Of Orchids and Onions

Indiana has enough wild orchids to write a book about, and Michael Homoya wrote it. (Orchids of Indiana, 1993. Indiana University Press) I’m still discovering which ones can be seen at T.C. Steele State Historic Site. Even if I don’t know exactly where to find them. I have it on good authority that the Selma Steele Nature Preserve is home to both the Showy Orchis and the Whorled-Pogonia.

During this year’s Wildflower Foray, I spotted the single leaves of the Cranefly Orchid on the Wildflower Trail. No blooms though. By the time they flower, the leaves will have disappeared. What caught my eye was the deep purple color of the underside of the foliage. Maybe I’ll see them bloom if I’m ambitious enough to hike the trail every day in July and August.

ladies-slipperI don’t think the Showy Orchis is Brown County’s showiest orchid however. That honor has to go the the Yellow Ladies Slipper. I suspected it grew on the site, and sure enough one day I spotted one as I neared the entrance. I’d been driving right past it for several days judging by the condition of the blooms.

All of these orchids are nice, but we have onions too. Our one healthy Walking Onion was planted just last fall, so it hasn’t started walking yet. The chives are now covered with lavender blooms, creating large blocks of color in the formal garden. Later in the summer, their cousins the Garlic Chives will send up their own white globes.

I don’t know why onions have such a bad rep. They’re easy to grow, pretty to look at, dress up a salad (the blossoms are edible) and have lots of health benefits. I’d say they both have their place. The beautiful orchids hide modestly in the forest. The onions are all around — utilitarian, but beautiful just the same.

Davie Kean is the master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.