Growing Lady Slipper Orchids in Western Canadian Gardens
The distinctive flowers of Cypripedium and other Lady Slipper Orchids are marked by the inflated slipper or shoe-shaped lip. The name Cypripedium is derived from Kypris, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, the Latin word pedis meaning “foot” the Greek word pedilon meaning “slipper”. There are about 58 species worldwide; 13 in North America.
Cypripedium have had a long-standing reputation for being fussy, if not impossible, to cultivate. The first Cypripedium was described in the mid 1500s so we are talking a long time. It has only been in the last thirty years that the secrets of germination and techniques for cultivation have evolved to the point that these plants could be offered commercially. With close to 200 and (increasing) hybrids, now is the best time to get growing. Three clones have been trademarked and still more are to come. Species from China, Europe and North America have been hybridized to give the adventurous gardener endless options of different colors, shapes and sizes. Growers can even extend their flowering season by growing late flowering species like kentuckiense, reginae, and the hybrids that they produce.
Award winning horticulturalist, author and lecturer Shawn Hillis’ nursery, Garden Slippers, is the most awarded temperate orchid nursery in North America. Replicating and emulating habitat is key to growing orchids. Whether recreating a rain forest in the kitchen or building a montane scree slope in the backyard, it’s all about creating the proper habitat and a sustainable ecosystem for the flora to flourish.