I just watched the Martha Stewart show and saw the gorgeous orchid that you named after her. Thank you so much for making my day a little brighter. I was wondering where I can buy this plant? Mary V.
Last month, the orchid world received a ringing endorsement from a legendary gardening and etiquette diva. Martha Stewart proudly accepted her namesake Cattleya in front of millions of viewers on her acclaimed television show, Martha. In so doing, she affirmed the long standing reputation of the frilly 'corsage' orchid as the 'Queen of the Orchids.'
The event took place in Manhattan at the Chelsea Television Studio - a sprawling complex that takes up nearly an entire block on West 26th Street.
We were asked to arrive in New York the night before so as to minimize the chance of getting stuck in traffic and possibly missing the show.
In our possession were three important items: The incredibly fragile orchid plant that was wrapped like a baby in cotton yet so vulnerable to breakage by just a gust of wind or slight misstep, an enormous 5' x 7' acrylic painting of the flower by my sister, artist Anne Link that required a special delivery van to accommodate, and a signed copy of my father's new book 'The Classic Cattleyas', which is a culmination of his lifetime of orchid growing. Clearly, this was a family affair.
We arrived at the studio 2 hours before show time and found a long line of people hoping to get last minute tickets. At first, the security guards thought we were just fans and told us to get at the end of the line. We explained that we were guests on the show and were then escorted through the high security entrance, up two flights of stairs, and into a special room. In tow, were the orchid, the painting, and the book miraculously all looking perfect.
The pleasant staff greeted us and showed us around our lavish dressing room - the deli tray assortment with meats, breads, and fruits, the herbal tea selection, the tasty pecan squares. Our every need taken care of, we sat in the plush swivel chairs and watched reruns of the Martha show on TV.
Suddenly, Martha Stewart herself walks in and she can't wait to see her namesake orchid having only seen pictures of it previously. She obviously likes it and tells us about her personal orchid collection consisting of over 200 plants that are grown in a commercial sized greenhouse at her home in Westchester New York. She leafs through the book and sees a picture of a greenhouse full of blooming plants. 'I want my greenhouse to look like THAT' she remarks. (No problem, we can make that happen.)
The painting was a pleasant surprise for her and was our gift. She was delighted and couldn't have been friendlier or more hospitable. Moments later, actor Jeff Bridges emerged from his dressing room and walked in to admire the flower. He, too, was a guest on the show that day. (Well OK, he was the MAIN guest).
Later, we were escorted to the makeup room where we were given a copious amount of facial cream, powder, and hair tonic. Then we were fitted with microphones and tested for voice levels. There was even a dress rehearsal. Unfortunately, we were scheduled to appear in the 'goodbye' segment of the show which consisted of the last 3 minutes. There would only be enough time for a few lines which my father was assigned and rehearsed thoroughly. My job was, at the precise time, to unveil the orchid which was hidden behind an ornate box.
My father and I were then positioned on stage in front of the several hundred screaming fans who were eagerly awaiting the show to resume. The last commercial ended and we were on the air. Bright lights, cameras, teleprompters, stage directors, and the wild studio audience all made for a dizzying experience for a novice actor like myself but Art Sr was undaunted and in complete control. (He later told me that I need to work on my stage presence. Thanks, dad.) Martha was supposed to ask predetermined questions but, of course, she made up her own lines which forced my father to 'think' of answers spontaneously rather than say memorized ones. As the cameras rolled, he said the most amazing things such as 'Martha, you are the Queen of American Television'. I was very proud of him.
The studio director signaled for Martha to wrap it up and, just like that, it was all over. Martha commented that there just wasn't enough time to cover all the orchid related material so, with any luck, we'll be asked back. Before we left, we were summoned to securely pack the prized orchid for it would be traveling home with Martha THAT night.
The challenge to Martha is this: Her namesake cattleya, if grown correctly, will bloom every April. If it does and she brings it to the studio, I will travel to New York for a return appearance on her show (and have better stage presence). The rest of the world, however, will have to wait 4 years to get exact reproductions of this famous cattleya. Orchid cloning is no simple matter.
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