Orchid muse A history of obsession in fifteen flowers

Erica Hannickel

Book - 2022

"A kaleidoscopic journey into the world of nature's most tantalizing flower, and the lives it has inspired. The epitome of floral beauty, orchids have long fostered works of art, tales of adventure, and scientific discovery. Tenacious plant hunters have traversed continents to collect rare specimens; naturalists and shoguns have marveled at orchids' seductive architecture; royalty and the smart set have adorned themselves with their allure. In Orchid Muse, historian and home growe...r Erica Hannickel gathers these bold tales of the orchid-smitten throughout history, while providing tips on cultivating the extraordinary flowers she features. Consider Empress Eugenie and Queen Victoria, the two most powerful women in nineteenth-century Europe, who shared a passion for Coelogyne cristata, with its cascading, fragrant white blooms. John Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, cultivated thousands of orchids and introduced captivating hybrids. Edmond Albius, an enslaved youth on an island off the coast of Madagascar, was the first person to hand-pollinate Vanilla planifolia, leading to vanilla's global boom. Artist Frida Kahlo was drawn to the lavender petals of Cattleya gigas and immortalized the flower's wilting form in a harrowing self-portrait, while more recently Margaret Mee painted the orchids she discovered in the Amazon to advocate for their conservation. The story of orchidomania is one that spans the globe, transporting readers from the glories of the palace gardens of Chinese Empress Cixi to a seedy dime museum in Gilded Age New York's Tenderloin, from hazardous jungles to the greenhouses and bookshelves of Victorian collectors. Lush and inviting, with radiant full-color illustrations throughout, Orchid Muse is the ultimate celebration of our enduring fascination with these beguiling flowers"--

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2nd Floor New Shelf 635.9344/Hannickel (NEW SHELF) Checked In
New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company, Inc [2022]
First edition
Physical Description
306 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Erica Hannickel (author)
  • Chapter 1.
  • Lusty ladies of the Enlightenment
  • Chapter 2.
  • Orchids fit for a Chinese empress
  • Chapter 3.
  • Orchids in the Tenderloin
  • Chapter 4.
  • Frida Kahlo's orchid
  • Chapter 5.
  • Rafinesque's strange collections
  • Chapter 6.
  • The
  • wind orchid
  • Chapter 7.
  • The
  • science of freedom and Darwin's "Little Book on Orchids"
  • Chapter 8.
  • Itinerant orchids, enslaved people
  • Chapter 9.
  • Jane Loudon and her floriferous press
  • Chapter 10.
  • Orchids and steel
  • Chapter 11.
  • The
  • flowers, fashion, and friendships of Empress Eugenie
  • Chapter 12.
  • The
  • historian, the actor, and the healing of orchids
  • Chapter 13.
  • Orchid art and conservation.
Review by Booklist Review

Historian and self-proclaimed "orchiholic" Hannickel (Empire of Vines, 2013) guides readers through four centuries of the orchid, a flower known to inspire obsession and devotion in people who cultivate its many varieties. As this book entertainingly illustrates, orchid collectors and their stories are as fascinating as the flowers themselves. Frida Kahlo, Charles Darwin, mogul Jay Gould, and actor Raymond Burr were all swept up in "orchidomania," as were Queen Victoria and Empress Eugénie, who formed a lifelong bond inspired by their mutual passion for orchids. While offering more of a history book than a how-to manual, the author strikes a practical note at the end of each chapter by providing growing information for the flowers she features, including difficult-to-find details such as fragrance, blooming season, and duration of bloom, all useful to those who are exploring new specimens. Extensive notes and more than 200 illustrations, many in full color, add to the appeal. Well-researched and beautifully presented, this book is sure to be popular with orchid enthusiasts and those who enjoy natural history.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Hannickel (Empire of Vines: Wine Culture in America), a professor of environmental history at Northland College, offers a vibrant survey of orchids through history. To show how the flowers "provide insight into human history," she tours a wealth of figures who have taken a liking to them. Empress Eugenie packed the Tuileries' greenhouses with orchids; Frida Kahlo painted a "giant lavender cattleya"; Charles Roebling, who designed the Brooklyn Bridge, "had one of the finest orchid collections in the United States"; and Raymond Burr "took solace" in them. Darwin, meanwhile, whose grandfather was an avid gardener, followed On the Origin of Species with a treatise titled The Various Contrivances by Which Orchids Are Fertilised by Insects, further developing his theory of evolution, and historian John Hope Franklin cultivated 900 species of orchids over three decades and built a greenhouse on the roof of his Chicago home. Hannickel's comprehensive, fascinating history is leavened with plenty of amusing tidbits--readers will learn, for instance, that Burr named the hybrids he experimented on after his costars, including Florence Henderson and Molly Picon. Fans of Rebecca Solnit's Orwell's Roses should give this a look. Photos. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Kirkus Book Review

A celebration of the world's second largest family of plants. In a charming, informative, and profusely, colorfully illustrated volume, gardener and environmental historian Hannickel looks at the global phenomenon of "orchidomania" through profiles of men and women who had an exuberant passion for studying, collecting, growing, and displaying the elegant plant. Love of orchids transcends time and place--in ancient China, feudal Japan, and Victorian England, the plant was revered. Erasmus Darwin and his son Charles were interested especially in the orchid's intricate process of pollination: For Erasmus, the flower's carnal acts "could be loving, violent, duplicitous, and sometimes downright murderous." Charles investigated orchids' "ingenious sexual subterfuge upon insects." Naturalists were not alone in their fascination with orchids. Hannickel traces the first orchid show to 1887, when plants from all over the world were exhibited at a New York City dime museum, an odd event for a venue that boasted all manner of weird, fake, and sensational artifacts. The hugely popular exhibition inspired the jeweler Charles Lewis Tiffany to create 25 jewel-encrusted orchid brooches, which he displayed at the Paris Exposition in 1889 and sold in his Manhattan store. Orchidomania, not surprisingly, threatened habitats, as plant hunters, in their lust for the rare and beautiful, wrenched orchids from their native soil. In the early 20th century, orchidelirium reached its height, with wealthy collectors amassing plants in specially constructed conservatories. One species fueled an industry: Vanilla planifolia provides 95% of the pods used for flavoring, but its pollination was especially arduous--until, in 1841, an enslaved boy on an island off the coast of Madagascar invented a method of hand-pollination, thereby revolutionizing the vanilla industry. Each chapter ends with a profile of a particular species, including its morphology and needs. In an appendix, Hannickel shares 15 tips for choosing, handling, and raising orchids, making this entertaining book a practical companion for orchid growers. A garden of delights. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.