A gift from Merlin
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.
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.
Greenhouses just sparkle in July and August in the glare of the hot summer sun, and the landscape seems to radiate a yellow glow. Bathed in this golden embrace, the flowers of the great cattleya species, Cattleya dowiana hang like a yellow and burgundy necklace about the rays of the sun.
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 large-flowered Cattleya species have suffered from a bad case of botanical heartburn for more than 150 years — and some of the mistakes of the past never seem to be corrected. For Laelia purpurata, which is really a Cattleya, things even seem to be going from bad to worse, as I see recent efforts to reclassify this wonderful large and showy species as a member of the genus Sophronitis, which is composed of miniatures (Lindleyana, 15:118).
Cattleya Honors Lady Bird Johnson
“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
On 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.