Hardy Cypripedium: Species, Hybrids and Cultivation. Werner Frosch and Phillip Cribb, 2013. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey. Distributed by University of Chicago Press, 1427 E. 60th Street Chicago, IL. 156 pages, $74.00, Hardcover. ISBN: 978-1-84246-464-9.
From first impression to last impression, Hardy Cypripedium: Species, Hybrids and Cultivation is a book that any plant lover would enjoy having. Indeed, it would make a handsome addition to any library, public or otherwise, especially in temperate zones. The book is oversize, hardbound, and printed on exquisite paper. Photographs are ubiquitous and stunning. The authors recognize this property in the Foreword stating, “We intend to let the plants tell their story pictorially.”
Hardy Cypripedium orchid species are decreasing in numbers and abundance throughout the temperate zones. This decrease is due to significant outdoor collecting in the past, as well as habitat destruction. The authors make a very good case for choosing hybrids that are bred and grown for the consumer. Not only are the hybrids more plentiful and accessible, but buying of raised orchids makes gathering wild orchids less lucrative and attractive to poachers. In addition, hybrid Cypripedium plants are usually stronger growers than either of their species parents. This vigor makes the hybrids even more desirable as garden plants. Hybrids also establish faster and spread faster than species Cypripediums. Hardy hybrid plants obtained from growers have been grown without weed competition and are usually healthy and robust, as well as being properly hardened for outdoor growth. Lastly, the colors and patterns in hardy hybrid Cypripedium varieties are extraordinary. Consumers of hardy orchids should choose cultivated hybrids rather than collected species.
Phillip Cribb is an orchid taxonomist and conservationist from Kew Gardens and has written other good books such as Growing Hardy Orchids and the Guide to the Flowers of Western China. Werner Frosch has been studying orchids for over 35 years, since he first learned of rare and endangered orchids of Germany. His interest in the propagation and culture of orchids led him to eventually become an orchid breeder. Many of the hybrid Cypripediums in the book were grown and photographed by Frosch. Several of the Cypripediums shown were named by Cribb, or Frosch, or both. Two expert authors combine to write this beautiful and important treatise.
The text is concise and carefully selected. The photographs are outstanding and credited. The information is important and presented well. This book is an exceptionally beautiful one.
The book opens with a Foreword, Preface, and Introduction. Cribb and Frosch state that “In this book, we celebrate the diversity of the species of this remarkable and attractive genus and introduce the range of hybrids that have been developed from them.” The Introduction covers the History of the Genus, the Plant and Flower, Life-Cycle, Distribution, Ecology, and Conservation. The photographs of habitats are travel-brochure perfect and invite the reader into the landscape. Following the Introduction is a short lesson on Classification. Then the book delves right into the species.
The species are described one by one, each to a two-page spread. On the left side of the spread are the first identified species binomial name and author with date, followed by synonyms for the species names and each of their attributions. A detailed botanical description for the plant is given. Distribution and habitat are described followed by a photograph of the habitat and a map showing where to find the species in the wild. Altitude and bloom time are also included. On the right side of the full-page spread are close-up photographs of the flowers of the species discussed.
Over a hundred pages of photographs of wild, endangered, or hybridized Cypripedium species fill the book. The photography and printing are enthralling. The work that went into finding and photographing the orchids in their habitat must have been monumental. The breeding work took decades, one can be sure. Hardy Cypripedium: Species, Hybrids and Cultivation may be destined to become the definitive authority on hybrids of Cypripedium.