Thursday, April 1, 2010

Naming Orchids

I don't quite know how it started. Dr Motes and I are both English graduates, we like playing around with words. We're very competitive. He may have a Phd (English/Philosophy) but I can keep up. I have an English degree (as in from England) Upper Second Honors - back in the day when degrees were degrees. Hhrrumph, hhrrumph.

And we had fun right from the start, cocky English majors on the orchid breeding scene: you're calling your new hybrid Joe Bloggs Joy? Ha! We'll raise you Motes Jubilation! You're trotting out that old chestnut, Joe Bloggs Beauty? How about Motes Resplendent! Gotcha! And there was Hot Chestnut and Ruby Tuesday and Toledo Blue (though as Dr Motes remarks ruefully, all the others turned out pink.)

We had our spice series: Motes Nutmeg, Ginger Hot, Cinnamon: our African series...Motes Sahara, Motes Kalihari, and did we have Zanzibar? I know I was rooting for Zanzibar...

And just the word Miami was hot: Motes Miami Primrose, Miami Snowdrop, Miami Mandarin. And no Joe Bloggs Gold - let's have Motes Sunlit, Motes Gold Piece, Motes Burning Sands...
We always had a good dose of family. You can tell some of the earliest crosses: first was father's name, then mother, sister, then my mother, then Bart and Alice, the two children who keep reappearing.

And then we got into the naming of friends and dearly departed and that can be a problem. There is the naming of the orchid and the sending in of the registration to the Royal Horticultural Society at Kew, in the UK. And that name is going down in history! WOW! Wonderful! Thank-you, Thank-you! but then the flower dies on the chosen plant, the plant is put back in the midst of all the others... And then disappears or just can't be found at a minute's notice, when the recipient or a relative comes to see and we hear ourselves saying: "Oh, it's here somewhere.." like it's an Extra Large T shirt in a distant pile.

But anyway, what has turned out to be the big joke in all of this, in spite of our spice series, and Miami series, and archival family and old friends series, is that by now I am the person who has more orchids named after her than anyone else. Like I've hogged it -Me! Me! Like Imelda Marcos with shoes.

And my line is always the old wisecrack: "Well, if your husband brings you home flowers, you don't say "Thank you!" you say: "What have you been up to?" So at this rate, whatever it is that Dr. Motes has been up to, is definitely off the charts. Motes himself, he's enigmatic - he just seems intent on keeping the record. Maybe he's angling for -hey-the Guinness Book... Why not?
Motes Orchids could be right up there with the most hot dogs eaten, the tallest man...the biggest cabbage... Watch This Space.


  1. Whenever Alan hears me cackling in here, he says, "What's so funny." I always say I'm reading Mary's blog. By the way my Burning Sands is blooming. Would you send me your email?