If you are a person of a certain age, you may remember the comic strip character, Brenda Starr, and her mysterious paramour, Basil St. John, with his black orchid serum and eye patch. Black orchid drama is currently on display in Longwood Garden’s Orchid Room featuring Orchid x Fredclarkeara, After Dark ‘SVO Black Pearl’.
Developed by Fred Clarke of Sunset Valley Orchids of Vista, California, this nothogenera (man-made) black orchid was granted the highest American Orchid Society award for Cultural Excellence.
These hybrids are deciduous with antural aging and shedding of leaves. The pseudobulbs act as water reservoirs after the leaves drop, so reduced watering is recommended when they are leafless. Flower spikes emerge after leaf drop and the striking black blooms, with their spicy sweet fragrance, last 6 to 8 weeks.
Expect to pay $100 or more for a small clone that is not in spike or visit the black orchids in person during Longwood Garden’s Orchid Extravaganza (January 23rd through March 27th).