The Myth Maker
When a vagabond plant collector named William Swainson sent a bundle of strange lavender-flowered plants thought to be parasitic to the Glasgow Botanic Garden in 1817, he opened the door to a flood of excitement that would engulf the horticultural world for the rest of the century.
As the newness of spring begins to wane and the summer sun smiles down from its place high in the sky, we find ourselves with a greenhouse full of the lovely Brazilian Cattleya warneri. This delightful species provides a display of lavender and purple that rivals and is reminiscent of its autumn-flowering sister from Brazil,Cattleya labiata. Were it not for their wide difference in blooming season, the flowers of one could easily be mistaken for the other.
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.
Cattleya dowiana is one of the most beautiful of the cattleya species and has been a treasure for collectors since its discovery in 1850. It is the only cattleya species of the Cattleya labiata group that has yellow sepals and petals, and with its dark crimson-purple lip veined with gold, it is magnificent.
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.