2008 was a highly publicized election year in the United States and having presented namesake Cattleya hybrids to the last three First Ladies, we were under considerable pressure to repeat our feat. Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush all had their orchids. Could we go four in a row? The answer came in early August when the leading candidate’s wife, Michelle Obama, was campaigning in Virginia. Though not yet First Lady, she was the odds-on favorite so we took a chance.
We were given a two minute photo opportunity during a reception at the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk where Mrs. Obama was to address a crowd of 1,200 supporters. Other guests included Virginia Governor Tim Kaine who had presented Queen Elizabeth II with her namesake orchid on our behalf in 2007. The music for the evening was provided by local singer/songwriter and Grammy award winner Bruce Hornsby.
The star of the show was undoubtedly the compact growing Lc Michelle Obama (C trianaei x Lc Mini Purple) which was displayed as a grouping of five plants in a fancy decorative container. With the addition of accoutrements curly willow and Spanish moss, the floral arrangement was threatening to upstage the politicians!
Just moments before the presentation was to take place, however, the secret service intervened, “The arrangement can not be in the picture!”
“Excuse me?”, I asked in complete disbelief.
“I’m sorry, but rules are rules” said the agent.
“But sir, we have been invited here for this purpose”, I tried to gently explain as my blood pressure started rising.
“Well, we haven’t scanned the object with our bomb detecting equipment.” said the agent.
“OK, no problem. I’ll just stand over here and you take as long as you need to scan it” I said confidently.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the equipment here” he said sheepishly.
After a long silence in which I envisioned the entire presentation evaporating before my eyes, I said in desperation, “Can I pick off the flowers and present them?”
There was a big huddle of secret service agents using hand held radios. The answer, “You can present one flower”.
One flower,?” I asked in greater disbelief.
“OK, two. But that’s it.” said the agent having reached a generous compromise.
I carefully removed two of the small flowers from the formerly glorious arrangement and together with the framed RHS certificate approached Mrs. Obama. She was most curious at my offerings as it wasn’t exactly apparent what I held. I wasn’t even sure.
I was a little embarrassed and wanted to explain to her what had happened but, given the time constraint, opted for enthusiastically declaring that the flowers were named for her. She was very excited and gave me a big hug. Wow, I wasn’t aware that First Lady etiquette allows for such affection!
Now that the election is over, I’m glad that we took a chance on Michelle Obama. She is officially First Lady on January 20th and her social calendar is already overflowing with invitations to appear. My father, A.A. Chadwick, once told me, ‘Never mix business with politics.’ Orchids, however, transcend conventional boundaries and with four successive presidential administrations securely in the history books, the legacy of Classic Cattleyas will continue. Selected clones available 2012.
Company founder Art Chadwick Sr., and his son Arthur (Chadwick & Son) appeared on Martha Stewart’s TV show, ‘Martha’, on Friday, April 21, 2006, to present her with an orchid that they named in her honor. The event coincided with the opening of the New York International Orchid Show and Martha Stewart’s review of the new Chadwick orchid book entitled ‘The Classic Cattleyas’.
The new ‘Martha’ orchid hybrid is a classic Cattleya with large purple flowers, distinctive splashes on the petals, and a sweet fragrance. Officially registered with the Royal Horticultural Society, the plant carries the botanical name Laeliocattleya Martha Stewart.
“Martha Stewart is the most well known gardening personality in the world and we are honored to personally present her namesake orchid” said company President Art Chadwick Jr.Back to top
It was seven years in the making. But the result, Art Chadwick says, was worth the wait. Chadwick, president of Chadwick & Son Orchids Inc. in Powhatan County, last month presented Margaret Thatcher with a cattleya orchid hybrid that was named in her honor. Cattleya orchids grow for seven years inside a greenhouse before they bloom. Then they bloom annually. "There's not much we can do about the seven years," Chadwick said. "We just have to wait. Once it blooms you realize why you waited so long. It's spectacular." The large blooms are often used in corsages because of their size. So Chadwick & Son made a corsage out of the orchid named for Thatcher and presented it to her. She pinned it to her blazer. "She said it was lovely," Chadwick said. The ceremony took place last month during Thatcher's visit to the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond.
Naming orchids in honor of famous women is nothing new for Chadwick & Son Orchids. Previous recipients include Laura Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tipper Gore and the late Princess Diana. The orchid named for Thatcher was registered with the Royal Horticultural Society in England. The flowers are light lavender with a darker lip. They have a sweet fragrance. The botanical name is Brassolaeliocattleya Margaret Thatcher (Lc Princess Margaret x Blc Summer Bay). "This keeps the cattleya on the front pages," Chadwick said. "It's an orchid that is not as popular as it once was." The cattleya was popular in the 1940s and 1950s. It is not as easy to grow as other varieties, said Chadwick, whose orchid column appears monthly in Saturday's Home & Garden section. He usually has thousands in production at a time because of the seven-year wait for blooms. "You don't know until they bloom whether they will be any good," he said. "So you have to have a lot in production."
In addition to naming orchids for women in politics, Chadwick & Son has also named them after friends, as well as Indian tribes. "It's an exciting thing," Chadwick said. "Who wouldn't want an orchid named after them? It's such an honor."Back to top
The ‘Laura Orchid,’ grown and registered with the Royal Horticultural Society by Chadwick & Son Orchids Inc, of Powhatan, was presented to Laura Bush at the United States Botanical Garden in Washington, D.C. The event took place on Tuesday May 9 as part of the “First Lady’s Luncheon” which is an annual gathering of the wives of the U.S. Senators. Assisting in the presentation was the garden’s Executive Director Holly Shimuzu.
The new orchid hybrid is a classic Cattleya with medium sized white flowers, a contrasting purple throat, and a sweet fragrance. Designed to bloom twice a year on a compact plant, the official botanical name is Brassolaeliocattleya Laura Bush.
First Ladies have a long tradition of being honored with Cattleya orchids which dates back to the 1940’s’ said Art Chadwick, President of Chadwick & Son Orchids. Previous recipients of Chadwick hybrids include former First Ladies Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barbara Bush as well as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and, most recently, Martha Stewart.Back to top
It’s a safe bet that Laura bush isn’t often kept waiting but even the first lady can’t rush mother nature. And so she, along with art Chadwick of powhatan’s Chadwick & son orchids, awaits the blooming of a cattleya orchid that Chadwick registered with the royal horticultural society in honor of the first lady, in order to complete a presentation ceremony postponed last summer due to scheduling conflicts.
Brassolaeliocattleya Laura Bush features a white flower (sometimes over laid by a lavender starburst) with a dark purple lip and is only in bloom for a few weeks each summer. Chadwick’s growers are currently caring for about 20 of the prized hybrids. ‘I’m looking for several that look very good and very fresh’ says Chadwick, who hopes to let the first lady pick her favorite, which will be dubbed variety ‘first lady’.
This isn’t the first time Chadwick has presented a first lady with an orchid. He and his wife, Rebecca, presented then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with her own namesake orchid. ‘She was the first first lady in history to be presented and photographed with her namesake orchid while in office’ says Chadwick, who notes that a tradition exists for naming orchids after first ladies such as nancy Reagan and bess Truman among those so honored. Laura bush should join them sometime in August, and may have by the time you’re reading this, says Chadwick. “It’s entirely up to the flowers.”Back to top
In the nearly century and a half that the world has been naming orchid hybrids, kings, queens, princesses, presidents and first ladies have been honored by having Click for full size imagesomeone register a beautiful orchid to bear their name. In the United States, C. Bess Truman, C. Pat Nixon, Lc. Mamie Eisenhower and Lc. Nancy Reagan are examples of first ladies so recognized. On October 21, 1995, a magnificent semi-alba Catleya was presented to current first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. This orchid, Blc. Hillary Rodham Clinton 'First Lady', is a hybrid of C. Kittiwake 'Brilliance' AM/AOS and Blc. Meditation 'Queen's Dowry' and is a cross originally mady by Carmela Orchids of Hawaii. The particular cultivar, 'First Lady', was raised and registered by Art and Rebecca Chadwick of Powhatan, Virginia, where they have a nursery named Chadwick and Son Orchids. The couple named it for Mrs. Clinton because of their admiration of her. The orchid in the form of three corsages was presented to the First Lady at the $500 per plate Kennedy-King dinner in Alexandria.
One would think it would be easy to name an orchid after someone, but the Chadwicks found that not necessarily the truth. First they had to obtain permission from Carmela Orchids, the breeder, to name the hybrid. Secondly, upon the recommendation of the Orchid Registrar in England, they had to obtain permission from Mrs. Clinton. How does one obtain permission from within the White House? A direct request to the White House and an appeal for help to their U.S. Senator failed to bring a response. Finally through the efforts of the Lt. Governer of Virginia, contact and permission were obtained. Now the concern was to find a time when the orchid was in bloom and when the Chadwicks could present the flower to Mrs. Clinton. A small opening in her busy schedule allowed the presentation to be made after she had spoken at the Kennedy-King dinner. Art and Rebecca have said that it was not an easy fete to achieve but experiencing the security, meeting the First Lady and seeing her pleasure made it all worth the effort.Back to top
Barbara Bush grew up at a time when Cattleya corsages were the standard for fashion in the United States. The 1940's, 1950's and 1960's saw cut-flower cattleyas at their heyday. She was the First Lady of the US from 1989 to 1993, wife of President H. George Bush and also mother of current US President George W Bush. Today she lives in Texas and at age 80 still travels the country supporting her favourite cause--education.
In 2005, she visited Richmond for a Virginia Literacy Foundation fundraiser and acknowledged receiving her namesake orchids with a hand written letter: "They are beautiful. Many thanks. I am so honored!" Brassolaeliocattleya Barbara Bush 'First Lady' is a November blooming semi-alba hybrid with white petals and a soft lavender and yellow throat.Back to top
Flowers of Cattleya Tipper Gore (Pearl Harbor X General Patton) were presented to Tipper Gore on October 21, 1999. This grex, created by Chadwick and Son Orchids, Inc., of Powhatan, Virginia, and registered with the Royal Horticultural Society, bears impressive fragrant white flowers with a yellow throat. "We usually name orchid hybrids honoring first ladies and heads of state, but Al and Tipper Gore have been such a great inspiration to us through their environmental efforts that we just had to name an orchid after her," says Art Chadwick, president of Chadwick and Son Orchids, Inc.
The event took place at the vice president's residence at 34th Street and Massachusetts Avenue Northwest in downtown Washington, DC. The estate is part of the United States Naval Observatory and has been home to each vice president since 1974. The residence's greenhouse contains a variety of orchids, including six purple-flowered cattleya specimens that were in bloom when the cattleya flowers were presented to the vice-president's wife.Back to top
Kensington Palace acknowledged the orchid in a letter. "We are absolutely delighted that there is now an orchid registered in the name of Princess Diana. It looks very beautiful and is a very apt tribute. As the Princess was a great lover of nature, as well as of people, I am sure she would have been deeply honoured for an orchid to have been named after her, which will bring joy to future generations."
Central Virginia was all a-buzz as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II arrived with His Royal Highness Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh on Thursday May 3, 2007 for a two day stint commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement. The capital city, Richmond, hosted the couple for two hours with a tour of the Governor’s Executive Mansion followed by a ‘walkabout’ of the State Capital grounds ending with the Queen addressing the General Assembly. Tens of thousands of fans lined the streets to witness the Queen’s first visit since 1957.
Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, gave the tour which included the orchid presentation. The flowers of Blc Queen Elizabeth The Second (Blc Meditation x Lc Ecstacy) were displayed in a crystal vase along with the official Royal Horticultural Society certificate on a table by the front door and were one of the first things that Her Majesty saw as she walked into the Executive Mansion. The governor proudly explained that the lovely cattleya hybrid was made by a local Virginia firm in her honor.
Art Chadwick, Sr created the royal cattleya using two famous semi-alba parents; Blc Meditation ‘Queen’s Dowry’ which has a pale pink frilly open lip and Lc Ecstacy ‘Scully’s’ which has a solid dark purple closed lip. All the offspring were semi-albas, with a wide range of lip colors.
A letter from Buckingham Palace confirms that The Queen’s father, King George VI, also had an interest in the plants, and that there is currently a collection of orchids at Windsor Castle.
One of our clients, a relative of the Cambodian royal family, suggested that it might be nice to honor Princess and future Queen Yinneka Norodom with an orchid hybrid bearing her name in anticipation of her impending ascension to the throne. She and her husband, Prince Norodom Yuvaneath, had scheduled a Sunday morning meditation at the Quan Am Phat Dien Buddhist Temple in Chesterfield County, Virginia.
What kind of orchid would be appropriate for a remarkable event such as this?
Situated between Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, Cambodia has a climate that is tropical – with 164 known native orchid species growing in the hillsides. The orchids cover a wide range of genera – from tiny Bulbophyllums and Dendrobiums to showy Calanthes and Cymbidiums. Of particular note is Doritis pulcherrima, from which most of today’s purple Phalaenopsis are bred.
Nearly all major orchid genera are represented in this modest Southeast Asian country except one - the glamorous, large-flowered Cattleya species, which grow exclusively in Central and South America. This delicate blossom is considered ‘Queen of the Orchids’ due to its frilly, feminine, and fragrant characteristics.
The color white has great significance in Cambodian lore – representing goodness, purity, and perfection. It seemed like destiny when we checked our greenhouse inventory and found a grouping of large white Cattleya seedlings scheduled to bloom on the very weekend of her arrival! The hybrid is a direct off-spring from the most famous white ‘stud plant’ of all time, Cattleya Bow Bells, which was bred in 1945.
Upon arrival at the Buddhist temple, we were struck by the relatively unassuming exterior of the building. Nestled alongside suburban neighborhoods, the Meditation Center is easily mistaken for another home. A surprise awaited inside, however, as lavishly dressed monks and throngs of well wishers sat patiently for the couple’s arrival. Our orchid offering had been placed at the foot of a magnificent display of life-size golden Buddhas, tropical fruit and flowers.
The big moment came and there was no entourage, special attire, or grand entrance. Instead, the Prince and Princess arrived humbly by car from their home in Connecticut.
The future Queen sat on a loveseat next to her husband for the orchid presentation. She remarked that she was greatly flattered and wished that she spoke better English so as to express her gratitude more clearly.
The future King took me aside and spoke at length about his 30 years in this country and enjoyment of the American way of life. He then asked me a profound question “Who do you consult when faced with an important decision?” I thought about all the possible answers ranging from religious to familial. He then answered for me. ‘You listen to your heart.’ I left fully enlightened…
The following day I received an unexpected delivery - a colorful fruit arrangement with a card that read “Your kindness will always be remembered. We will take the orchids back to the Palace in Cambodia.”
At her request, the name of the orchid hybrid, Cattleya Queen Yinneka Norodom (C Bow Bells x C Joan Holloway), was modified to reflect humility. The title Queen was removed…
When they were first discovered in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, orchids became the most sought after playthings of European royalty. Kings and queens had magnificent collections and by the mid 19th century, orchids were part of the complete royal fabric, grown by dukes and barons, viscounts and ladies. Queen Victoria had a large orchid collection as did the German Empress, Queen of the Belgians, and the Empress of Russia. Cattleyas were especially revered by collectors and were eventually given the title “Queen of the Orchids.”
Cattleyas were truly prized flowers. They had delicious fragrances and were available all year. They were large in size and came in exotic shades of lavender and purple. There were all white flowers and white with dark purple lips. They had a delicate appearance that said “Look, but don’t touch.” And they were very feminine. For more than 30 years, from the late 1920’s through the 1950’s, women wore corsages of cattleya flowers whenever they wanted a touch of glamour. They wore them to fancy luncheons, dinner dances, the theatre, the opera, or any other fashionable affair. President Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie, was never seen in public without her corsage of two or three cattleya flowers. In the 1940’s, teenage boys gave their Junior or Senior Prom dates cattleya corsages – because the girls expected them.
This glamour would soon span the century and as the world moved into the technology age, a different kind of royalty appeared – the stars of motion pictures and television. Such famous Hollywood personalities as Gregory Peck and Raymond Burr grew a treasure trove of cattleyas. During his many television interviews, Gregory Peck was often surrounded by his large cattleya plants with their magnificent array of white flowers. Raymond Burr’s orchid collection was legendary and included a sizeable commercial interest, Sea God Nurseries, with hundreds of registered cattleya hybrids and an orchid garden on the island of Java.
In keeping with the tradition of glamour, one of our modern day celebrities, Priscilla Presley, sat down recently to have her picture taken for this magazine, next to her namesake orchid, Cattleya Priscilla Presley. It was through mutual friends that we approached Ms. Presley several years ago about the concept of having an orchid named in her honor – specifically a cattleya – and included a copy of ‘The Classic Cattleyas’ book as an introduction. She liked the idea and, in the months that followed, she personally selected this hybrid from photographs of seedlings that were in production. As the delicate buds started to appear in the sheaths, we would ship the special plants across the country – in the dead of winter - praying that the plants wouldn’t freeze or get damaged.
We are so proud to be associated with Priscilla Presley who is one of the most recognized personalities in the world. Known initially though her marriage to the ‘King of Rock & Roll’, Elvis Presley, she went on to star in many successful films including the Naked Gun trilogy and the long running Dallas television series. When not in front of the camera, she guided Graceland into the popular tourist attraction that it is today as founder and chairwoman of Elvis Presley Enterprises. Recently, she inspired TV audiences everywhere with her ballroom dance routines on Dancing with the Stars.
Her beautiful purple hybrid is a product of a fascinating cross between the famous Cattleya Bonanza and the lovely Cattleya Altesse. Cattleya Bonanza has been widely written about for its superior breeding abilities so it is familiar to many orchid hobbyists but Cattleya Altesse is one of the hidden treasures that few people know about today.
C Altesse was first introduced to the orchid world in 1936 by the French company, Vacherot & Lecoufle in Paris. Its lineage practically guaranteed stardom because it was a continuation of the fine breeding of Sanders of St Albans, England – using C Britannia in 1903 and C Remy Chollet in 1926. The famous species stud, C trianaei ‘Grand Monarch’ FCC/RHS gave C Remy Chollet its particularly round shape and vigorous growth habit.
The resulting C Altesse plants had strong floriferous bloom spikes. The flowers cleared the sheaths well and lasted a long time – an important quality for the corsage industry. The best varieties of C Altesse made their way to the United States and were used by commercial growers, primarily on the East Coast, to make some of the best cut flower crosses of the day. Jones and Scully gave one plant their coveted varietal name, ‘Orchidglade’ but, for the most part, C Altesse was rarely exhibited at shows. Instead, its primary use was for stud purposes though many of the resulting crosses were not officially registered with the Royal Horticultural Society - leaving the hybrid relatively unknown until now.
Cattleya Priscilla Presley fills an important gap in the history of cattleya breeding for it demonstrates the beauty that C Altesse can impart on purple hybrids. All the seedlings from this celebrity cross bloom during the winter months of January and February – exactly when they are desired most by the public. The lovely lavender shaded petals vary ever so slightly from plant to plant and the darker throats offer a hint of gold veining and an unmistakable fragrance.
Ms. Presley, who also has a rose perfume which carries her name, keeps a collection of her namesake orchids in Beverly Hills, CA where they bloom for over a month. She displays the plants in ornate decorative pots which further enhance their beauty and keep the heavily laden flowers from tipping over. The new hybrid was unveiled for the first time as a large grouping of seedlings at this year’s Virginia Orchid Society show in Richmond. This article also printed in Orchids Magazine May, 2011.
On the centennial anniversary of Lady Bird Johnson’s birth, a special namesake orchid was presented to her oldest daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson Robb. The timing was perfect – the week of Mother’s Day – a fitting tribute to one of the most horticulture-minded of our First Ladies.
Lady Bird Johnson became First Lady just two hours after the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 when her husband Lyndon B. Johnson became the 36th President of the United States. She was no stranger to politics as her husband was elected to congress just three years into their marriage.
While First Lady, Johnson actively campaigned for the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 that called for control of outdoor advertising and encouraged scenic improvement along the nation’s roadways. She was a lifelong advocate of flowers and at age 70, she co-founded the National Wildflower Research Center (later re-named the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, www.wildflower.org) – a nonprofit organization devoted to preserving and reintroducing native plants. Johnson was fond of saying “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Today, every state plants wildflowers along its highways and there is no doubt that this effort has preserved more than a few of our native orchids.
America’s landscapes are beautiful. The roadsides in the spring are awash with blossoms of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Drivers can often tell what part of the country they are in simply by looking at the flowers along the highway. Lady Bird Johnson grew up in Texas where seemingly endless stretches of barren interstates now greet travelers with rainbows of color.
Cattleyas are ‘wild flowers’ in Central and South America where they grow on trees. In many cases, they are the National flowers of their respective countries. The pedigree lineage of this First Lady orchid relies heavily on Cattleya mossiae, the National Flower of Venezuela which blooms in the spring.
In order to fully appreciate Cattleya Lady Bird Johnson, one has to trace the history back to the early days of breeding. The background of this hybrid includes one of the great Cattleya species of all time, a semi-alba variety called C mossiae ‘Reineckiana Young’s.’ It was a jungle plant sent by a friend in Venezuela during the 1920’s to a millionaire hobbyist, Thomas Young, who lived in Bound Brook, New Jersey.
Mr. Young was very protective of his C mossiae ‘Reineckiana’ and only gave away only one division - and that was to his good friend Fitz Eugene Dixon, who was the 2nd President of the American Orchid Society. Dixon later sold his collection to his neighbor Wharton Sinkler, who was the 3rd President of the American Orchid Society, The plant was so valuable that Sinkler’s personal orchid grower would trade just the tiny flower ‘pollen’ in exchange for the latest cattleya hybrids.
One of the largest cut flower producers in the area, H. Patterson & Sons in Bergenfield, New Jersey bought Sinkler’s stud collection and remade the circa 1898 primary hybrid Enid (C mossiae x C warscewiczii ’FMB’) over a dozen times using the wondrous C mossiae. These improved strains of C Enid would result in superior hybrids in the coming years.
In 1952, Patterson created a brand new stunning semi-alba hybrid, C Catherine Patterson (C Enid x C Mrs Frederick Knollys). The flowers of C Catherine Patterson had a clear, clean white color to the sepals and petals and a rich marbled purple throat. The blossoms were enormous and opened in early May which was ideal for the Mother’s Day corsage trade.
Lady Bird Johnson’s namesake cattleya is the result of further breeding with C Catherine Patterson. First, another semi-alba primary hybrid C Trimos (C trianaei x C mossiae) was used to make C David Hill (C Catherine Patterson x C Trimos) which expanded the blooming season to include April and robust Easter sales. This new hybrid was then bred back onto a select form of C mossiae. All the C Lady Bird Johnson (C David Hill x C mossiae) seedlings have a lovely two tone magenta yellow throat as well as the vigor commonly found in the large flowered species.
Mrs. Johnson’s daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson Robb gracefully accepted the flowers at her home in McLean Virginia on her late mother’s behalf. The United States Botanic Garden in Washington DC loaned a blooming specimen from their prized First Lady orchid collection in order to coincide with Mrs. Robb’s availability. The first bloom seedling was aptly given the variety name, ‘Mother’s Day’.
The public is encouraged to see the impressive Lady Bird Johnson cattleyas which bloom each spring in our nation’s capital (www.usbg.gov). They are a constant reminder of the wonderful work that Mrs. Johnson did through the years in beautifying the highways on which we drive every day. Article appears in Orchid Magazine, August 2012.