Custom Slippahs

Paphiopedilum orchidIf the slipper fits, go with it. Right?

Not if you’re Graham Wood, who specializes in breeding Paphiopedilums for Lehua Orchids in Mountain View.

“At first glance, you look at a Paphiopedilum, shrug and think ‘well, that looks good I guess,” Wood said during his presentation at the KDOC meeting on November 13.

“And it does look okay. But when I look at them, I start thinking, what could make it look better?”

Paphiopedilums are commonly referred to as the “lady’s-slippers” or “slipper orchids” due to the unusual shape of the pouch-like labellum of the flower.

Wood says there are many ways you can breed orchids to get the look you want. He does this by a variety of different ways – adding color, reducing spots, adding contrasts, and changing the saturation.

Wood says he looks at the Paphiopedilum orchid as a canvas. For example, you could take a Paphiopedilum orchid that was predominately light yellow or white, then cross it with a pink one to give it a nice pinkish-hue. You can work with contrasts between the colors of the front pedals and the dorsal sepal, or you can try to breed for a desired saturation level. Many Paphiopedilums also have random arrays of spots on their pedals, so you can try and remove the spots.

As far as culture notes are concerned, Wood says that Paphiopedilum orchids are surprisingly easy to take care of. They generally like a rocky medium, and their roots like a lot of air. In fact, as he began ticking off likes and dislikes for Paphiopedilums, it sounded like you’d care for them in much the same way as cymbidiums.

Paphiopedilums are sympodial orchids which lack pseudobulbs. Members of this genus are considered highly collectible by orchid fanciers due to the curious and unusual form of their flowers.

The orchid, despite several attempts to clone by tissue culture, has never been successfully cloned, for unknown reasons. This means every plant is unique.


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