Art-Shade Flowers Decorate Hybrids in Several Genera
SOME KINDS OF PLANTS PRODUCE blossoms that span a rather narrow range of the color spectrum. Happily, orchid flowers are found in almost every color. Perhaps this is because the orchid family is so large and diverse. Among the myriad hues of orchid color expression are those blossoms with tones that are popularly referred to as “art shades.” Most growers regard art-shade orchids as those of a complex warm color that generally falls in the color palette around the red and yellow hues, yet cannot be accurately described as orange, pink or lavender in color. Often the art-shade flowers are blends or overlays of these colors.
Fruity images are often borrowed to name these colors. Apricot, peach, mango, tangerine and persimmon are but a few. Value is a term that is used to describe the relative lightness or darkness of a color. In the case of art-shade orchids, the color values are generally, but not always, medium to pastel.
Art-shade flowers are not particularly common in nature. Generally, the most beautiful ones are the result of complex hybridization and their unusual or unique color is a happy accident within a hybrid swarm or grex that may include many different colors and color patterns of flowers.
An example of this in my own orchid collection is a solid-colored art-shade plant of Brassolaeliocattleya Momilani Rainbow (Lc. Mari’s song × Blc. Orange Nugget). The plant has flowers of a rather matte hue that some might call terra cotta, but the grex is typically known to produce flowers of cream, yellow, pink or lavender (if not all four on one flower), and often the flowers have colorfully splashed petals as well.
As you may notice, art-shade flowers tend to challenge our powers of description. While their colors may be difficult to put into words, their shades of color are magic to the orchid exhibitor. These orchids are invaluable in bridging the clashes of color that often occur in any exhibit featuring a variety of flowering orchid plants. You will find it instructive, I think, to take some time to notice how art-shade orchids are effectively used by exhibit designers when you attend your next orchid show.
Like many flowers, those of art-shade orchids may go through different shades of color and tint as their flowers open, mature and fade. Cultural factors such as temperature, light and nutrition may also affect an art-shade orchid’s unique color expression.
These lovely flowers are found in many branches of the orchid family but are probably most commonly found in those that have been extensively hybridized. The Cattleya and Vanda alliances provide many good examples.
CATTLEYAS Among art-shade standard cattleyas, one of the favorites is Brassolaeliocattleya George King ‘Serendipity’, AM/AOS (Blc. Buttercup × C. Bob Betts). The grex was registered in 1970. Over the years, several beautiful clones of Blc. George King received AOS awards. Their colors as noted in the award descriptions span an interesting range. One winner was called canary yellow, a sibling was labeled golden peach and yet another was described as peach with pink suffused petals. Certainly this was a hybrid containing individual plants that could express many subtleties of color.
The cultivar ‘Serendipity’, AM/AOS, however, received the highest award of the group and has been the classic that has stood the test of time. When it received its Award of Merit, the judges described its flower color as salmon with a slight tinge of peach in the sepals. Whether you concur with that color description or not, nearly everyone who sees it has to agree that it is an unforgettably beautiful flower. Brassolaeliocattleya George King ‘Serendipity’, AM/AOS, has also been a popular choice with hybridizers for producing subsequent generations of art-shade cattleyas.
Another cattleya grex that includes notable art-shade flowers is Sophro-laeliocattleya Final Touch (Slc. Cal-ifornia Apricot × Lc. Drumbeat), re-gistered in 1994. The plants in this grex tend to be of a bit smaller stature than those of the grex previously mentioned. Again, the awarded cultivars range in color from one that is described as yellow overlaid with peach to another termed rose pink. My personal favorite among them is Slc. Final Touch ‘Mendenhall’, AM/AOS. Like many art-shade blossoms, this one has flowers that are a complex blend of peachy tones. The flat flowers also sport ruffled lips of yellow and red. A well-grown example of this hybrid took top awards in the cattleya classes at an orchid show I recently attended.
One of my first AOS flower-quality awards was given to an art-shade cultivar. The plant was Sophrolaeliocattleya Frolic ‘Apricot Magic’, HCC/AOS (Lc. Trick Or Treat × Slc. Sun Sprite). The small clustered flowers may not have been remarkable, but their color was incomparable. This hybrid may be traced back to the species Guarianthe (syn. Cattleya) aurantiaca, a common ancestor in certain lines of art-shade cattleya breeding.
West Coast cattleya growers have produced some stylish novelty hybrids that often produce art-shade flowers. Two that come to mind each used Laelia anceps as the species parent. Both Laelia Santa Barbara Sunset (anceps × Ancibarina) and Sophrolaeliocattleya Coastal Sunrise (L. anceps × Slc. Helen Veliz) are recommended to those seeking flowers with complex coloration.
SMALL GROWERS Among mini-catt hybrids, some grexes could be considered modern classics that include plants with art-shade flowers. Among them are Sophrolaeliocattleya California Apricot (Lc. Pacific Sun × S. coccinea), Potinara Little Toshi (Sc. Beaufort × Blc. Toshi Aoki) and Sophrolaeliocattleya Hazel Boyd (California Apricot × Jewel Box). These compact growers and their descendents are invaluable to orchid growers with limited space. Orchid hobbyists with warmer growing conditions could look to such grexes as Brassolaeliocattleya Michael Kaduce (C. Tripp Johnston × Bl. Richard Mueller) and Otaara Hidden Gold (Ctna. Why Not × Bl. Richard Mueller) for art-shade blossoms on compact plants. Certainly this is the tip of the art-shade iceberg when it comes to the Cattleya alliance as there have been and will continue to be many worthy hybrids in this category. Indeed, intriguing coloration is often one of the hybridizer’s raisons d’être. Many individuals seem to appear in various red and yellow hybrid breeding lines, often when they are crossed with pink or lavender cattleyas.
VANDAS In the Vanda alliance, one quite unusual art-shade hybrid immediately comes to mind, Asconopsis Irene Dobkin. This plant is the result of the unlikely hybrid of the famous white tetraploid Phalaenopsis Doris crossed with the floriferous and colorful Ascocentrum miniatum. Most of the plants I have seen produce rather confused-looking foliage that is often a bit twisted and irregular in shape. But the flowers are amazing.
There have been more than a dozen AOS flower-quality awards given to the grex, which was registered in 1968. The flowers are generally in the size range of 1½ to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm). The basic color of most of the awarded cultivars is variously described as apricot, burnt orange or orange apricot. I have grown mericloned plants of both Ascps. Irene Dobkin ‘Elmhurst’, HCC/AOS, and Ascps. Irene Dobkin ‘York’, HCC/AOS, and they are similar. These two are perhaps the most frequently encountered.
The flowers of this grex are usually of good form and striking color. Some growers find the plants a bit difficult to cultivate. Generally, the advice is to treat them more like an ascocentrum than a phalaenopsis — give them plenty of light. Indeed, the orange coloration offered through Ascocentrum breeding has played an important role in producing other art-shade flowers within the Vanda alliance. The grex Ascocenda Su-Fun Beauty (V. Pangkapi × Ascda. Pralor) is a good example. This one has both Asctm. miniatum and Ascocentrum curvifolium in the ancestry of its Ascodenda parent.
I would describe the sparkling flowers of my Ascda. Su-Fun Beauty ‘Orange Belle’, AM/AOS, as yellow blossoms heavily overlaid in shades of richly saturated peachy orange. Neither the plant nor its flowers are especially large, yet the blossoms are vivid and the plant is a frequent bloomer. Ascocenda Su-Fun Beauty would be a good first choice for an inexperienced grower who wants to give the hybrids in this group a try.
Some of the terete vanda hybrids are also a good source of flowers of sunset tones. Among several plants I recently acquired of a remake of the 1957 hybrid Vanda T M A (sanderiana × Josephine van Brero), were a couple of plants with flowers in shades of yellow and orange, while a sibling had blossoms that were distinctly colored in shades of lavender and pink.
Somewhat similar breeding produced Vanda Hall Of Fame ‘Danny Boy’ (Mevr L Velthuis × Thananchaisand), another semi-terete orchid with a full flower that is described as yellow with a pink overlay. Michael Coronado, vice president of R.F. Orchids in Homestead, Florida, notes that the pink blush on the flowers is more pronounced when the plant is grown in cooler temperatures. Although V. Hall Of Fame has a more complex lineage than V. T M A, both hybrids are basically the result of crossing V. sanderiana (syn. Euanthe sanderiana) with terete-leaved species.
MOTH ORCHIDS Phalaenopsis breeding has developed to a point where it seems like any warm shade of color, with or without patterning, is available. Art-shade phalaenopsis, once uncommon, are now widely available.
Phalaenopsis Fortune Saltzman ‘Maple Bridge’ (Liu Tuen-Shen × Barbara Freed Saltzman) was a recent addition to my orchid collection. The flower color of this hybrid is definitely in the pink range, but has hints of yellow shading through the sepals and petals. A similar and equally difficult to describe blossom is produced by Phalaenopsis Pisgah Daffodil ‘Coral’ (Cinnamon Gold × White Tie).
Pink and yellow shades blend to a result that is more of an orange color in the cultivar Phalaenopsis Ming-Hsin Joy ‘Montclair’ (Chih Shang’s Stripes × Sogo Lion). The predominantly red lip adds to the flower’s impact. As with most of these examples, there are a number of hybrid generations behind it. In fact, you would have to go four generations into the background of this hybrid to find the first of its species ancestors.
Floral patterning with spots or stripes can blend to create an image of a blossom with art-shade coloration, particularly when viewed from a distance. This is common among certain phalaenopsis hybrids. Phalaenopsis Raymond Burr ‘Tahiti Sunset’ (Salu Spot × Ho’s French Fantasia) produces this effect. The flowers are netted with subtle pink veining and spotting over a background of pink and yellow tones that unite into a complex and pleasing coloration. Again, the darker-colored lip provides good contrast.
Similarly to the way that art enriches our lives, art-shade colors enrich an orchid collection. Thanks to the efforts of orchid hybridizers and producers, flowers in those hard to describe colors are now easy to find.