally, the hybrid of C. sieboldii and C. discolor, Calanthe Takane, is in bud a few feet away and may be the subject of a blog post next week.
You might be able to get a better idea of the flowers’ size with the gardener’s fingers in the frame to give a sense of scale. It will also give you a better look at the interior of the nodding flower. The column looks something like a bird’s head with two beady brown eyes.