21 October, 2014

King Arthur’s Slippers and wild Corycium orchid

 - gardening for biodiversity 

When I was at school my mother grew Cymbidium orchids. Her friend Sheila started her off. When I was a girl … an orchid was something Exotic (not South African. Then our passports were stamped not valid in … with a list of countries from A to Z, and your passport might have said, valid everywhere, except South Africa). Tretchikoff’s painting of an orchid discarded on the step. Decades latter potted cymbidiums and friends are sold in the supermarket, along with bunches of chrysanthemums.

Flirtation miniature Cymbidium

I have inherited orchids from my mother. In August 2009 we had Flirtation, a dusky pink miniature Cymbidium (I prefer small perfection to flamboyant this season’s Must Have)

Cypripedium King Arthur in August 2009 

What I really love are the slippers – Cypripedium. I like to think my mother chose King Arthur for my Arthur William Montague father. Luckily the slipper orchid had a pair of flowers. Regal colouring – burgundy silk velvet, with taupe and spruce green details. In 2014 there is a bud in waiting, waiting some more...

King Arthur
in 2011 2012 and 2013

King Arthur was hopping along with just the one slipper in 2012, but had a pair and a spare in winter 2013.

Slipper orchid King Arthur in August 2011

In October 2009 flowers on this orchid, which my mother had simply labelled Apricot.

apricot Cymbidium

Since we have a temperate climate with RARE frost, they live outdoors year round, in the shade of shrubs and trees. Brought in to the house to display when in bloom.

Cut flowers for the vase? But I could have a cross dressing King Arthur. With baroque garnished avocado green, cream, and umber – lady’s slippers. Potted Cypripedium orchid will bloom for weeks.


I have tried to grow indigenous Disas, and Stenoglottis– teensy sprays of mauve – but sadly those are plants that my green fingers did in.

My wild orchid in September 2013 as it grew beneath the apple tree.

Corycium orobanchoides

Corycium orobanchoides
under the apple tree

Bastertrewwa or Common Monkshood Orchid Corycium orobanchoides he nurtured while strimming in Porterville. I potted up after flowering, and wondered. Sent up green leaves in May, with a spotted basal sheath that says - I am not winter grass to be yanked out! He found treasure. A wild orchid gifted us by nature.

Common monkshood orchid
from leaf to bud

The rescue in August slowly raised a flower spike.

from bud to full bloom

Flowering in its pot in September 2014 from bud to full bloom. Fading to memory today.

Thanks to John Manning, via Caroline Voget (editor of Veld and Flora), for identifying our orchid. Sadly NOT the Red List rare and endangered ingeanum but the more widespread (still endemic to the Western Cape) Bastertrewwa or Common Monkshood Orchid (Corycium orobanchoides).

Cabin trunk, from my mother's grandmother,
which crossed the Atlantic three times
as she visited her sons in USA and Canada

The cabin trunk is from my mother’s grandmother, with her Venus Cymbidium. When we were clearing my mother’s cottage I picked up the little box with shells, to find a label where she had written Diana.

Pictures by Diana Studer  
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay 

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