Paphiopedilum White Legacy… The Adventure Begins!

by J. Hadley Cash – for publication in the Orchid Digest

Just this weekend, as I walked with my seven-year-old son on a hike into the woods, Austin proclaimed, “Well Daddy, where the road ends, the adventure begins!” I find myself reflecting now on both his comment, and how it relates to an article I wrote nearly ten years ago, entitled “Complex White Paphs… The Road Less Traveled.” In it I pointed out that, while many types of hybridizing had been done over the years with slippers, white/pink complex breeding was just beginning to come into its own. This breeding line had long been overlooked, primarily due to sterility problems. To seriously undertake this white/pink line of breeding was, indeed, to venture onto seldom-traveled ground. I discussed many famous white/pink crosses in the article, but not until the final paragraph did I mention a grex that was to become one of Marriott Orchids’ finest white/pink breeders: Paphiopedilum White Legacy. In the years closely preceding the article, I had made several observations in complex slipper breeding that eventually led me to an important conclusion.
First, I noted that P.Chardmoore, when crossed with countless other complex paphiopedilums, had produced some truly exceptional offspring. Unfortunately, only two or three were outstanding; the rest were either mediocre or just plain abysmal. But the great ones stood out both for their form and for the fine shape in their progeny. In the white/pink complex, this was best exemplified by the world-renowned P.Dusty Miller, (F.C. Puddle x Chardmoore) bred by Ratcliffe Orchids. Out of the many P.Dusty Miller’s that were first flowered nearly 50 years ago, a scant few stood heads above the rest. The most notable of these, from both a form and breeding perspective, proved to be P.Dusty Miller ‘Mary’ AM/RHS and P. Dusty Miller ‘Dapple’ AM/RHS. Two other cultivars, ‘Bertsch’ HCC/AOS and ‘Downlands’ HCC/AOS, received commendations from the American Orchid Society. However, despite their AOS awards, the later two cultivars paled by comparison in form to their Royal Horticultural Society-awarded counterparts. Over the decades, only ‘Mary’ and ‘Dapple’ showed their superiority as breeders. It has been speculated that these two plants were natural tetraploids (having twice the normal amount of genetic material), as they were so dramatically superior to all other siblings. Additionally, I have long believed that Chardmoore has a propensity for inducing tetraploidy in a few of its scattered offspring, on a very limited basis.
At any rate, P.Dusty Miller went on to produce P.Miller’s Daughter, a cross that was at the apex for form in white slipper breeding for more than two decades. Paphiopedilum Chardmoore has proved to be such a fine parent since it was registered in 1927, that it is now in the ancestry of nearly 1,750 crosses. A review of the crosses shows an incredible group of names which span five decades, and are often at the pinnacle of complex slipper breeding for their generation.
The second observation came from looking at the best in the white/pink Paph. breeders that began gaining acclaim some 15 years ago at the Orchid Zone in Salinas, California. At that time, P.Skip Bartlett ‘White Pepper’ HCC/AOS was becoming recognized as “the best white paphiopedilum breeder in the world.” It was dominant for white color, yielded a good percentage of well-formed offspring, and, most importantly, was very fertile. The fertility barrier was probably the biggest hurdle to be crossed by the oncoming mass of P. Skip Bartlett progeny.
At the same time that P. Skip Bartlett was gaining fame, I had the good fortune to acquire 80 to 90 seedlings of an unregistered cross of Paphiopedilum(Silver Anniversary x Greyi). Mrs. Linda Buckley had originated the cross in the later half of the 1980’s. The group contained several plants that were in bud, and I decided to bloom a few before considering whether or not to sell any. Two flowers opened at almost the same time, and I knew they were special. The blooms were nicely tailored, with full well-rounded shape, and excellent size for the parentage. Neither parent in the cross is especially large, the natural spread of P. Silver Anniversary being 9-9.5cm, and P. Greyi being under 8cm. Nevertheless, virtually all of the offspring would eventually prove to have flowers in the 10-11cm range.
I researched the lineage of the cross in an effort to find the source of the large size, and found that the pod parent, P. Silver Anniversary, was one-half P. Chardmoore. Once again, that famous old RHS parent was proving its worth. Also interesting was the high percentage of brachypetalum in the cross. Paphiopedilum (Silver Anniversary x Greyi) had P.niveum on both sides of its ancestry and P. godefroyae from the P. Grey, reminding me very much of the brachypetalum content in P. Skip Bartlett. I compared this to a family tree of Skip Bartlett; its high brachypetalum makeup was with niveum, bellatulum, and godefroyae. I put facts together and arrived at an important conclusion: the cross had P. Chardmoore in its close ancestry, a proven parent for quality and size; and, it had a high brachypetalum content that resembled P. Skip Bartlett. These two facts led me to break away from conventional white/pink slipper breeding, and to pursue a different breeding direction that did not have P. F.C. Puddle in the ancestry. Paphiopedilum F.C. Puddle was, at that time, in the background of virtually all of the most well known white/pink complex slippers. With this decision, the road to conventional breeding wisdom ended. I registered the cross as P. White Legacy with the RHS in 1993… and so the adventure began. ***(Cynthia, sometimes brachypetalum is in italics in this paragraph, and sometimes it’s not. Is this correct? Additionally, it is in italics throughout a later section.)
I made several key decisions when I started hybridizing with P. White Legacy. I had noticed that in the blooms of the original 80+ plants, only a few blooms were without some sort of pouch notches or asymmetries, varying from minor to major imperfections. So I decided to make a sibling cross with two of the P. White Legacy cultivars that showed little or no pouch problems.
Next, I chose to cross P. White Legacy with many of the parents that already had been successfully paired with Skip Bartlett ‘White Pepper’ HCC/AOS. These included P. Green Mystery, P. Yerba Buena, P. Winston Churchill, P. Hellas, P. Via Virgenes, and other greats. By doing this, I hoped to eventually compare my offspring to those corollaries from P. Skip Bartlett. Early results using were promising. As those fledgling crosses began to bloom out, they tended to have excellent size and fullness, an ability to mask green/gold color with white, and great hybrid vigor. I was seeing offspring that compared quite favorably with many of the best cultivars from P. Skip Bartlett breeding. Unfortunately, I was also seeing a higher than normal number of pouch problems or irregularities. I noted a direct correlation in the severity of the problems in a given P. White Legacy parent, and in its particular progeny. Fortunately, when I began to bloom out the sibling cross of P. White Legacy, I could select new cultivars with improved form, minus the pouch problems. It seemed logical that this would greatly reduce those problems in their future offspring. Encouraged, I began to venture into new areas of far less predictable breeding; often using parents of high but unproven potential, or crossing species with P. White Legacy in an effort to create unique novelty lines.
We now jump forward nearly a decade, to the present… and can finally see what my adventure into the world of P. White Legacy has brought. The offspring of this wonderful parent have produced much of what I had hoped for, and it has been a joy to see the beauty within its breeding lines. I would like to share the breadth and depth of what P. White Legacy breeding offers. We will look at the unusual color combinations, tones, patterns and markings, and see the remarkable form, from standard to novelty types.
The variability of colors and combinations within a given grex is one of the great surprises that I see quite often in P. White Legacy crosses. The same cross can produce a wide range of colors, varying from white with pastel pink overlays and no spotting, to rich raspberry pink petals and spotting on the dorsal sepal. One cross that shows this broad range is P. Winter Star (Starr Dust x White Legacy). The parent P. Starr Dust originated from a flask of seedlings from Mr. Lester Ng, and he registered the grex in 1989. It was a full pink and white flower from P. Freckles by P. Personella. He was therefore combining a flower that was primarily white with an almost solid red parent. Pinks crossed to reds will generally yield a predominance of medium to deep pink offspring, and this was the case in P. Starr Dust. When I crossed this plant to P. White Legacy, I hoped for flowers that were even fuller than P. Starr Dust, and in a wider range of color tones. The concept was that by “double dosing” with white genetic material, both parents being white/pinks, I could see better dominance of white in the progeny. There was indeed an excellent variety of colors and patterns in this remarkable cross. Paphiopedilum Winter Star also produced exceptional form.
While the color combinations within a given cross can be highly variable, the variability when looking at different crosses is even more pronounced. Two of the most remarkable color groups to appear, have done so just this past bloom season; they are desirable for both their unique colors and the pleasing arrangement of those colors. These new crosses have yet to be registered. The first is P. Ruth Wright by P. White Legacy, made in 1998 and grown from flask since late 2000. I chose to breed with P. Ruth Wright, as it is one-half P. Hellas, but boasts a far larger flower of 13cm natural spread and has 6.5cm wide petals. The very first cultivar to bloom, ‘Fantasy’, flowered on a 25cm (10 in.) one-growth seedling, with a flower over 11 cm across! Furthermore, the flower displayed startling color combinations; the background color consisted of an icy pastel yellow/green, a unique cinnamon pink petal and pouch overlay, and was crowned with a bold raspberry/chocolate flame up the dorsal sepal. When I saw this flower in bloom for the first time, the name ‘Fantasy’, was my first thought. Another sibling to this plant flowered out about two months later, with very different color combinations, but equally striking. That cultivar was predominantly a pretty cream/white and pastel pink color, but with bold overlays of mulberry flairs on the petals and raspberry/chocolate striations on the dorsal sepal. The name ‘Moonbeam’ was chosen, alluding to the full moonlike form and radiating color burst markings.
A second cross demonstrates one of the most striking colorations that I have seen thus far from P. White Legacy. It is a pairing of P. Lunacy and P. White Legacy, whose unique beauty comes from the color placement. It is essentially a pure white flower with an unusual rose-pink overlay on the petals, and a dark rose suffusion at the very base of a clear white dorsal sepal. When I first saw this plant in bloom, it appeared as if a pink butterfly had landed on a white flower, so I named it ‘Butterfly Kiss’. The cross is at present still unregistered.
As I have flowered out more crosses from P. White Legacy in recent years, an unusual color has surfaced with reasonable frequency. The colors fall into a range of what I refer to as cinnamon pinks, a color that I have seen only rarely prior to P. White Legacy breeding. One of the most consistently well-formed crosses to bloom, that also yielded a good number of cinnamon pinks, is P. White Legacy with P. Amandahill. It is no surprise that P. Amandahill has produced fine form in its offspring, as its parents are P. Amanda and P. Winston Churchill. But it is the blended genetics with P. White Legacy that gives rise to a wonderful mix of brushed or spotted rich cinnamon pinks. The cultivars ‘Rosy World’ and ‘Rose Mist’ are fine examples of this line of breeding. P. Sylvan Moon is another high quality cross that has produced cinnamon pinks in rich bold colors. Once again, P. White Legacy was combined with a large dusky-toned red… the quality breeder P. Sylvan Vale ‘Sparsholt’. The result was very full boldly colored flowers, represented well by the beautiful P. Sylvan Moon ‘Dreamscape’. In an effort to produce softer pastel pinks, I tried a different approach by crossing P. White Legacy with amber-colored parents instead of reds. The thought was that if crosses to reds produced darker pinks, crosses with ambers should produce lighter pink colors. One of the prettiest hybrids of this type is Papaiopedilum White Galaxy (Memoria Jack Tonkin x White Legacy). The pod parent is a huge 16cm across honey-toned flower with a broad white dorsal sepal and spotting across it. P. White Galaxy ‘Pastel Moon’ shows well the beauty of this pairing. It has wonderfully shaped full-formed blooms and lovely pastel cinnamon pink colors. The crosses shown here are some of my favorite current hybrids to give cinnamon pinks, but by no means all of them. I am sure that as new crosses bloom out from P. White Legacy, many flowers will fall into this enchanting color range.
Among the best qualities coming from P. White Legacy are the wonderfully unique patterns and markings that the flowers so often display. The following serve to show some of the more extreme examples of this. Paphiopedilum White Galaxy ‘Pastel Moon’ was one of the more subdued examples of this cross. A more radically marked offspring of the same cross is P. White Galaxy ‘Mystery Lady’. This flower is 12cm across, and boasts an intriguing array of both light and vibrant darker pink over a cream to white background; all are combined through brushed tones, striations, and spots. The flower gives us the perfect image of a “Mystery Lady.” Moving in a very different, but equally mesmerizing, direction is a boldly speckled flower called P. Great Expectation ‘Moonstorm’, the progeny of P. White Legacy by P. Skip Bartlett. Most of the grex were lightly stippled whites, but ‘Moonstorm’ displays what might be called very small spotting (or large speckling) throughout. I hope to be able to advance this type of flower into large pure whites with even larger spotting across the entire flower. One wonders… if P. White Galaxy ‘Mystery Lady’ and P. Great Expectation ‘Moonstorm’ were combined, would we get what might be called a ‘Mystery Storm’… a flurry of large speckles across the entire flower?
Flower form is at the top of any hybridizer’s list of important qualities in offspring. This key element makes or breaks many crosses, and is essential to the success of P. Skip Bartlett ‘White Pepper’ HCC/AOS breeding lines. Only within the past year have I been willing to say that I believe that P. White Legacy stands shoulder to shoulder with P. Skip Bartlett, because of consistently fine form that P. White Legacy hybrids produce. Time and again, I see relatively large and nicely rounded flowers with lovely full petals. While it is certainly no panacea for bad flowers, it does give a far greater number of nice offspring than almost any other white/pink paphiopedilum parent I have worked with. At the top of the list for great form is P. Winter Star ‘Pink Moon’, a cross that we looked at earlier. Paphiopedilum Winter Star ‘Pink Moon’ is about as close to perfect form as one can get, and also has very beautiful white and pink color tones.
Another cross of exceptional form that just bloomed a few months ago is P. Amanda with P. White Legacy, as yet unregistered. The image shown gives a scale to reference the overall flower dimensions. The blooming was on a small single growth plant. It is reasonable to expect that the flower will top the 6cm wide petal mark on a larger multi-growth plant. In the more white, as opposed to pink-tones, P. Arctic Ice has produced some well-formed progeny. Paphiopedilum Arctic Ice ‘Perfection’ AM/AOS is one of the nicer plants to flower thus far. The cross is from pairing P. White Legacy with the full-formed green, P. Via Pekeruru. This combination of greens or golds is usually the best avenue to produce whites, not pinks, of the largest size. For sheer size, the best cross to date has been P. Legacy Moon, a mating of P. Via Avila Beach by P. White Legacy. I selected the pod parent for its large size and Hellas parentage. It is essentially a honey-toned flower of very large proportions, 15cm across and a 12cm wide dorsal sepal. Paphiopedilum Legacy Moon ‘Mammoth’ has a natural spread of 14.5cm, a 10.5cm wide dorsal, and petals of over 6cm in width. It is the largest white/pink I have achieved to date from any breeding lines.
When I first ventured out in new directions for P. White Legacy, novelty lines seemed to hold great potential. Two of the best crosses to bloom out resulted from using some brachypetalum species; specifically P. godefroyae v. leucochilum and P. bellatulum. The P. godefroyae cross, registered as P. Dust Storm, yielded several nice cultivars. Two received AOS awards, of which P. Dust Storm ‘White Storm’ HCC/AOS was given just a few months ago. This cross had one significant problem; only a few plants (out of approximately 50) bloomed without some sort of pouch problems. This resulted from using one of the earlier P. White Legacy parents that had pouch problems. Additionally, the flowers were relatively small. A far more successful novelty line came from (P. bellatulum x P. White Legacy), registered in 2002 as P. Legacy’s Child. This proved to be an exceptional cross; receiving two HCC/AOS, three AM/AOS, and an AQ/AOS (Award of Quality). This cross has shown remarkable consistency and quality. The flowers can be up to 11cm across and have petals 5 cm wide, predominantly white in base color, with varying saturations of garnet speckling across the sepals and petals. P.aphiopedilum Legacy’s Child is arguably one of the very finest brachypetalum by white complex paphiopedilum crosses that I have seen to date.
Perhaps a more radical novelty cross was P. Fairy Lace (P. White Legacy x P. fairrieanum). My logic in trying this pairing was fairly straightforward. Most of the crosses that I had seen bloom from brachypetalum species by P. fairrieanum were quite nice; they tended to have much better flower spikes, coming from the P. fairrieanum, and lovely rose webbing on ruffled petals. Considering the high brachypetalum content of P. White Legacy, I believed I might get similarly pleasing flowers. The cross, indeed, bloomed out much like the brachypetalum lines, but with substantially longer stems and far larger flowers. Three flowers have been awarded thus far, and P. Fairy Lace received an AQ/AOS near the end of 2004. This line offers a lovely range of color and patterning; tones can vary from white backgrounds with pastel pink overlays, to whites with heavy raspberry stippling or almost solid overlays. The enchanting mixture of color and form seems befitting to some sprightly creature.
A final area of interest in breeding centered on crossing P. White Legacy with other complex whites. When I first began to bloom out P. White Legacy lines, the dominance for pink tones in the offspring became apparent. In crossing to greens or golds, I could achieve quite large flowers, but only a low percentage had exceptionally white background color. With this goal in mind, I decided to try and cross P. White Legacy to other nice white parents. In 2002 I began to bloom out P. Saint Ouens Bay by P. White Legacy, and registered it in 2003 as P. Snow Saint. As is often the case with P. Saint Ouens Bay, most of the progeny flowered with ivory petals, rather than white. There was also often a blush of pink on the petals and pouch, and light scattered pink stippling on the petals. Additionally, the form is excellent. The pod parent is known for giving flat flower form, and this cross was no exception, represented well by the very pretty P. Snow Saint ‘Moondust’. Another nice cross, with very white flowers, was from P. Via Ojai by P. White Legacy. This unregistered cross began to bloom in late 2005. The lightly dusted cultivar ‘Winter Scene’ has the desirable paper white background color that is often so elusive.
In crossing P. White Legacy to whites, however, one grex stands above the rest. Nearly eight years ago, in 1998, I crossed P. Skip Bartlett ‘White Pepper’ HCC/AOS to P. White Legacy. If each parent had proved exceptional in its own right, what might they accomplish together? I began to flower this cross five years later. In 2003 it was registered as P. Great Expectations. It is a name that I hope will one day prove to be as fitting as its pod parent, P. White Legacy! One of the first to flower, P. Great Expectation ‘Shimmer Dust’, received an 85 point AM/AOS at the Paphiopedilum Forum in Washington, D.C. in 2004. The Chair Judge at its awarding commented, “It’s the finest white complex paph that I’ve seen in years.” Nearly all have a brilliant white base color, with varying degrees of stippling in pink or garnet over the sepals and petals. The flowers are quite flat and well formed, being over 11cm across. Over a dozen cultivars have bloomed with both exceptional color and markings, and most are of award quality. More importantly, the offspring will breed with great fertility as either a pod or pollen parent. This cross shows flowers of amazing beauty; but its greatest gift may prove to be the wonderful beauty revealed in its progeny.
My closing thoughts go back now to “…where the road ends, the adventure begins!” In my early white/pink hybridizing efforts, I stepped off the conventional road of slipper orchid breeding… and into a world full of new colors, patterns, and shapes. I will continue to create and explore new worlds, for only in doing so can new discoveries be made. And I hope that as I do, others will enjoy seeing what I discover along the way. The beauty of entering a new world is that when we walk through it, we leave our own footprints as we go. A new path develops in this world that, perhaps, others will one day follow. And it’s a good thing, for there are far too many worlds for just one person to explore!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s