An Orchid Blooms

The dedication of a new hybrid in honor of Edith Bolling Wilson.

October 15 marks the 145th anniversary of the birth of Edith Bolling Wilson, the only Appalachian-born First Lady, in Wytheville. Born to circuit court judge William Holcombe Bolling and his wife Sarah Spears, Wilson was a direct descendant of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, and could trace close ancestral connections with such historical figures as Thomas Jefferson and Martha Washington. It is therefore fitting, perhaps, that she became the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson and 29th First Lady of the United States.

Edith loved orchids, so much so that during their courtship, the President offered her a new orchid corsage each day that they met. It seemed a shame to A.A. Chadwick, an expert breeder of orchids and owner of Chadwick and Sons Orchids in Richmond, that Edith remained one of only five 20th century First Ladies to not have an orchid dedicated in her honor. And so he got to work. In 2016, Chadwick began breeding a special hybrid of the cattleya orchid, after reaching out to the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum in Wytheville to discuss his project.

Since then, Chadwick has successfully produced a number of seedlings, which have ranged in shade from lavender to deep violet, but all of them in the range of Edith’s favorite color—purple.

The new species has been registered with the Royal Horitcultural Society in London and will be unveiled as part of a special event this weekend at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Paul Morin in Wytheville. Sponsored by the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum, “An Orchid Blooms” is open to the public, who are invited to view the dedicated orchid, which will be on display for the first time. Light food and beverages will be served. 4 – 6 p.m. Tickets $100 – $150. EdithBollingWilson.org


Want to learn more about Edith Bolling Wilson? Don’t miss the upcoming exhibition “From Wytheville to the White House … & Abroad” in our December issue.

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