An Ophid in the Orchids

Like most gardeners, one of my favorite occupations during winter’s frigid evenings is paging through seed catalogs, enjoying the glorious colors, imagining the tastes, and dreaming of the warm growing season. I’m starting to plan my 2014 garden and part of that planning is considering not just what I will plant, but how I’ll nurture and grow my garden.

Sustaining my plants has become more important to me than during my earlier years as a gardener, when birds and bees were a constant, drawn by native flowers and farmers’ blooming acres, insect foods free from laboratory intervention. But things have changed over the years; butterflies and bees and many birds are infrequent visitors. The remedy? Plantings that attract the pollinators of flowers, fruit, and vegetables, and the predators of the pests of plants.

A pleasant thought, imagining hummingbirds and honeybees floating and diving through the buds and greenery, songbirds snatching insect pests, and even a spider or two, charlotte-webbing the bushes to catch the biting flies.

But there’s another class of beneficial creatures, a group that humans seem to fear and dislike, the ophidians. Ophidians? Do I mean orchids? No. I mean a creature who might be lurking beneath the garden vegetation, a beneficial animal whom many reflexively fear.

Ophid is the diminutive form of the Greek word for “serpent,” ophis. Thus the ophid in the orchids is merely a snake in the flowerbed. I welcome the ophids to my garden, since they are quiet hunters of garden pests; they never touch the vegetation, don’t damage the grounds, and keep rodents—potential disease-carriers—away from my home.

As I peruse my seed catalogs, plan my plantings, and ponder on beekeeping, I’ll also be thinking about the beneficial creatures I want to attract to my garden and flowerbeds. I surely hope to see an ophid in my orchids.