Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mystical, or Marketing?

"It's pretty much the trend of the future for certain tones in orchids," says Andrew Bartha, CEO of Silver Vase, the company that is marketing 'Blue Mystique' as the world's first blue orchid. The trend of which Mr. Bartha speaks is using an undisclosed, patented process to infuse colors into orchid flowers -- colors that so far have been impossible to achieve through hybridization. Judging by comments I've viewed, the battle lines have been drawn between those who are enamored with 'Blue Mystique' and those who think it's no more than a grade school science project gone awry.

Although I haven't seen 'Blue Mystique' offered by local retailers, I saw one in person at the University of Illinois Plant Sciences Laboratory epiphyte room yesterday.

'Blue Mystique' Orchid
My first reaction was not positive. The infused flowers simply look artificial. I wanted to ensure that I wasn't just reacting because it was so different. Was this the same reaction the first time I saw a yellow Echinacea or a black tulip? It wasn't just that this orchid was blue. My negativity was entirely based on the quality of the blue. The infusion process has created almost a splotchy, tie-dye effect in the flower. Imperfections in the petals and sepals seem to be a darker blue. The effect doesn't look much different than a carnation that's been fed blue food coloring.

'Blue Mystique' Orchid (terminal flower)
The flowers that were closed buds during the infusion process open with a much lighter blue effect that I found aesthetically less garish. The light blue undertones of the terminal flower carry a more elegant, though still unnatural, tone to my eye. It is unknown whether the new flower spikes on 'Blue Mystique' will sport blue flowers, although Silver Vase admits they will likely be more white than blue.

Throat and lip of 'Blue Mystique' Orchid
The infusion creates an interesting effect in the central yellow portion of the orchid, including the throat and lip of the flower, with green mottling transitions between the yellow and blue. Unfortunately, this unique patterning is lost in the overall obscenity of the blue sepals and petals.

A true blue is not something that occurs often in flowers, so breeders around the world have been chasing blue in more than just orchids. It seems like every popular flower genus has its drive to breed the blue. For some, perhaps with orchids, it's a futile quest.

There are some that love the allure of 'Blue Mystique' and I say to each their own. I'm sure it will sell well initially because of its novelty factor, but I hope that Mr. Bartha's prediction proves false. With all the beautiful new orchid varieties emerging on the market, why we need to cheat nature with this infusion process to create a tacky impostor is beyond me.

4 comments:

  1. Next someone will get a can of gold spray paint and try that on the orchids. We can all go back to 1st grade art class.

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  2. The ones I saw at the orchid show over the weekend were much prettier. I could see buying them for a special purpose, like decorating for a blue and white wedding, but I wouldn't want to grow one. Even though blue is my favorite color, I don't like blue flowers, even real ones!

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  3. I first saw (and photographed) these at the Central Ohio Home and Garden Show and didn't like them. I love blue flowers, but there's something not quite right about these. I found them difficult to photograph, maybe because of the weird lighting at the Garden Show, but maybe because of their color, too. You've done a good job capturing them, Chris.

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  4. What is the point of this, if the new flower growth isn't blue? Or have I misunderstood?

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