Anacamptis, Orchis, Ophrys
These three genus contain species which are native to the British Isles and
are all summer dormant; growing a rosette of leaves through the winter and
flowering at some time during the spring.
Some species grow rapidly during the autumn, stop growth when the
temperature falls and then restarts when the temperature begins to rise.
Others will push up a bud in the autumn but not really start growing until
the early spring.
They have specific individual requirements but in general they require
poor un-modified soil in which to grow.
The primary objective is to replicate the conditions that particular
species grow in. There are three primary areas where you might want to grow
these orchids; in a meadow, a rockery or in an alpine house.
The important issue with planting in a meadow is the level of fertility and the pH.
The majority require alkaline soils and often can tolerate various levels of
soil moisture. When planting into a meadow you need to firstly check the pH
to ensure the soil is suitable. In an existing meadow the current flora will
give an indication of both the soil quality and level of pH. Where there is
heavy foliage growth it is unlikely many of the species will survive.
Most of the species like the ingredient mixture used in the composition
of rockery compost. It does not hold water during the winter thus enabling
the plant to combat the heavy rainfall we tend to get during the winter.
Native species should happily grow in the areas where they are normally
found and in some cases further north than current populations. Because
there is a winter rosette of leaves it is important to surround the plant
with grit to help keep the slug damage to a minimum.
Plants grown in an alpine house can be controlled at all times. The
plants can be watered appropriate to the conditions and the pot allowed to
become fairly dry in the summer when the tuber is dormant (at this time the
tubers should not be allowed to dry out completely). A compost should be
used which has a large amount of sharp sand or 2 mm grit thus allowing good
drainage. This is vital in the winter when frost can damage the new growth,
especially the neck if it lies wet and there is frost. Pots, whether clay or
plastic should be plunged in sand to avoid the whole pot being frozen. Some
growers will keep their alpine house at above freezing to avoid any
problems. The temperature should be controlled in late winter; in
particular, on days when there is bright sunlight followed by cold nights.
The plants do not like these quick changes in temperature.
The basic requirements of each species can be found through studying the
various books and web sites on British orchids. The idea is then to
replicate these conditions in the growing position. Remember to check just
how far north each species grows in the wild. It may be the weather
conditions stopping populations or just the lack of suitable sites. It may
be necessary to give some species protection against the weather.