Friday, February 25, 2011

A Hardy Garden Orchid

Bletilla striata is both beautiful and easy to acquire. It has persisted for years in my home garden, though it expands during mild winter years and shrinks back during hard winters. It is cheap to buy making it easy to get replacements if they were ever needed. It has never self sown in my garden, but does set seed. I have grown, with limited success, some of those seeds sown on sterilized potting soil, but the seedlings are tiny and slow. In fact, its amazing they actually grew at all, since most orchid seeds will not germinate without special in vitro techniques as they require a fungal partner for success in nature. Recently I sowed seed on orchid media agar at school, using a microwave to prepare and sterilize the medium, and hydrogen peroxide as a sterilant. I did so in a laminar flow hood I got on ebay for 75 dollars (it was quite a project to get it hauled from New Jersey to the school, and then moved into my classroom), but I did not turn it on, as I suspect the hepa filter needs replacing. A couple of months later I have baby food jars full of nice young plants which will probably be ready for tranfer to soil well before school is out. With a little luck, I should be able to substantially increase this patch of bletilla, and add others, including some in my school gardens. After all, one can never have too many orchids in the garden!

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