21 October, 2014

King Arthur’s Slippers and wild Corycium orchid

 - gardening for biodiversity 
in Cape Town, South Africa

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 later 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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  1. what amazing treasures, they hold so many memories for you, you must have shared your Mum's talent with plants, such a beautiful touching post,

  2. Hi Diana! I haven't visited your blog for a long time. Sorry about that. Thanks for the beautiful photos of your orchids. Whether or not endangered, your orchid still is a nice one.
    Take care!

  3. gorgeous blooms Diana, not ones I grow because of our limited growing season, The cabin trunk is a gorgeous family treasure to have.

  4. They may be available in every supermarket, but by their very nature orchids will always seem rare and exotic to me.

    1. a little bit of magic about them. Especially growing wild.

  5. Lucky you, to have orchids growing outside in your garden! We have wild, native orchids here in the Midwest U.S., too, but I don't have any native ones in my garden. I had Cymbidium Orchids in my wedding bouquet, though. They're beautiful. And your photos are lovely!

  6. I love seeing wild orchids growing but I find the exotic so perfect they seem like plastic; fascinating but not something I want to grow.

  7. My Father-in-law is really into his orchids. Something I've never tried to grow.

  8. It is always fascinating to see how ´exotic´orchids grow outside in the wild. We live right between commercial growers of various orchids, even on my garden pictureso you often see the huge glasshouses around us. I am not very fond of them, before Christmas we always get some plants of our neighbours which continue flowering until now, 10 months later. Most of them look too long the same.

    1. the little wild orchid changes, the others, yes, seem to be suspended in time ...

  9. Your mother's orchids and the cabin trunk are family treasures invoking lovely memories! I feel this posting is very special. P. x

    1. feel a bit guilty about neglecting my mother's orchids. But in the next garden I'll have more time for pot plants.

  10. I love those slipper orchids. Orchids have always been in the realm of exotica to me, demanding beauties who live in hot houses. But then I met my friend Amy, who grows orchids all over her house. Someone with a green thumb? Not really. Amy kills everything she tries to grow outside! "How can that be, when you are so successful with orchids?" I ask her. "But orchids are so easy!" " she says.

    1. it's true, mine are surviving and we'll work on getting flowers again in False Bay. That bud on King Arthur is DETERMINED to hang on till we move!

  11. Diana when I first scanned the photos of your post I was enthralled by this incredible flower. I can see why it is special. And how lovely to find the trunk and the box with your name on it.