Native Lady Slippers

I was walking a trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains and noticed a group of yellow lady's slippers. Is this a rare sight? Sherry M.
Rare, indeed, and getting rarer by the day.
Cypripedium calceolus, commonly referred to as the Yellow Lady's Slipper, was, at one time, found across most of North America.
Plant collectors were naturally attracted to this lovely terrestrial orchid even though the likelihood of successfully transplanting it was low. In addition, doctors became interested in this perennial after it was discovered that the orchid had a number of medicinal properties.
Today, the Yellow Lady's Slipper can occasionally be seen, usually in remote acidic wooded areas, where it blooms from late April to mid May. Each plant has just a few leaves and a short stem that holds 1 to 3 blooms. The flowers are quite small, measuring only 2 or 3 inches long.
Closely related but more plentiful is the Pink Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium acaule, which grows in the eastern United States and Canada. The flowers are slightly larger and are dark rosy pink. (I am fortunate to have a patch of these orchids growing on the edge of the farm but my friendly neighbor usually mows them down before they bloom!)
Cypripediums, in general, are close to extinction, and should only be looked at; Not touched, transplanted, or mowed....

I can see the buds inside the sheath of my Cattleya plant. Would it help if I split open the sheath to allow the buds to emerge more freely? Mike B.
There are times when Cattleya buds can get actually stuck in their own protective sleeve or sheath. Perhaps there are just too many buds inside or, for some reason, they are growing in an unhealthy direction (as unborn babies can). Sometimes, the sheath can partially open and water may get trapped inside which could rot the tender buds.
By holding the plant up to the light and looking at the sheath, one can see the status of the buds. (Using the baby analogy, this would be an ultrasound). Normally the buds would start small and get larger each day for a few weeks until they finally force their way out of the sheath. Blooms would not be far behind.
If any trouble is detected, the tip of the sheath could be cut off using a clean razor blade. The sides of the sheath could then be gently pulled apart to allow the buds to emerge unhindered.  

I would like to put my new Dendrobium in the ground outside my apartment in a little garden area. Will the plant live and be happy outside? Lydia O.
Did you say 'in the ground'?
Dendrobiums are epiphytic orchids that need air on their roots to survive. In the wild, these plants grow on the sides of trees. Hobbyists try to duplicate the native conditions by potting the plants in bark chips. (Small clay pots with presoaked fir bark works best). Soil might be fine for some terrestrial orchids but not Dendrobiums.
Most orchids love being outside for the summer. It is advisable to keep them off the ground so the slugs don't crawl into the pots. One technique is to hang the plants from tree limbs using pot hangers. Another is to build small trellis over an orchid table. In both cases, the goal is to provide filtered sunlight all day long.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005 - 18:15