My mother and orchids

Last week was the second anniversary of my mother’s memorial service. It was also the week my parents were married in 1954.

My dad used to say my mother was a hothouse flower. Mom loved warm weather, and she hated the cold. Mom was London born and bred and at the age of 17 she joined the Women’s Royal Army Corp (WRAC). After being stationed in London and Scotland she jumped at the chance to be stationed in Kuala Lumpur, which is where she met my dad, an officer with the US Merchant Marines. Below is a photo taken in Singapore when she was just age 21.

Mom, Singapore 1951

My earliest memories are of running about in the dirt yard of the new house my parents had bought in Orange County CA. Mom soon had it filled with anything that looked tropical. I remember the back garden filled with Elephant Ears (Colocasia),  Horsetail Reed (Equisetum hyemale) and Hibiscus. As we moved further north, Mom took on roses, camellias, and fuchsias.

My mother had very eclectic tastes, bordering the avant-garde, in landscape and architecture. She had stacks of Architectural Digest in her living room. In her later years, living in Alameda CA, Mom took a fancy to growing orchids. She was a frequent customer at Rod McLellan’s orchid nursery in San Francisco. Mom particularly enjoyed growing Cymbidium orchids in containers.

A couple of months before Mom passed of cancer she called me to tell me that her miniature orchid had finally bloomed and that it was scented. She didn’t know what kind of orchid it was, only vaguely recalling that it was from Australia. She was so pleased that it had finally bloomed for her. After her passing I made sure to bring that orchid home to Vancouver. It has bloomed each year now in December, near the time of her passing, with a fragrance much like a sweet violet that fills the room. Mom was right; I’ve been told it is a type of native orchid from Australia, possibly a Dendrobium kingianum. If anyone can properly identify it please let me know.

Every time it blooms I send a message to my sister and brother, “Mom is in the house!”




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