Friday, 2 December 2011

Gilt trip

Cuttings #5: December 2011
Now it’s December, one can use the ‘C’ word, I suppose, so I’ve already compiled a list of delightful orchid prints as a hint to hubby (complete with URLs for the poor bloke). One thing, however, that won’t be included is a solid gold Christmas tree, decorated with solid gold phalaenopsis orchids.

A jewellery store in Tokyo’s upmarket Ginza district invited flower arrangement artist Shogo Kariyazaki to create the lavish Golden Christmas Tree. A total of 12kg of gold has been fashioned into the 2.4m tree, adorned with orchids, ribbons and hearts. It is valued at £1.3m ($2m), and apparently not for sale. So that’s all right then.

Goats and golfers
This week’s featured publication is Pitchcare Magazine. (It’s amazing where orchids will lead you.) Here you’ll find an absolutely fascinating piece on the rare lizard orchid, which has some quirky features, not least is that fact that its flowers give off a goat-like odour, particularly in the evening.
Himantoglossum hircinum was first discovered in the UK in the 1600s by the ale-loving Thomas Johnson, an apothecary whose main stomping grounds were in Kent and London where he searched for rare plants.

According to Dr Mark Hampton, an obvious enthusiast, populations of this species in the UK are restricted to around 20 sites, often golf courses. In fact, it is thought to have been spread around suitable courses by seed on the clothes, clubs and shoes of unknowing golfers.

Another curiosity is that the earliest population recorded was lost in 1641 due to road widening. As Dr Hampton avers, this surely must be the first recorded damage caused to rare wildlife by road improvement.

Across the pond, New Jersey orchid fans are in for a treat this spring when Duke Farms in Hillsborough completes a $45m renovation. Created by ‘Buck’ Duke at the end of the 19th century, the spread is one of the largest privately owned parcels of undeveloped land in the state. Already an agricultural, horticultural and ecological gem, the institution is refurbishing the grand 1903 conservatory, and renaming it the Orchid Range. (The style is reminiscent of Edinburgh’s 1858 temperate palm house (pictured), the tallest Victorian glasshouse in the world.

It will house a new indoor orchid display garden and a temperate coastal plain garden. Outdoor landscaping will feature native plants, including orchids native to New Jersey.

Flight of fancy
Finally, as the temperatures finally start to drop and I move my own orchids away from the cold glass of my dining room window, it could be time for a heart-warming piece of whimsy about a rather different type of orchid. Hummingbirds, in fact, as described by a writer in the National Post who helps Anna’s hummingbirds to survive a Canadian winter. They weigh no more than a nickel each and are named after Anna Masséna, the Duchess of Rivoli, ‘a mere thimbleful of feathers, a winged orchid’.

Any excuse to use this delightful image, too, from 1871, courtesy of Reynolda House, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


NOTE: Just a day after I posted the above, an almost IDENTICAL painting sold at Sotheby
s, New York for a whopping sum of nearly $2 million, almost four times the estimate. Check it out here!