University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

The Gardener's Guide to Growing Hardy Perennial Orchids 
William Mathis.  2005.  The Wild Orchid Company, Doylestown, PA. softcover, 93pp. (

Whether you're interested in this group of plants already, or want to grow some different plants, you should consider the wonderful reference.  Compact, well-written in a quite readable style for the average gardener, and lavishly illustrated with color photos and drawings, it is an excellent introduction and reference to this little-known group of native plants.  As the author makes clear, there are such orchids that can be grown by gardeners in most areas, and given a few needs many are easier to grow than most think.

The book has seven chapters, plus several appendices covering such topics as a hardiness zone map, glossary, and plant sources.  The first chapter provides an overview of this group, plus basic cultural information to have success.  Steps and processes are clearly illustrated with many simple colorful drawings.

The next three chapters cover the main three groups of terrestrial orchids, grouped by habitat.  These include upland, transition, and wetland species.  In addition to the main species for each habitat, the author includes descriptions of a few appropriate companion plants.  For each genus is listed the main species to consider, and paragraphs covering general description, hardiness and winter protection, cultural requirements, and pest control.  The latter two are further divided clearly into categories such as soil mix and insects.  The very clear layout and organization of this book makes specific information very easy to find.

Finally, there are three chapters covering landscaping with this group, seed biology and germination, and seedling propagation.  Under landscaping the author describes and illustrates several different locations, and their specific cultural needs, such as raised beds, woodlands, and aquatic environments.

The author has had an interest in terrestrial orchids since his graduate school days in 1970.  With an MS degree in botany and PhD in agronomy, he has spent his initial career as an agricultural research scientist.  Since 2001 he has established, and devoted his time to, a business in this group of plants.  He sells nursery-grown upland and wetland terrestrial orchid species from among the 200 species known in North America, Europe and Asia.  Often speaking on this subject, now he has written and self-published this book.

Where am I?  Perry's Perennial Pages | Publications | Book of the Month