Sunday, 10 June 2007

Flowers in all Forms

Each orchid is a miracle of perfect form and colour. No artist could imagine the colours, patterns and shapes of the orchids of the world. According to my “Tropical Garden Plants” book, there are some 20,000 to 25,000 orchid species, making the orchid family one of the largest clan of flowering plants. Primeval with their beauty and their hothouse fragrances, they sum up the exotic. Whether a spectacular white spray of The Virgin orchid on a towering Samaan or a bright Vanda like the one below, they never fail to delight. Orchids have been popular since the early 19th century when they were grown in the hot houses of Europe. Seen as highly sophisticated, they were much sought after as a status symbol. In the early collecting frenzy of the 19th century, the most popular orchids were the species orchids, which are indigenous varieties in their natural habitat. Wealthy aristocrats sent scouts out to tropical locations to bring back the prime specimens and highly contested auctions were often held to bid for rare samples. By the end of the century, hybrids had begun to take the place of species orchids. Even today, species varieties are primarily grown by collectors. Orchids have long been associated with the tropics but they can also be found in temperate climates. Most found in the tropics are epiphytes which is to say that even though the structure of the plant consists of roots, stems, leaves and flowers, they are not terrestrial but rather grow on trees or rocks and source their nourishment from rain, dust and debris. While the expression "hothouse orchid" was coined to describe a delicate and frail beauty, the namesake is actually a tough plant which has evolved to thrive in the most inhospitable of places.

Aren't these cakes gorgeous? Wedding cakes are still a big thing here and the making of icing flowers is an art. I was really blown away by the time spent by these two students in creating such fine work. While I was visiting, (Dawn is actually a physical therapist who does work with a laser) I took the opportunity to shoot some of her father's orchids. All in all quite a flower filled morning.