Winter Lady Slippers


Snow flurries are predicted for today. It's a bit early for Virginia, but I can remember a spectacular Veteran's Day blizzard, though it's been years since we had any substantial snowfall. As it gets colder here, I begin to take refuge at my studio table, where the southern exposure guarantees bright light streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows (when the sun does shine). This is also the front row seat to my indoor garden, as all my houseplants are now nestled at the base of those same big windows. Though I'm hunkering down for winter, some of my orchids are beginning their blooming season. The bright colors and unusual shapes of omcidium and cymbidium are welcome in my winter garden, but it's the paphiopedilum I get most excited about. I have one that was given to me by friends a few years ago (I believe it is Paphiopedilum hennisianum but the tag disappeared), and I feel tremendous relief every year when I see the buds start to form. It doesn't like direct sunlight, so I keep it on the corner of my table where it catches just the right angle of the morning sun (and I can observe its progress close up). It is beautiful in all its stages, from the innocent, curved buds to its brazen blossoms (there is something of the coquette in every orchid). Paphiopedilum orchids are mostly terrestrial, and they're related to the lady slippers I photograph in the mountains of northern Vermont every summer. So I think of them as my winter lady slippers. And just like their summer cousins, they inspire me to get out my camera and get to work.