Celebrity Orchids

Presentations of Orchids to Those We Admire

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Michelle Obama Hilary Clinton Barbara BushLady Bird Johnson
 Tipper Gore The QueenPrincess Diana

Melania Trump

(Bloomberg, May 2018)

Melania Knauss Trump is the wife of the 45th United States President. Prior to marrying Donald J. Trump in 2005, she was a successful model working with major fashion houses in Milan and Paris and later appearing on the covers of dozens of magazines including Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Glamour. She also had her own watch and jewelry line.

The former Melanija Knavs was born in Slovenia (formerly Yugoslavia) where her mother was a fashion designer. She moved to New York City in 1996 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2006. Over the years, she has been active in the American Red Cross as well as the American Heart Association.

In her role as First Lady, Mrs. Trump focuses on the many issues affecting children. She recently launched BE BEST – an awareness campaign that encourages wellness, offsets the negative effects of social media, and reduces opioid abuse.

One of the benefits of being associated with the project, First Ladies and their Cattleyas, is that everyone goes out of their way to help the cause. No sooner had Mr. Trump been elected, than clients began offering their connections in Washington and a streamlined way to give the new First Lady her namesake orchid.

In early 2018, one of the seedlings received a prestigious flower quality award from the American Orchid Society. The Highly Commended Certificate or HCC/AOS designation moved the cattleya into an exclusive club of honored first lady hybrids. Only those namesakes of Bess Truman, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush have been given similar accolades.

The fall of 2018 brought fresh political momentum to the project when our local Virginia congressman got involved. House member Dave Brat was so impressed with the Trump orchid that he sent a staffer to the White House with a vase of cut flowers along with an impassioned plea to formally accept them.

Shortly thereafter, former First Lady Laura Bush called Mrs. Trump  to encourage the orchid presentation after hearing a garden club lecture, “First Ladies and their Cattleyas,” given by the author. Mrs. Bush is quite familiar with orchids having accepted her own namesake in 2005 at the United States Botanic Garden. Just before congress was scheduled to take its winter break, we received an email from the Office of the First Lady.

The timing was perfect because there were at least four varieties in bud that would be fully open after the New Year and she could choose her favorite. The colors ran the gamut and represented the natural variation in seed grown plants.

However, no sooner had we responded to the White House than the government shut down for the next 33 days and, with it, our hopes of presenting the orchids. The emails stopped and one by one, the flowers folded until there were none left.

Then, one March afternoon, we had an interesting visitor at the greenhouse. He was a serious orchid hobbyist from out of town and was interested in Bulbophyllums and other unusual genera. In passing, he mentioned that he was also the personal chef of the President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump and her husband Jarad Kushner.

Stephen Kotarski had been catering for the Trump family in New Jersey for a decade before moving to the District of Colombia. Upon hearing of our project, he immediately offered to assist and took two spring-blooming varieties of Melania Trump’s hybrid back to Washington where they were warmly greeted.

An official date was set for the presentation but it was nearly two weeks away and we wondered whether the flowers would still look fresh for the photograph. In the interim, the National Park Service was given the task of caring for the delicate orchids in their secret offsite greenhouse facility half an hour away. It was unseasonably warm during this period as the delicate cattleyas were shuttled back and forth through safety check points. The day before the scheduled event, one of the two plants folded.

On a Tuesday morning in early April, history was made. First Lady Melania Trump sat down in the Green Room of the White House and was photographed with her namesake hybrid. The seedling that made the arduous journey was the same plant that had been awarded by the American Orchid Society the previous year – variety ‘First Lady.’

The next day, I was summoned to pick up the plants from the White House grounds. The security was intense as I entered through the E Street gate and drove down East Executive Avenue. Massive barricades opened and closed and a dozen armed guards looked me over.

The gardens overlooking the east wing were lovely with perfectly manicured hedges and spring plantings of yellow tulips and blue pansies. Brick walkways led visitors around and pink dogwoods dotted the landscape. The White House, itself, is a formidable structure and I was honored to be in its presence.

Per Mrs. Trump’s request, the cattleya that she was photographed with was taken across the street and donated immediately to the United States Botanic Garden which serves as a repository for the First Lady orchid collection. Since 1929, the wives of fifteen consecutive Presidents have been honored with namesake cattleyas and most of the hybrids are still in existence today. The public can see these historical plants when the USBG and the Smithsonian Gardens co-host an annual orchid show in downtown Washington, D.C. from February to April.

Rlc Melania Trump is the most complex of all the first lady hybrids with 10 generations of breeding. In general terms, the cross combines a Cattleya Bow Bells influenced big white with a free-spirited art-shade Rhyncholaeliocattleya Chia Lin (Oconee x Maitland).

One parent of Rhyncholaeliocattleya Melania Trump is Cattleya Bold Swan (Old Whitey x Swan Lake). This lovely white hybrid has a lengthy ancestry and relies heavily on three of the work horses of the cut flower era - C mossiae, C gaskelliana, and C trianaei. Together, they provide big round flowers and exceptional vigor.

The legendary C Bow Bells is a grandparent on both sides of the lineage. It has been nearly 75 years, almost the length of a human lifetime, since a Cattleya hybrid named Bow Bells burst upon the orchid stage. The year was 1945 and the stage was the September meeting of the Trustees of the American Orchid Society. At the meeting, Clint McDade of Rivermont Orchids exhibited five plants of a new white cattleya hybrid called Bow Bells that had such outstanding flowers that one was awarded a First Class Certificate and the whole group received a rare Silver Medal of Excellence. Amazingly, four of the five plants were seedlings flowering for the first time.

The next appearance of C. Bow Bells was at the 1948 Miami Orchid Show where two more plants received First Class Certificates. Such accolades were unprecedented, and in one brief moment in the long history of cattleyas, this fragile flower had revolutionized the quality of white cattleya hybrids. It had raised it to the rarefied level of near-perfection by all the judging standards and C. Bow Bells would go on to become one of the most awarded hybrids in orchid history.

Cattleya Bow Bells was a product of the breeding program of the British orchid company Black & Flory who gave it its name and registered it with the Royal Horticultural Society in April 1945. Black & Flory was known for breeding fine cattleya hybrids and Clint McDade had purchased a large number of C. Bow Bells seedlings before any of them had flowered. When they began blooming in his greenhouses on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, he found he was sitting on a gold mine. McDade later described C. Bow Bells as “a botanical phenomenon among orchid plants.” He said, “All plants grown from this one seed pod are strikingly similar in having all the superior qualities desired in orchids. The plant itself is noted for its vigor and consequently is less difficult than most plants to grow. The flowers have all the desirable qualities of a fine orchid. The wide petals and sepals have good form and carriage and the large wide lip has a ruffled edge.”

In addition to C Bow Bells, we find such fine stud plants as C Ethyl Bishop (1945), C Empress Bells (1952), and C Vesper Bells (1958) in the lineage of C Bold Swan. Vesper Bells carries genes of the tall growing species, C loddigesii, which tend to impart flatter, waxy flowers.

The other parent of Blc Melania Trump is the 1980’s reddish stud, Blc Chia Lin (Oconee x Maitland). Over the years, there have been a handful of AOS awards for this hybrid and the colors range from ruby red to red violet to fuchsia. It’s truly a beautiful flower and few, if any, big reds today are an improvement.

As a breeder plant, Blc Chia Lin is wildly unpredictable given its colorful lineage that comprises sixteen species. Most influential is the naturally occurring yellow, C dowiana, which is always the prized plant in anyone’s collection despite its reputation as being tricky to grow (Experts recommend giving C dowiana warm nights, no cooler than 65 deg F). We also find such unlikely cattleyas as L tenebrosa and C bicolor along with Epidendrum cinnabarinum – hardly the standards of big round flowers.

With so many generations of dissimilar plant combinations, it’s hard to get a handle on the inner workings. The Oconee parent, from 1976, is heavy on dark purple breeding beginning with the earliest of primary hybrids, Lc Callistoglossa (L purpurata x C warscewiczii) from 1882 as well as the dark form of C Fabia (dowiana x labiata) from 1894. Experience has shown that breeding with C dowiana tends to darken the offspring of other purples.

The Maitland parent is also from the 70’s and is not a particularly well-shaped yellow. The petals are narrow and fall forward but, variety ‘Miles’ HCC/AOS, which is named after the originator, has intense yellow color that can partly be attributed to the 1904 primary hybrid, C Triumphans (dowiana x rex).

Early breeders were enamored with C dowiana until they found out that, it didn’t produce hybrids that were yellow. The pigment in its sepals and petals was so genetically recessive that it disappeared entirely when bred with any other large flowered cattleya. It wasn’t until a strange new cattleya species was imported from the jungles of Peru in 1890 that C dowiana finally produced a yellow-petal large flowered hybrid. The secret ingredient that made everything work was Cattleya rex – a blossom whose creamy appearance resembled pale lemon overlaid with white.

Cattleya rex had been one of the most elusive species in the history of orchid collecting, and it was a wonder that it ever made it to Europe. It had been previously seen in the wild by the well known explorer Jean Linden when, as a young man in the 20’s, he was traveling through South America for the Belgian government in the 1840’s. It was seen again, 30 years later, by the orchid collector Gustav Wallis. In Linden’s case, he was just surveying the plant life of Peru and Ecuador and was not in a position to bring back many epiphytes. Wallis, on the other hand, was in the business of gathering wild plants but found it impossible to extract the C rex specimens from the tops of the 70 foot tall trees and transport them alive through the dense jungle to a suitable port.   

For years, other explorers tried to coax C rex out of the jungle, but all were unable to bring even one healthy plant back to Europe and the horticultural world. The biggest obstacle was the isolated rainforest area where C rex was endemic.

It wasn’t until after a carefully planned effort by experienced plant collector Eric Bungeroth that a small number of C rex finally arrived in Liverpool, England in November, 1890. The orchids that lived were sold to Jean Linden’s company L’Horticulture Internationale where a client named Charles Maron was the first to bloom a plant. He would later use C rex in hybridizing and crossed it with C dowiana to produce the primary hybrid Cattleya Triumphans.

Other exciting early hybrids found in Maitland include the yellow C Prince John (dowiana x Hardyana) from 1913 which produces deeply colored magenta lips and Bc Heatonensis (B digbyana x C Hardyana) from 1902 which offers Maitland a touch of frilly lip.     

The Trump cross was named by Chadwick’s and bred by Michael Sinn of Canaima Orchids in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Sinn is a world class hybridizer who is often sold out years before his seedlings bloom. He is originally from Venezuela and earned a degree in civil engineering there. But his true love is orchids. “When my friends were going to the beach, I was going to the jungle looking for plants,” he says.

The first Trump seedlings to bloom at Chadwick’s produced hues rarely seen in cattleyas - blush, apricot, burgundy, and rust. Later, some traditional colors such as pink and purple came along. The one trait that was consistent throughout was the vigor of the plants which all had robust leaves and strong inflorescences.

The flowers are medium sized and they appear mostly in the fall and winter. Fortunately, there are a few spring bloomers as these were the plants that were sent to the White House.

What will be remembered about Mrs. Trump’s namesake cattleya is the unpredictability in the seedlings. While nearly all previous First Lady hybrids are white, purple or a combination of the two, Blc Melania Trump can be found in a rainbow of colors.

Michelle Obama Story

(ORCHIDS Magazine, Jan 2009)

Michelle Obama2008 was a highly publicized election year in the United States and having presented namesake Cattleya hybrids to the last three First Ladies, we were under considerable pressure to repeat our feat. Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush all had their orchids. Could we go four in a row? The answer came in early August when the leading candidate’s wife, Michelle Obama, was campaigning in Virginia. Though not yet First Lady, she was the odds-on favorite so we took a chance. 

We were given a two minute photo opportunity during a reception at the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk where Mrs. Obama was to address a crowd of 1,200 supporters. Other guests included Virginia Governor Tim Kaine who had presented Queen Elizabeth II with her namesake orchid on our behalf in 2007. The music for the evening was provided by local singer/songwriter and Grammy award winner Bruce Hornsby. 

Michelle ObamaThe star of the show was undoubtedly the compact growing Lc Michelle Obama (C trianaei x Lc Mini Purple) which was displayed as a grouping of five plants in a fancy decorative container. With the addition of accoutrements curly willow and Spanish moss, the floral arrangement was threatening to upstage the politicians! 

Just moments before the presentation was to take place, however, the secret service intervened, “The arrangement can not be in the picture!” 

“Excuse me?”, I asked in complete disbelief. 
“I’m sorry, but rules are rules” said the agent. 
“But sir, we have been invited here for this purpose”, I tried to gently explain as my blood pressure started rising. 
“Well, we haven’t scanned the object with our bomb detecting equipment.” said the agent. 
“OK, no problem. I’ll just stand over here and you take as long as you need to scan it” I said confidently. 
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the equipment here” he said sheepishly. 
After a long silence in which I envisioned the entire presentation evaporating before my eyes, I said in desperation, “Can I pick off the flowers and present them?” 
There was a big huddle of secret service agents using hand held radios. The answer, “You can present one flower”. 
One flower,?” I asked in greater disbelief. 
“OK, two. But that’s it.” said the agent having reached a generous compromise. 

I carefully removed two of the small flowers from the formerly glorious arrangement and together with the framed RHS certificate approached Mrs. Obama. She was most curious at my offerings as it wasn’t exactly apparent what I held. I wasn’t even sure. 

I was a little embarrassed and wanted to explain to her what had happened but, given the time constraint, opted for enthusiastically declaring that the flowers were named for her. She was very excited and gave me a big hug. Wow, I wasn’t aware that First Lady etiquette allows for such affection! 

Now that the election is over, I’m glad that we took a chance on Michelle Obama. She is officially First Lady on January 20th and her social calendar is already overflowing with invitations to appear. My father, A.A. Chadwick, once told me, ‘Never mix business with politics.’ Orchids, however, transcend conventional boundaries and with four successive presidential administrations securely in the history books, the legacy of Classic Cattleyas will continue. Selected clones available 2012.

The Martha Stewart Orchid 

(Tatnall Today - Winter 2007)


Acclaimed orchid grower and Tatnall Distinguished Alumni Art Chadwick, '81, and his father, Art Sr. presented an orchid to someone many consider to be the 'first lady' of the domestic arts, Martha Stewart. The two unveiled the orchid before a live audience on Stewart's television show, Martha.

"The orchid world received a ringing endorsement from a legendary gardening and etiquette diva," said Chadwick. "Martha Stewart proudly accepted her namesake Cattleya in front of millions of viewers on her television show. In so doing, she affirmed the long-standing reputation of the frilly 'corsage' orchid as the 'Queen of the Orchids."

Caption - "Art Chadwick, '81', (right) enjoyed a photo op with his father, Art Sr. (left) and Martha Stewart after a taping of the domestic diva's television show. Stewart is holding a copy of the book, "The Classic Cattleyas," written by Art Chadwick Sr."

(The event coincided with the opening of the New York International Orchid Show)



Blc Margaret Thatcher 'Prime Minister'

(Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sep 14, 2004)

Margret ThatcherIt was seven years in the making. But the result, Art Chadwick says, was worth the wait. Chadwick, president of Chadwick & Son Orchids Inc. in Powhatan County, last month presented Margaret Thatcher with a cattleya orchid hybrid that was named in her honor. Cattleya orchids grow for seven years inside a greenhouse before they bloom. Then they bloom annually. "There's not much we can do about the seven years," Chadwick said. "We just have to wait. Once it blooms you realize why you waited so long. It's spectacular." The large blooms are often used in corsages because of their size. So Chadwick & Son made a corsage out of the orchid named for Thatcher and presented it to her. She pinned it to her blazer. "She said it was lovely," Chadwick said. The ceremony took place last month during Thatcher's visit to the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond.

Naming orchids in honor of famous women is nothing new for Chadwick & Son Orchids. Previous recipients include Laura Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tipper Gore and the late Princess Diana. The orchid named for Thatcher was registered with the Royal Horticultural Society in England. The flowers are light lavender with a darker lip. They have a sweet fragrance. The botanical name is Brassolaeliocattleya Margaret Thatcher (Lc Princess Margaret x Blc Summer Bay). "This keeps the cattleya on the front pages," Chadwick said. "It's an orchid that is not as popular as it once was." The cattleya was popular in the 1940s and 1950s. It is not as easy to grow as other varieties, said Chadwick, whose orchid column appears monthly in Saturday's Home & Garden section. He usually has thousands in production at a time because of the seven-year wait for blooms. "You don't know until they bloom whether they will be any good," he said. "So you have to have a lot in production."

In addition to naming orchids for women in politics, Chadwick & Son has also named them after friends, as well as Indian tribes. "It's an exciting thing," Chadwick said. "Who wouldn't want an orchid named after them? It's such an honor.

Laura's Orchid 

(ORCHIDS Magazine, Jul 2006)

The ‘Laura Orchid,’ grown and registered with the Royal Horticultural Society by Chadwick & Son Orchids Inc, of Powhatan, was presented to Laura Bush at the United States Botanical Garden in Washington, D.C. The event took place on Tuesday May 9 as part of the “First Lady’s Luncheon” which is an annual gathering of the wives of the U.S. Senators. Assisting in the presentation was the garden’s Executive Director Holly Shimuzu.

The new orchid hybrid is a classic Cattleya with medium sized white flowers, a contrasting purple throat, and a sweet fragrance. Designed to bloom twice a year on a compact plant, the official botanical name is Brassolaeliocattleya Laura Bush.

First Ladies have a long tradition of being honored with Cattleya orchids which dates back to the 1940’s’ said Art Chadwick, President of Chadwick & Son Orchids. Previous recipients of Chadwick hybrids include former First Ladies Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barbara Bush as well as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and, most recently, Martha Stewart.

The First Orchid

(Richmond Magazine, Jun 2004)

Laura BushIt’s a safe bet that Laura bush isn’t often kept waiting but even the first lady can’t rush mother nature. And so she, along with art Chadwick of powhatan’s Chadwick & son orchids, awaits the blooming of a cattleya orchid that Chadwick registered with the royal horticultural society in honor of the first lady, in order to complete a presentation ceremony postponed last summer due to scheduling conflicts.

Brassolaeliocattleya Laura Bush features a white flower (sometimes over laid by a lavender starburst) with a dark purple lip and is only in bloom for a few weeks each summer. Chadwick’s growers are currently caring for about 20 of the prized hybrids. ‘I’m looking for several that look very good and very fresh’ says Chadwick, who hopes to let the first lady pick her favorite, which will be dubbed variety ‘first lady’.

This isn’t the first time Chadwick has presented a first lady with an orchid. He and his wife, Rebecca, presented then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with her own namesake orchid. ‘She was the first first lady in history to be presented and photographed with her namesake orchid while in office’ says Chadwick, who notes that a tradition exists for naming orchids after first ladies such as nancy Reagan and bess Truman among those so honored. Laura bush should join them sometime in August, and may have by the time you’re reading this, says Chadwick. “It’s entirely up to the flowers.”

An Orchid for the First Lady

(Orchid Digest, Apr 1996)

Hilary ClintonIn the nearly century and a half that the world has been naming orchid hybrids, kings, queens, princesses, presidents and first ladies have been honored by having someone register a beautiful orchid to bear their name. In the United States, C. Bess Truman, C. Pat Nixon, Lc. Mamie Eisenhower and Lc. Nancy Reagan are examples of first ladies so recognized. On October 21, 1995, a magnificent semi-alba Cattleya was presented to current first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. This orchid, Blc. Hillary Rodham Clinton 'First Lady', is a hybrid of C. Kittiwake 'Brilliance' AM/ODC and Blc. Meditation 'Queen's Dowry' and is a cross originally made by Carmela Orchids of Hawaii. The particular cultivar, 'First Lady', was raised and registered by Art and Rebecca Chadwick of Powhatan, Virginia, where they have a nursery named Chadwick and Son Orchids. The couple named it for Mrs. Clinton because of their admiration of her. The orchid in the form of three corsages was presented to the First Lady at the $500 per plate Kennedy-King dinner in Alexandria.

Hilary ClintonOne would think it would be easy to name an orchid after someone, but the Chadwick's found that not necessarily the truth. First they had to obtain permission from Carmela Orchids, the breeder, to name the hybrid. Secondly, upon the recommendation of the Orchid Registrar in England, they had to obtain permission from Mrs. Clinton. How does one obtain permission from within the White House? A direct request to the White House and an appeal for help to their U.S. Senator failed to bring a response. Finally through the efforts of the Lt. Governor of Virginia, contact and permission were obtained. Now the concern was to find a time when the orchid was in bloom and when the Chadwick's could present the flower to Mrs. Clinton. A small opening in her busy schedule allowed the presentation to be made after she had spoken at the Kennedy-King dinner. Art and Rebecca have said that it was not an easy fete to achieve but experiencing the security, meeting the First Lady and seeing her pleasure made it all worth the effort.

Barbara Bush

(The Orchid Review, May-Jun 2007)

Barbara BushBarbara BushBarbara Bush grew up at a time when Cattleya corsages were the standard for fashion in the United States. The 1940's, 1950's and 1960's saw cut-flower cattleyas at their heyday. She was the First Lady of the US from 1989 to 1993, wife of President H. George Bush and also mother of current US President George W Bush. Today she lives in Texas and at age 80 still travels the country supporting her favourite cause--education.

In 2005, she visited Richmond for a Virginia Literacy Foundation fundraiser and acknowledged receiving her namesake orchids with a hand written letter: "They are beautiful. Many thanks. I am so honored!" Brassolaeliocattleya Barbara Bush 'First Lady' is a November blooming semi-alba hybrid with white petals and a soft lavender and yellow throat.

A Special Cattleya

(ORCHIDS Magazine, Jan 1999)

Tipper GoreFlowers of Cattleya Tipper Gore (Pearl Harbor X General Patton) were presented to Tipper Gore on October 21, 1999. This grex, created by Chadwick and Son Orchids, Inc., of Powhatan, Virginia, and registered with the Royal Horticultural Society, bears impressive fragrant white flowers with a yellow throat. "We usually name orchid hybrids honoring first ladies and heads of state, but Al and Tipper Gore have been such a great inspiration to us through their environmental efforts that we just had to name an orchid after her," says Art Chadwick, president of Chadwick and Son Orchids, Inc.

Tipper's OrchidThe event took place at the vice president's residence at 34th Street and Massachusetts Avenue Northwest in downtown Washington, DC. The estate is part of the United States Naval Observatory and has been home to each vice president since 1974. The residence's greenhouse contains a variety of orchids, including six purple-flowered cattleya specimens that were in bloom when the cattleya flowers were presented to the vice-president's wife.

Lc. Princess Diana 'Kensington Palace'

(The Orchid Review, May-June 2007)

Princess Diana's wedding dress designed by David Emmanuel.

In 2002, we were asked to name a cattleya after the late Princess by an adoring fan, Mrs. Philip Minor, of Richmond Virginia USA. She owns an original Diana dress that is currently on loan to Kensington Palace. The Collections Curator of the Palace, Beatrice Behlin, as well as the original dress designer, David Emmanuel, were on hand for the unveiling of the orchid which took place that summer at a large party at Mrs. Minor's estate.

Lc Princess Diana 'Kensington Palace'

Kensington Palace acknowledged the orchid in a letter. "We are absolutely delighted that there is now an orchid registered in the name of Princess Diana. It looks very beautiful and is a very apt tribute. As the Princess was a great lover of nature, as well as of people, I am sure she would have been deeply honoured for an orchid to have been named after her, which will bring joy to future generations."
The flowers of Lc Princess Diana (C Dubiosa x Lc Hausermann's Gala) are medium sized and round with two or three flowers per stem. Usually spring and summer bloomers, the seedlings are all lavender except variety 'Kensington Palace' which is a very pleasing blush.

Blc. Queen Elizabeth the Second

(Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 2007)

God save the QueenCentral Virginia was all a-buzz as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II arrived with His Royal Highness Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh on Thursday May 3, 2007 for a two day stint commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement. The capital city, Richmond, hosted the couple for two hours with a tour of the Governor’s Executive Mansion followed by a ‘walkabout’ of the State Capital grounds ending with the Queen addressing the General Assembly. Tens of thousands of fans lined the streets to witness the Queen’s first visit since 1957.God save the Queen

Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, gave the tour which included the orchid presentation. The flowers of Blc Queen Elizabeth The Second (Blc Meditation x Lc Ecstacy) were displayed in a crystal vase along with the official Royal Horticultural Society certificate on a table by the front door and were one of the first things that Her Majesty saw as she walked into the Executive Mansion. The governor proudly explained that the lovely cattleya hybrid was made by a local Virginia firm in her honor.

Art Chadwick, Sr created the royal cattleya using two famous semi-alba parents; Blc Meditation ‘Queen’s Dowry’ which has a pale pink frilly open lip and Lc Ecstacy ‘Scully’s’ which has a solid dark purple closed lip. All the offspring were semi-albas, with a wide range of lip colors.

A letter from Buckingham Palace confirms that The Queen’s father, King George VI, also had an interest in the plants, and that there is currently a collection of orchids at Windsor Castle.

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

(Richmond Times-Dispatch, Feb 2011)

The Future QueenOne 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 NorodomThe 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…

Cattleyas Go Hollywood! (ORCHIDS Magazine, May 2011)

(ORCHIDS Magazine, May 2011)

Priscilla PresleyThat one word that best describes the world of orchids is glamour. No group of plants has ever captured the imagination like this strange, exotic, and beautiful flower.

When they were first discovered in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, orchids became the most sought after playthings of European royalty. Kings and queens had magnificent collections and by the mid 19th century, orchids were part of the complete royal fabric, grown by dukes and barons, viscounts and ladies. Queen Victoria had a large orchid collection as did the German Empress, Queen of the Belgians, and the Empress of Russia. Cattleyas were especially revered by collectors and were eventually given the title “Queen of the Orchids.”

Cattleyas were truly prized flowers. They had delicious fragrances and were available all year. They were large in size and came in exotic shades of lavender and purple. There were all white flowers and white with dark purple lips. They had a delicate appearance that said “Look, but don’t touch.” And they were very feminine. For more than 30 years, from the late 1920’s through the 1950’s, women wore corsages of cattleya flowers whenever they wanted a touch of glamor. They wore them to fancy luncheons, dinner dances, the theater, the opera, or any other fashionable affair. President Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie, was never seen in public without her corsage of two or three cattleya flowers. In the 1940’s, teenage boys gave their Junior or Senior Prom dates cattleya corsages – because the girls expected them.

This glamour would soon span the century and as the world moved into the technology age, a different kind of royalty appeared – the stars of motion pictures and television. Such famous Hollywood personalities as Gregory Peck and Raymond Burr grew a treasure trove of cattleyas. During his many television interviews, Gregory Peck was often surrounded by his large cattleya plants with their magnificent array of white flowers. Raymond Burr’s orchid collection was legendary and included a sizeable commercial interest, Sea God Nurseries, with hundreds of registered cattleya hybrids and an orchid garden on the island of Java.

In keeping with the tradition of glamour, one of our modern day celebrities, Priscilla Presley, sat down recently to have her picture taken for this magazine, next to her namesake orchid, Cattleya Priscilla Presley. It was through mutual friends that we approached Ms. Presley several years ago about the concept of having an orchid named in her honor – specifically a cattleya – and included a copy of ‘The Classic Cattleyas’ book as an introduction. She liked the idea and, in the months that followed, she personally selected this hybrid from photographs of seedlings that were in production. As the delicate buds started to appear in the sheaths, we would ship the special plants across the country – in the dead of winter - praying that the plants wouldn’t freeze or get damaged.

We are so proud to be associated with Priscilla Presley who is one of the most recognized personalities in the world. Known initially though her marriage to the ‘King of Rock & Roll’, Elvis Presley, she went on to star in many successful films including the Naked Gun trilogy and the long running Dallas television series. When not in front of the camera, she guided Graceland into the popular tourist attraction that it is today as founder and chairwoman of Elvis Presley Enterprises. Recently, she inspired TV audiences everywhere with her ballroom dance routines on Dancing with the Stars.

Her beautiful purple hybrid is a product of a fascinating cross between the famous Cattleya Bonanza and the lovely Cattleya Altesse. Cattleya Bonanza has been widely written about for its superior breeding abilities so it is familiar to many orchid hobbyists but Cattleya Altesse is one of the hidden treasures that few people know about today.

C Altesse was first introduced to the orchid world in 1936 by the French company, Vacherot & Lecoufle in Paris. Its lineage practically guaranteed stardom because it was a continuation of the fine breeding of Sanders of St Albans, England – using C Britannia in 1903 and C Remy Chollet in 1926. The famous species stud, C trianaei ‘Grand Monarch’ FCC/RHS gave C Remy Chollet its particularly round shape and vigorous growth habit.

The resulting C Altesse plants had strong floriferous bloom spikes. The flowers cleared the sheaths well and lasted a long time – an important quality for the corsage industry. The best varieties of C Altesse made their way to the United States and were used by commercial growers, primarily on the East Coast, to make some of the best cut flower crosses of the day. Jones and Scully gave one plant their coveted varietal name, ‘Orchidglade’ but, for the most part, C Altesse was rarely exhibited at shows. Instead, its primary use was for stud purposes though many of the resulting crosses were not officially registered with the Royal Horticultural Society - leaving the hybrid relatively unknown until now.

Cattleya Priscilla Presley fills an important gap in the history of cattleya breeding for it demonstrates the beauty that C Altesse can impart on purple hybrids. All the seedlings from this celebrity cross bloom during the winter months of January and February – exactly when they are desired most by the public. The lovely lavender shaded petals vary ever so slightly from plant to plant and the darker throats offer a hint of gold veining and an unmistakable fragrance.

Ms. Presley, who also has a rose perfume which carries her name, keeps a collection of her namesake orchids in Beverly Hills, CA where they bloom for over a month. She displays the plants in ornate decorative pots which further enhance their beauty and keep the heavily laden flowers from tipping over. The new hybrid was unveiled for the first time as a large grouping of seedlings at this year’s Virginia Orchid Society show in Richmond.

Cattleya Honors Lady Bird Johnson (ORCHIDS Magazine, Aug 2012)

(ORCHIDS Magazine, Aug 2012)

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

cattleya Lady Bird JohnsonOn the centennial anniversary of Lady Bird Johnson’s birth, a special namesake 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 most horticulture-minded of our First Ladies.

Lady Bird Johnson became First Lady just two hours after the assassination of 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.

While First Lady, Johnson actively campaigned for the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 that called for control of outdoor advertising and encouraged scenic improvement 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. Johnson was fond of saying “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Today, every state plants wildflowers along its highways and there is no doubt that this effort has preserved more than a few of our native orchids.

America’s landscapes are beautiful. The roadsides in the spring are awash with blossoms of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Drivers can often tell what part of the country they are in simply by looking at the flowers along the highway. Lady Bird Johnson grew up in Texas where seemingly endless stretches of barren interstates now greet travelers with rainbows of color.

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.

In order to fully appreciate Cattleya Lady Bird Johnson, one has to trace the history back to the early days of breeding. The background of this hybrid includes one of the great Cattleya species of all time, a semi-alba variety called C mossiae ‘Reineckiana Young’s.’ It was a jungle plant sent by a friend in Venezuela during the 1920’s to a millionaire hobbyist, Thomas Young, who lived in Bound Brook, New Jersey.

Mr. Young was very protective of his C mossiae ‘Reineckiana’ and only gave away only one division - and that was to his good friend Fitz Eugene Dixon, who was the 2nd President of the American Orchid Society. Dixon later sold his collection to his neighbor Wharton Sinkler, who was the 3rd President of the American Orchid Society, The plant was so valuable that Sinkler’s personal orchid grower would trade just the tiny flower ‘pollen’ in exchange for the latest cattleya hybrids.

One of the largest cut flower producers in the area, H. Patterson & Sons in Bergenfield, New Jersey bought Sinkler’s stud collection and remade the circa 1898 primary hybrid Enid (C mossiae x C warscewiczii ’FMB’) over a dozen times using the wondrous C mossiae. These improved strains of C Enid would result in superior hybrids in the coming years.

In 1952, Patterson created a brand new stunning semi-alba hybrid, C Catherine Patterson (C Enid x C Mrs Frederick Knollys). The flowers of C Catherine Patterson had a clear, clean white color to the sepals and petals and a rich marbled purple throat. The blossoms were enormous and opened in early May which was ideal for the Mother’s Day corsage trade.

Lady Bird Johnson’s namesake cattleya is the result of further breeding with C Catherine Patterson. First, another semi-alba primary hybrid C Trimos (C trianaei x C mossiae) was used to make C David Hill (C Catherine Patterson x C Trimos) which expanded the blooming season to include April and robust Easter sales. This new hybrid was then bred back onto a select form of C mossiae. All the C Lady Bird Johnson (C David Hill x C mossiae) seedlings have a lovely two tone magenta yellow throat as well as the vigor commonly found in the large flowered species.

Mrs. Johnson’s daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson Robb gracefully accepted the flowers at her home in McLean Virginia on her late mother’s behalf. 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. The first bloom seedling was aptly given the variety name, ‘Mother’s Day’.

The public is encouraged to see the impressive Lady Bird Johnson cattleyas which bloom each spring in our nation’s capital (www.usbg.gov). They are a constant reminder of the wonderful work that Mrs. Johnson did through the years in beautifying the highways on which we drive every day.

The Kate Middleton Orchid Story

Kate Middleton OrchidFor as long as orchid hybrids have been recorded, prominent English women have been honored. Queen Victoria had a Dendrobium bearing her name in 1896 and Queen Elizabeth I had her first of seven genera named in 1914. Princess Margaret followed with five starting in 1921.

Chadwick’s continued the tradition by naming cattleya hybrids after the late Princess Diana (2002), Margaret Thatcher (2004), and Queen Elizabeth II (2006). We personally presented Mrs. Thatcher with her orchids which she wore as a corsage while visiting the University of Richmond. Queen Elizabeth was shown her namesake orchids by then Governor of Virginia Tim Kaine (now U.S. Senator) when she visited Richmond.

The orchid world has watched as Kate Middleton began dating Prince William. Following her engagement in October 2010, we began to look for the perfect cattleya – something sophisticated and a little different. We opted for a richly colored yellow.

Within a few months, Chadwick’s officially registered the hybrid with the Royal Horticultural Society and chose the common name that the people of England use to refer to Kate Middleton – Princess Kate. (Queen Elizabeth II would later give her the title - Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.)

The stunning flaxen hybrid, botanically called Brassolaeliocattleya (Blc) Princess Kate is a cross between two well-known yellow parents, Blc Campobello and Blc Sea Swirl.The seedlings took 7 years to bloom and produce various shades of light to medium golden blossoms. Some have attractive purple markings in the lip. There is at least one variety in bloom nearly every month of the year with the heaviest concentration being September thru January.

Orchids Helping Charitable Organizations (Richmond Times Dispatch, Dec 2015)

Farrah Fawcett Orchid

Charitable organizations have long used orchids in their fundraising events.

Partygoers bid on lavish silent auction items which can fetch upwards of five hundred dollars each. Fancy bowls filled with blooming plants, a personal house call from a horticulture expert, and a one year membership in the Orchid of the Month club all garnish attention.

Live auctions can get frenzied as bidders vie for bigger ticket items such as a set of century old botanical prints, an established orchid collection, or the rights to name a new hybrid. Even the seated dinner guests can participate by purchasing the flowering centerpieces which adorn the banquet tables. Orchids add a glamorous element to any function and help to generate revenue for the charity.

Recently, a Beverly Hills, CA non-profit came up with an innovative approach that incorporates orchids into their annual fundraiser. The Farrah Fawcett Foundation, whose mission is “to provide funding for cutting edge cancer research, prevention, and treatment”, unveiled a special cattleya at its “Stand Up 2 Cancer” Tex/Mex Fiesta. The delicate pinky lavender hybrid was named after the organizations late founder, beloved actress and model, Farrah Fawcett.

Attendees of the event included many of the big names in Hollywood who were peers of Ms Fawcett including Ryan O'Neal, George Hamilton, Cheryl Tiegs, and Foundation President Alana Stewart. The event honored Fawcetts co-star on the TV show Charlie’s Angels, Jaclyn Smith, and the lively music was provided by Grammy Award winner Lyle Lovett.

A large photograph of the flower was displayed alongside a caption explaining the history of the hybrid. The foundation had worked closely with a grower to get the right color and style. The breeding lineage was all pedigree and the plants took seven years to bloom from seed. The colors were variable and feminine - ranging from blush to pale pink to rose. Well known artist and sculpture, Keith Edmier, created a sculpture of the flower which was auctioned off at the event.

Farrah Fawcett

The event raised $500,000. After it was over, the foundation thanked many donors and supporters by giving them their very own Farrah orchid – a keepsake to remember the evening.

But it was more than a keepsake.

The special hybrid, Brassolaeliocattleya Farrah Fawcett (C Bold Swan x Blc Goldenzelle), was an exclusive orchid. There were only a few dozen ever produced and they were all given away to people who care about Ms Fawcett and her cause. Those lucky orchid recipients will rejoice in the legacy and spirit of Farrah Fawcett every year when the lovely blossoms open. thefarrahfawcettfoundation.org

First Ladies and their Cattleyas – Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt Orchid

The 1930’s was a challenging time for the United States. Gone were the days of Bathtub Gin and the extravagances of The Roaring Twenties. The Great Depression left banks insolvent, businesses bankrupt, and millions of Americans without a job. Politicians could only hope that some new government program might ease the suffering and put people back to work. It was of utmost importance that elected officials appear modest and frugal.

Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady during this tumultuous period and into the Second World War. Her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was the 32nd President and had been wheelchair bound since 1921. Together, they formed a strong political partnership. Due to his limited physical ability, she regularly made appearances and gave lectures on his behalf.

Mrs. Roosevelt was ground breaking in every respect - she was the first president’s wife to testify before a Congressional committee, the first to hold press conferences, and the first to speak before a national party convention. Her life was of such interest to the public that, for 26 years, she wrote a syndicated newspaper column, “My Day”, that was read by millions. She was a strong advocate for social justice and equality and, although controversial, she is remembered as one of the notable figures of the twentieth century.

Like many First Ladies, Mrs. Roosevelt’s namesake Cattleya was not hybridized while she was in office (1933 – 1945). Some historians believe that she did not wish to display wealth and glamour at a time when the nation was in distress. Instead, her orchid is a recent development using authentic lineage from that era.

One parent of the Roosevelt orchid is Lc C.G. Roebling (L purpurata x C gaskelliana) which was named by the English commercial firm, Sanders, in 1895. Surprisingly, Sanders named the hybrid after an American businessman, Charles G. Roebling, who was president of the company that built the Brooklyn Bridge. Roebling also had one of the finest orchid collections in the United States in the late 1800’s.

Anne Roosevelt and Art Chadwick

Roebling’s greenhouses were immense and he scored innumerable awards at horticultural societies in Massachusetts and New York. He sent expeditions into the mountains of South America in search of rare species, and his collection was estimated to have cost several hundred thousand dollars. Britain’s Orchid Review featured his extensive operation in their November 1894 issue. His Cattleya varieties alone would make present-day hobbyists envious. Mr. Clinkaberry, for whom the famous C trianaei ‘Clinkaberrianum’ is named, was Roebling’s grower. When Roebling died in 1918, his trustees sold the orchids to another well-known collector, Mrs. Frederick Dixon of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.

The other parent of the Roosevelt orchid is Cattleya Undine (C intermedia x C mossiae) which was named by Sir George Holford of the famed Westonbirt House and Arboretum in 1906. Undine is a mythological water nymph and was a major stud plant for medium sized hybrids with 28 registered crosses through 1945.

As the United States recovered from the war, Cattleya orchids hit their ‘heyday’ of corsage fashion. Mrs. Roosevelt was ‘courted’ by politicians to consider running for public office, but she chose to focus her later years on various duties within the United Nations. She traveled the world giving countless lectures and was regularly seen wearing Cattleya corsages.

We would like to thank her granddaughter, Anne Roosevelt, for assistance with this project. She resides in Maine and is President of the Goodwill Industries of Northern New England. At her request, specimens of the family hybrid were sent to her favorite horticultural venues – the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden as well as the New York Botanical Garden – where they are on public display.