Lips Sweeter than Wine

Culture

by Ken Slump

Posted by Sys Admin over 3 years ago.

Article Blog   Article Index

Orchid Flowers with a Painterly Touch Garner Praise


FOR MANY, PURE WHITE FLOWERS of most any type represent floral perfection. There seems to be something unique and captivating about a white or alba bloom. Arguably, the absence of color allows us to appreciate a blossom’s form without the distraction that color can impart.

However, white flowers can be tricky to use in gardens, arrangements and displays. While some have suggested that white can bring a calming effect, others believe it tends to enliven and excite when blended with other hues. I belong to the latter camp.

The exhibits at orchid shows provide a good example. White flowers are usually relegated to the upper reaches of orchid displays, as if floating toward the clouds, while darker and stronger colors are typically employed at lower levels. The exhibit designer who mixes patches of white flowers among the other colors will usually come off with a distracting, if not garish result.

Perhaps the idea that shades of white often seem to work best when blended and compared with each other was part of the rationale that prompted the late writer Vita Sackville-West to design her famous white garden at England’s Sissinghurst Castle. She and other garden designers have appreciated that white flowers combined with plants sporting silver and variegated foliage can create a masterpiece by moonlight. Yet it is often the case that those same gardens can appear pitifully pale in the heat of day.

Truth be told, white flowers have never been favorites of mine. Certainly, a quality specimen of a white cattleya or phalaenopsis is a thing of beauty, but as I gaze on them, I often feel that something is missing. Perhaps too, it is related to the lifeless tan or parchment hue that many white blossoms assume as they fade.

On the other hand, I am a great fan of what are popularly called semi-alba orchids — those that produce white flowers with colored lips. The lips of most semi-alba orchids are some variation of red or purple. To surround such a vividly colored orchid lip, usually its most distinctive and attractive feature, with white sepals and petals, seems inspired and magical. Indeed, Mother Nature designed in a most painterly fashion when creating this color scheme.

The semi-alba style of flower occurs naturally in some orchid species that have a wide variation in floral expression, even though the oc-currence of the semi-alba form may be a rarity. Among the traditional unifoliate Cattleya species, a number were found to have semi-alba forms or varieties, including Cattleya lueddemanniana, Cattleya mossiae, Cattleya jenmanii and Cattleya labiata. Dendrobium kingianum, Lycaste skinneri and Sophronitis (syn. Laelia) purpurata are other orchid species that occasionally produce semi-alba examples. Leptotes bicolor is a good representative of a species orchid where most individuals produce flowers of semi-alba coloration (see story on page 486). Some Cochleanthes species and hybrids produce individuals with flowers that also would best be described as semi-alba. Curiously, there are some rather striking examples of what could be described as more or less semi-alba blossoms among certain species of the slipper orchids, including Cypripedium reginae and Paphiopedilum delenatii.

Semi-alba orchid hybrids have always enjoyed popularity. Cattleya (syn. Laeliocattleya) Persepolis (Kittiwake × Pegi Mayne), Cattleya (syn. Laeliocattleya) Shellie Compton (Stephen Oliver Fouraker × Good Fairy), Cattleya (syn. Laeliocattleya) Stephen Oliver Fouraker (Pegi Mayne × Enid) and Cattleya (syn. Laeliocattleya) Mildred Rives (Rita Renee × Bou Philippo) are among the semi-alba hybrid cattleya classics. There are numerous con-temporary hybrids as well. Some of the semi-alba cattleya hybrids have yellow coloration on the interior of the lip as well as occasional faint coloration on the floral segments.

The same may be said for the semi-alba phalaenopsis. Many growers find that the white Phalaenopsis and Doritaenopsis hybrids with red lips are among the most beautiful of all orchids. Indeed, a well-arranged cascade or spray of such blossoms is difficult to overlook. Other vandaceous orchids produce the semi-alba flower. The hybrid Vascostylis Five Friendships ‘Sweetheart’, FCC/AOS (Seng × Prapin), is an excellent example.

Even more beautiful are well-grown semi-alba orchids, particularly some hybrids. Lots of pristine flowers with dark, contrasting lips of red or wine coloration make a dazzling sight. In displays, semi-alba flowers can be even more troubling than white flowers to place properly because their appearance can be so commanding. Often the best solution is to arrange them in proximity to the whites. Happily, it is a problem many orchid growers welcome, as the semi-alba orchid is among the most intriguing and popular of all.
 

Share on Social Media:  

New Topics

  1. Shannon Gardea asked question NELLY ISLER in category General Discussion
  2. John Urey asked question Blooming Stenglottis Venus “jamboree “ in category General Discussion
  3. Claudia Young asked question RO system in category General Discussion
  4. Roberto Lizama asked question Help to identify in category General Discussion
  5. Tatjana Opekunova asked question Cattleya new roots and Flower buds in category Cattleya Alliance

New Comments

  1. Carol Holdren commented on member plant Bc. Morning Glory by Chris Siolo
  2. R .Benson commented on member plant Kir. New Hybrid (Fred Clarke) SVO9831 by R .Benson
  3. Carol Holdren commented on topic "Blooming Stenglottis Venus “jamboree “" by John Urey
  4. Jeanne Uzar Hudson commented on member plant Lc. Canhamiana var. coerulea 'Cobalt' by Jeanne Uzar Hudson
  5. Jeanne Uzar Hudson commented on member plant Sns. gemmata by Jeanne Uzar Hudson
  6. Stefan Neher commented on topic "Orchid roots .com site?" by Mary Lane
  7. Kevin Barry commented on member plant Bul. Tammie Sue Pernas by Tony Pernas
  8. Linda Hartman commented on member plant Ctt. Final Blue by Linda Hartman
  9. Kevin Bergeson commented on member plant Paph. rothschildianum by Kevin Bergeson
  10. Carol Holdren commented on topic "recently purchased orchid shows unstoppable roots " by David George
  11. Michael Makio commented on orchid V. Beatrice Makio
  12. Carol Holdren commented on topic "shorter stem with less vigorous blooms" by katherine mott
  13. Carol Holdren commented on topic "need info on yellow bird" by Glenda Ratliff
  14. Carol Holdren commented on topic "Looking to join an orchid club." by Paula Milano
  15. Jeanne Uzar Hudson commented on topic "Repotting Large Cattleyas" by Jeanne Uzar Hudson
  16. Jeanne Uzar Hudson commented on member plant Paph. malipoense by Jeanne Uzar Hudson
  17. William Gorski commented on topic "how difficult is it growing from seed" by kevan gregory
  18. Carol Holdren commented on topic "Information " by Carmen Britton
  19. Carol Holdren commented on member plant C. lueddemanniana var. Coerulea, Venosa by Paulo Fiuza
  20. Jeanne Uzar Hudson commented on topic "Banrot 40WP" by Therese Stecher