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 farming is a very widespread and popular hobby for both amateur and professional growers. The leading Bletilla breeder is Richard Evenden from Spalding, UK. It is responsible for most 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 US market and are becoming increasingly available.
Hybrid Bletilla greatly expands the flower shape and color palette available to gardeners.
B. ‘Brigantes’ This 1994 introduction by Richard Evenden is a variety grown with seeds from a cross between B. striata B. ochracea. The plants have medium pink violet petals and sepals, highlighted by a purple lip with yellow markings. (Endurance zone 7-9, guessing)
B. ‘Coritani’ This 1993 Richard Evenden hybrid is a cross of B. formosana x ochracea. (Unknown resistance)
B. ‘Kate’ PP 19,878 B. ‘Kate’ is a clonal selection of B. ‘Yokohama’ (B. striata x B. formosana) from William Mathias of the Wild Orchid Company. Mature groups of B. ‘Kate’ can produce 40 “tall flower spikes with up to 35 flowers each. Light lavender flowers are highlighted by a yellow lip. Hardiness Zone 6-9)
B. ‘Yokohama’ This seed-grown variety, first produced by N. Suzuki in 1956, is a hybrid of B. striata and B. formosana, producing 18 “stems of light lavender flowers (hardiness zone 7 -9).
Penway Series The holder of the UK National Collection, Richard Evenden, created a number of hybrids, most of which are marketed under the Penway names (in homage to the road 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 border.
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-colored flowers with a purple-speckled yellow lip
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 colored flowers with a yellow border with purple speckles.
Gardeners interested in hardy orchids should start with Bletilla because it is by far the easiest hardy orchid to grow and has the most color and shape options.