The orchid – unique, enchanting, vibrant, prized for their idiosyncratic beauty, and commonly associated with exotic locations.
Having visited Kew Gardens’ 23rd Orchid Festival – a tropical greenhouse bursting with a diversity of species and designs in celebration of the landscape of Thailand: its rich colours, vibrant culture, and exotic plant life – we felt inspired to feature the orchid as our Flower Of The Month.
It’s been over 250 years since the first orchid was named – with Kew acting as a world leader – and now there are over 30,000 species (of which 1,100 reside in Thailand) thus deeming the orchid the most biodiverse of the flowering plants. While in traditional Chinese medicine and ancient Greek history the orchid has been said to possess notable medicinal properties, on the whole they are renowned the world over for their enchanting appearance. But as you might expect for a flower that’s sought after for its innate beauty, its history is a lucrative one that most famously started in Victorian England.
...its history is a lucrative one that most famously started in Victorian England.
In the nineteenth-century, 'Orchidelirium' or the act of collecting orchids was considered to be a sign of wealth – a movement started by William Spencer Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire, in 1833 when he first laid his eyes on an Oncidium orchid in London and decided to start his personal collection. And so the Duke’s gardener spent years travelling Asia and the Amazon in search of rare species of the flower to bring back to Europe for the first time, in turn the orchid became an emblem of wealth in the upper echelons of European society. The lucrative activity of orchid hunting became the sport du jour – which entailed conquering dangerous unchartered territories in the process – and the prized stems could earn an explorer a fee of over 100 guineas – around £10,000.
...the prized stems could earn an explorer a fee of over 100 guineas – around £10,000.
It’s the orchid’s ability to adapt in various ecosystems in order to survive in the wild – via 'pseudo-antagonism' and `pseudocopulation’ tactics – that’s resulted in such a diversity of shapes, sizes and in turn, hybrids. The first artificial orchid hybrid of which is cited as the Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore’s National Flower – a cross between the Burmese Vanda teres and the Malayan Vanda hookeriana – bred by Ashkhen Hovakimian and bird like in its composition. Scientists the world over have been inventing hybrids to satisfy our desire for the most colourful, unique and mesmerising stems since.
Unsurprisingly, the orchid’s thrilling history has seen the stem long associated with rarity, luxury, beauty and strength – something to consider when you’re selecting the perfect bouquet for that powerful, independent, and truly unique person in your life.