The Future Queen of Cambodia (Richmond Times Dispatch, Feb 2011)


The Future Queen 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.

Cattleya Yinneka Norodom 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…