The fall foliage may be the most spectacular feature of both the garden and landscape at this time of year, but outside my window here in PA a little treasure is in full flower.
The nodding lady’s tresses, Spiranthes cernua, is a native orchid that grows across a wide range of the US, from the eastern seaboard across to Texas, Kansas and Nebraska. I didn’t dig mine up from the wild, I should say, it came from native plant specialist Don Jacobs of Decatur, GA.
This year it’s noticeably taller than last, about 18in/45cm as against about 12in/30 in its first season last year. I have to say I gave it a dose or two of MiracleGro during the summer which I wouldn’t do for with most orchids! The white flowers are clustered towards the top of the stem – the picture covers about 2in/5cm and shows the spiral arrangement of the flowers. In the wild it grows in damp places – fields, meadows, along streambanks and lakesides as well as in roadside ditches. You can see more pictures on the USDA plants website.
The unusually vigorous and fragrant cultivar ‘Chadd’s Ford’ was found in a Delaware ditch and you can buy it from Sunlight Gardens. In fact the native fragrant form, from the south, is sometimes distinguished as var. odorata - you can order it from Plant Delights.
This is one of the easiest of all orchids to grow out in the garden – otherwise it wouldn’t be thriving in the terrible soil we have here – and it’s hardy too, down to zone 4. And it seems to like MiracleGro!