There’s not a lot of point going to a rare plant fair and not coming away with something rare. The annual fair at Tregrehan garden is a form of torture for me, so many plants I would love to buy and so little room for them in my already overcrowded garden. Anything that grows big or spreads fast is ignored, though I am conscious of the danger of filling my space with lots of tiny plants that would be out of scale with the overall picture.
That still leaves a bewildering choice, narrowed further by ignoring the things I already have or that are similar to things I have, unless they are ferns or begonias, which I find harder to resist. In the end, I limited myself to eight plants, and two of them were succulents for Sue. There was a fern and a two Begonias too. One of the things I bought for me was Epipactis gigantea. Easy in moist shade and woodsy soil, just not great at competing with other plants, I was told by the seller, a man I know well and whose judgement I trust.
I don’t trust it enough not to come home and look it up in books and online for any more snippets of relevant cultural information. Growing Hardy Orchids, by John Tullock, says grow in full sun, requires bog conditions and constant moisture. pH 5-6. He also says it is native to Europe but established in the Pacific Northwest.
Wikipedia says it is native to Western North America from British Columbia to Central Mexico. It grows in wet areas including riverbanks and meadows.
The RHS say grow in part shade, such as in a woodland garden or wildflower meadow, in moist, humus rich leafy soil. From their site I also learned that it isn’t so very rare, with 17 suppliers listed.
Beth Chatto recommends a cool damp place, rich and fertile soil in shade.
I’ve always thought of the Tullock book as quite authoritative, seems it might be time to retire it and free up space for another title. I find it hard to shake off the idea that information that has been committed to the pages of a book somehow carries more weight than information on the internet. One of the great things about the internet is that if information on one website sounds a bit suspect it is usually pretty easy to seek corroboration elsewhere.
I decided that my best option was to curtail the over enthusiastic spread of my white flowered Dicentra formosa. I cleared a strip beside the path, decided it wasn’t wide enough so cleared another bit. Then I decided the first bit was wide enough after all and planted the orchid there, beside the path with a background of Maianthemum racemosum. A begonia went in the other space. Then I cleared a bit more, so now I have a strip by the path awaiting something appropriate.
The orchid will be in shade most of the day, with perhaps a couple of times when the sun will be able to reach it through a gap in the canopy. I shall try to remember to water it in prolonged dry spells and to remove any Dicentra regrowth. I’ve put a few Cyclamen hederifolium either side of it, hoping they will provide foliage in winter when the orchid is dormant.