Orchids in Their Native Haunts

The Special Vegetation Story

SPECIAL VEGETATION is a passion project. The idea grew from our efforts to restore lady-slipper orchids to their native haunts in the Indiana Dunes. Initially, we worked with a skilled propagator named Bill Steele in Minnesota. Bill operates Spangle Creek Orchids, and was among the pioneers in the scientific art of micropropagation. We purchased first-year seedlings from Bill and grew them to field-ready size in our home nursery. With Bill's guidance and encouragement, we learned how to "flask" orchid seeds and grow the tiny plantlets in vitro.

The learning curve was considerable, but after a number of years of trial and error, we were able to produce enough lady's-slippers for our own needs—plus extras to share with other like-minded restorationists, collectors, and discriminating gardeners. By purchasing plants from Special Vegetation, you are helping to support our conservation efforts, which are ongoing.

Special Vegetation

Not a straight line ..Our journey to this place had some jogs in the road.

In the 1990s, we lived in Chicago's bustling Lincoln Park neighborhood. When it came time to settle down, none of the usual suburban destinations struck a chord with us. Some were too big, too busy ... others, too small, too ... consistent.

Bonnie's family had roots in the Indiana Dunes. Her grandparents owned a cottage on Lake Michigan which she visited often when she was growing up. The Dunes were 45 miles from the hustle of Chicago, but it felt like a world away. Ahh. Just right.

We settled in the small town of Dune Acres, a shoreline community situated within the Indiana Dunes National Park. Dune Acres is the gateway to the world-renowned Cowles Bog and has been a popular destination for botanists and nature-minded explorers for more than a century. In fact, a longtime resident of Dune Acres, Illinois Senator Paul Douglas, was instrumental in the creation of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in the 1960s.

Once we settled in Dune Acres, it didn't take long to get bitten by the plant bug. One day a neighbor shared a secret: "Would you like me to show you the lady's-slippers?" According to local lore, the large yellow lady's-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens) formerly grew in some abundance in the town. Over time, the populations dwindled until only one, still-handsome clump remained. We were smitten. Surely, these magnificent plants could be restored to their former prominence, right?

And so it began ..

Rich & Bonnie Hawksworth

small yellow lady slipper orchid

Lady Slipper & Other Native Orchids

Cold-hardy, terrestrial orchid species, primarily those native to Eastern North America.

Liliu philadelphicum (WOOD LILY) in bloom.

Companion Plants

A range of plants-to-compliment, from woodland favorites to species you're unlikely to find elsewhere.

Drosera intermedia, sundew

Carnivorous Plants

Plants that bite back—hardy pitcher plants, sundews, and Venus flytraps. There's more in the pipeline, too.

PCR-1 copy

Everything Else

Orchid-growing supplies, plus one-of-a-kind offerings including uncommon monographs, floras, and more.

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