“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
On the centennial anniversary of Lady Bird Johnson’s birth, a special namesake First lady 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 great First Ladies.
Lady Bird Johnson became First Lady just two hours after the assassination 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. Mr. Johnson was re-elected President in 1964 with Hubert Humphrey as his running mate, winning the popular vote by the largest margin in American history. She remained in office until January 20, 1969.
During her tenure, she actively campaigned for the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 which called for control of outdoor advertising and encouraged scenic enhancement 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. Mrs. Johnson was fond of saying “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Today, every state plants wildflowers along its highways.
Cattleya Lady Bird Johnson is a lovely and glamorous flower honoring a special woman. 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. It is common for the petal spans of this species to exceed eight inches with up to five flowers on a spike! Though most C mossiaes are a lavender shade, the selective breeding of Lady Bird’s flower ensured progeny of a pleasing white with a pinky yellow throat.
Lynda Bird Johnson Robb gracefully accepted the flowers at her home in McLean Virginia on her late mother’s behalf. The presentation included an official certificate from the Royal Horticultural Society authenticating the hybrid. 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. Just hours earlier, Mrs. Robb was in Texas at another ceremony honoring her mother’s centennial.
Mrs. Robb has been in the public spotlight her entire life. Aside from her famous parents, she was married at the White House in 1967 to Marine Captain Charles S. Robb who later became Governor of Virginia as well as a two term U.S. Senator. She served as Chairman of the Board of Reading is Fundamental, the nation’s largest children’s literacy organization and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the LBJ Foundation and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
The public is encouraged to see first hand the impressive Lady Bird Johnson Cattleyas which permanently reside along with other First Lady hybrids at the US Botanic Garden.