A lovely Orchid for a lovely Lady
Baron J. H. W. von Schröder had one of the finest orchid collections in Europe and he loved cattleyas. The largest and grandest greenhouse on his estate near Windsor was built just for cattleyas, and his appetite for fine Cattleya species was insatiable. At The Dell, as he called his estate, he wanted only the best and nothing less would do.
Treasure of the Incas
James O’Brien, one of the most famous horticulturists of the late 1800s, was an expert on orchids, particularly the large-flowered Cattleya species. He was secretary to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Orchid Committee, advisor to the editors of The Gardeners’ Chronicle, and frequently assisted the botanist H.G. Reichenbach in his botanical deliberations. When Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, awarded the first Victoria Medal of Honor in Horticulture (VMH), she presented it to James O’Brien.
Cattleya quadricolorfirst appeared in Europe in 1848 when an English orchid grower named Rucker received a single plant from a friend traveling in Colombia. When the plant flowered in 1849, Rucker sent the flowers to the botanist John Lindley, asking him what it was. The only large-flowered Cattleyaspecies known at the time were Cattleya. labiata and Cattleya mossiae, and Lindley thought the flowers Rucker sent were different enough from these two species to mention the plant in an article he wrote for Paxton’s Flower Garden.
A perennial Christmas present
I cannot imagine Christmas without Cattleya percivaliana. Its aromatic fragrance and deep, rich, purple coloring are as much a part of my holiday as bayberry candles, pine cones and the aroma of fresh-baked mince pie.
The Vanished Monarch
A visit to the gardens at Manley Hall was a wonderful experience. Forty-four greenhouses traveled the spectrum of the whole plant kingdom — with winding walks and waterfalls as in a rich tropical valley of ferns, or stepping stones for walkways that connected a wonderland of artificial lakes filled with aquatic plants. Everything luxuriated in palms, cycads, and beautiful-leaved plants, but there was also a greenhouse full of flowering azaleas surrounded by beds of pansies.
The Little Charmer
Orchids were a passion for the new president of The Royal Horticultural Society as he took office in March 1885. His estate at Burford Lodge in Dorking, England, with its 12 greenhouses, was written up frequently in the horticultural press and it was often said he had the best private orchid collection in Britain. His mother, Louisa, had been an active gardener and botanist, and the new president credited her with stimulating his love for orchids. They were her passion, too.
One of the great things about Mother Nature is her eagerness to experiment with her many offspring to help them survive in an ever-changing world. Now and then she even encourages two closely related species to trespass on each other’s territory and in the process creates a natural hybrid between them.
Queen Bee par Excellence
It must have been fun to be an orchid enthusiast and live in London in the 1880s. You could see a new display of orchids two or three times a week. You could see the displays even if you only worked in London, because they were usually held from 11 am to 2:30 pm weekdays — during your lunch break.
Golden Secret of the Amazon
The mid 1800s was the great age of discovery for the large-flowered Cattleya species. The first species were found by private individuals and government workers living or traveling in South America who sent the plants back to horticultural friends in Europe. As the age progressed, however, most of the species were discovered by professional plant hunters working for large commercial orchid companies.
The Rainbow Cattleya
John Rolfe was one of the giants of the orchid world during the late 1800s. He was one of the most knowledgeable and hardworking orchid botanists of his time, and was ultimately recognized for his accomplishments with Britain's highest honors, including the Victoria Medal of Honor and the Veitch Memorial Medal.