Bletilla is the best hardy orchid for gardeners to start with because they are flexible and can survive in a wide range of garden sites.
Orchid breeding is a widespread and popular pastime for amateur and professional growers alike. The foremost breeder of Bletilla is Richard Evenden of Spalding, United Kingdom. He is responsible for most of the hybrids. Other prominent breeders include Dr. William Mathis of Wild Orchid Co. of Carversville, Pennsylvania and Jewell Orchids of Colbert, Georgia. Several Japanese cultivars have been imported to the U.S. market and are becoming more widely available.
Hybrid Bletilla greatly expand the flower form and color palette available to gardeners.
B. ‘Brigantes’ This 1994 Richard Evenden introduction is a seed grown cultivar from a cross between B. striata B. ochracea. The plants have with mid rose-purple petals and sepals, highlighted by a purple lip with yellow markings. (Hardiness Zone 7-9, guessing)
B. ‘Coritani’ This 1993 Richard Evenden hybrid is a cross of B. formosana x ochracea. (Hardiness Unknown)
B. ‘Kate’ PP 19,878 B. ‘Kate’ is a clonal selection of B. ‘Yokohama’ (B. striata x B. formosana) from William Mathias of Wild Orchid Company. Mature clumps of B. ‘Kate’ can produce 40″ tall flower spikes with up to 35 flowers each. The light lavender flowers are highlighted by a yellow lip. Hardiness Zone 6-9)
B. ‘Yokohama’ This seed grown cultivar, first produced by N. Suzuki in 1956, is a hybrid of B. striata and B. formosana, that produces 18″ stalks of light lavender flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7-9)
Penway Series The UK National Collection holder, Richard Evenden created a series of hybrids, most of which are marketed under the Penway names (as an homage to the road that he lives on).
B. ‘Penway Dragon’ A 1994 introduction, B. formosana x szetschuaunica, with lavender pink flowers with a white lip
B. ‘Penway Imperial’ A 2000 introduction, B. striata x yunnanensis, color not found.
B. ‘Penway Paris’ A 1994 introduction, B. striata x szetschuanica, with light lavender flowers with a purple lip.
B. ‘Penway Princess’ A 1994 introduction, B. striata x szetschuanica, with light lavender flowers with a yellow lip and red speckles
B. ‘Penway Rainbow’ A 2000 introduction, B. ‘Yokohama’ x ochracea, with cream flowers with a yellow lip flecked purple
B. ‘Penway Rose’ A 2000 introduction, B. ochracea x yunnanensis, with light lavender flowers and a yellow lip
B. ‘Penway Starshine’ A 2000 introduction, B. ‘Yokohama’ x szetschuanica, with light lavender flowers, a yellow lip with dark purple accents
B. ‘Penway Sunset’ A 1994 introduction, B. szetschuanica X ochracea, with light cream flowers with a yellow lip with purple flecks.
Gardeners interested in hardy orchids should start with Bletilla because it is by far the easiest hardy orchid to grow and has the widest number of color and form choices.