Tuesday, April 16, 2019

ORCHIDS & MYSTERY: National Orchid Day

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know I post a flower photo every day, usually with the title "Behind my Garden Gate." I grow lots of roses (over 125 varieties), but I also grow orchids. My outdoor orchids--cymbidiums, need to be divided in a specific way.

Every time I start the procedure of hacking away at the roots (yes, hacking with a knife cleaned with a blowtorch), I think about rainforests and the quest for rare orchids. I’ve always been fascinated with orchids. When I was growing up, Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter, was my favorite comic strip. I wanted to be just like Brenda – the intrepid reporter traveling the globe in search of the story. Brenda Starr, the liberated, career-action reporter, was definitely my role model. Of course, my fantasy included a romantic Brazilian mystery man like Basil St. John who was always searching for the rare black orchid. Dale Messick’s original Brenda Starr comic strip that I followed in the Philadelphia Bulletin was full of romance, mystery, and exotic black orchids.

So splitting my orchids is actually a sojourn into my past. I’m sure it was because of my very close ‘personal’ ties with Brenda Starr that I represented Brazil in the model U.N. when I was in high school, and much later I chose to travel to Brazil for a Fulbright. During that time I even managed to go up the Amazon into Basil’s rain forest, and although I did see a lot of orchids, none were black—and Basil was nowhere to be found.

What Is a Black Orchid? Does the Black Orchid really exist? Where is the Black Orchid found? These questions and others have fascinated orchid enthusiasts for centuries, and orchid growers have been trying to grow this magical, mysterious black colored orchid for ages, too, but this still seems to be a mythical plant. All the hard work by hybridization specialists has been in vain and the search for the Black Orchid continues. I grow a lot of varieties of orchids, but none are black. I guess I’ll just continue my personal search through mystery fiction, and sometimes while on holiday in tropical rainforests.

So since today is National Orchid Day, I thought I'd post about mystery and orchids and rainforests. I’m a big list-maker, and orchids play an important part in mystery fiction starting with Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and his love of orchids. Stout's Black Orchids is one of my favorite titles. Other orchid mystery titles (fiction and non-fiction and a few out of the normal mystery realm) include:


In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Mayhem on the Orchid Isle; Something's Rotten in Paradise by Aysia Amery
The Black Orchid by Annis Bell
No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase
The Cloud Garden by Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder
Moonraker by Ian Fleming 
Orchids to Murder by Hulbert Fottner
The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman
Black Orchid by Vaughn C. Hardacker
Black Orchid by Steve Hawk
Beware the Orchids by Cynthia Hickey
Hidden: A Bloom in Waiting by Pyper James
The Emerald Cathedral R.H. Jones
The Orchid Thief by Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew)
Killer-Orchid by K.T. McCall
Black Orchid by Dave McKean
Blood Orchids by Toby Neal 
The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid by Craig Pittman
Tigerlily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell
The Cranefly Orchid Murders by Cynthia Riggs
Death in the Orchid GardenDeath at the Spring Plant Sale by Ann Ripley
The Case of the Black Orchids (and other titles) by Rex Stout
The Ghost Orchid Murder by Nancy Jill Thames
Black Orchid Blues by Persia Walker
Deadly Slipper, The Orchid Shroud, Death in the Dordogne by Michelle Wan 
Death of an Orchid Lover by Nathan Walpow
Dream of Orchids by Phyllis A. Whitney

Spirit in the Rainforest by Eric Wilson

So there you have it: Mysteries and Orchids. As always, let me know if I've missed a title.

Orchids: Behind my Garden Gate


author said...

Kindred Spirits...Brenda Starr was also my idol for the reporting and long red hair...and loving orchids...although the only thing I grow is older.

Thanks for great post and trip down memory blossoms.
Marcia Rosen (M.Glenda Rosen)

Susan Bernhardt said...

Happy Orchid Day!! Your post reminds me of the Nero Wolfe books. This would have been a favorite day for him! :)

I love your daily flower posts. They add a brightness to every day.

Anonymous said...

I alighted on this page while searching for an actual picture of Brenda Starr floating down the Amazon River in a dugout covered with orchids. I think she was in a drugged state. At least that's the way I remember that strip. I'm also a big fan of Nero Wolfe, so this blog is a fun find!

Midsomer Murders, the TV show, has an episode with orchid hunters/thieves, who may or may not also be murderers. Not a black orchid, but an insignificant looking yellow one but still ... orchids.