Orchid Wise

Cymbidium Primary Hybrid – Cym. Wiganianum

In this series of articles we showcase the somewhat lesser known area of Cymbidium history. The Cymbidium Primary Hybrid. Cymbidium Primary Hybrid’s are the result of crossing two Cymbidium species plants, and these crosses have created some stunning plants. And it is where all of our modern hybrids have originally come from.

Cymbidium Wiganianum is the Primary Hybrid crossing of Cymbidium eburneum x Cymbidium tracyanum

Cym. Wiganianum holds the distinction of being the first notable Cym. tracyanum hybrid to be registered with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Registered in 1902 by Wigan. The image to the right of Cym. Wiganianum was sourced from the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate website.

Frederick Wigan, the Man

Sir Frederick Wigan, 1st Baronet, was born in 1827 and died in 1907. He was a highly successful hops merchant based at Southwark, in Surrey, near the south end of London Bridge. Wigan was a director of the North London Railway and had business interests in several water supply companies and in the brewers Samuel Allsopp & Sons, Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton and Worthington and Co. He gained the rank of Captain in the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment and he was also a collector of orchids.

Wigan was born in East Malling, Kent, the son of a successful hops merchant. He married Mary Harriet Blunt at Mortlake in April 1857 and the couple had ten children. He was appointed High Sheriff of Surrey in 1894 and knighted that year also. In 1898, Wigan was made a baronet. Baronets rank below barons but above knights, so a significant non-royal title bestowed upon those who make significant contribution to raising money for the crown.

Frederick Wigan was seriously wealthy!

Frederick Wigan built Clare Lawn in 1866 on 11 acres of land adjoining Richmond Park in London. Located at the top end of Sheen Lane in East Sheen, it was an address to be envious of. The architect employed by Wigan was Robert Phillip Pope. Clare Lawn was a substantial Victorian villa. Designed to accommodate Wigan’s large family and to display his status and substantial wealth. And he wasn’t alone. At that time, the entire East Sheen area consisted of fewer than 15 substantial properties for the rich and titled.

There were extensive grounds at Clare Lawn. The property consisted of stables and a piggery, a winter garden and there were a range of cool houses adjoining the house. In 1891 there were 10 members of the Wigan family and 10 members of staff living in Clare Lawn.

Wigan also had another extensive property, Purland Chase, in Ross in the County of Hereford. Built after 1880 and demolished in 1965. The lush countryside of Herefordshire would have offered a different setting from the bustling city life near London Bridge. There are no records indicating that Wigan raised orchids at the country house; it appears that his passion for orchids was primarily centered in London!

Wigan became a member of the St Saviour’s Collegiate Church restoration committee 1890.

This body oversaw the rebuilding of the nave by the architect, Arthur Blomfield. Wigan donated two carved oak screens, designed by Blomfield, as well as two windows by Charles Eamer Kempe to the church. In 1905, the building became Southwark Cathedral and Wigan was appointed Treasurer of the chapter. The year after his death, a sculpted bust was installed in the south transept. A chalice and paten were presented to the cathedral in Wigan’s memory by his niece in 1910.

In 1893 Frederick Wigan decided to extend and improve Clare Lawn. This was the heyday of the Arts and Crafts movement and the new extension reflected this. Additions included a picture room, conservatory, library and study added by the architects Sir Aston Webb and Ingress Bell. Walter Crane designed the elaborate plaster work and Stephen Webb created the marquetry panels for the study.

Another photo of Cym. Wiganianum. This image has also published on the Orchids.org Plants Database.

A hight achiever, Frederick Wigan was!

Sir Frederick Wigan died in 1907 and was interred in East Sheen cemetery. His title of Baronet passed to his son, Frederick William Wigan. In a cruel twist, however, Frederick William passed away at his residence, Windlesham Court, just over a month after his father’s death. Subsequently, Mary Harriet survived for another eight years until her passing in 1915. Following her demise, Clare Lawn and its contents were sold to a Mr. Lancaster. Unfortunately, he also passed away soon after, leading to the demolition of Clare Lawn between 1924 and 1926. For history enthusiasts, Mortlake History has compiled a video about the East Sheen area.

It’s always a sad time to see a large historic house demolished. But given it’s location next to Richmond Park, 11 acres would have been worth a fortune!

At the beginning of the twentieth century, orchid breeding was the rich man’s hobby.

There is not a lot of information about Wigan’s orchid growing. Publications from that era, such as The Gardeners’ Chronicle, list Wigan as an orchid grower and raiser. Additionally, The Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists stated he maintained an orchid collection at Clare Lawn.

There is no information to suggest Wigan studied Botany. However, it does seem that Wigan went on to grow and register many other orchid species, and was an orchid raiser of at least some importance. Sir Frederick Wigan was a Vice President at the Royal Horticultural Society in 1906. He also had plants in the Royal Botanic Gardens Herbarium in Kew in 1899, giving some weight that Wigan was a orchid grower of at least some note at the time.

Wigan only registered one Cymbidium with the RHS…..

Sir Frederick seemed to concentrate on Cattleya’s with 11 registrations, plus a few Dendrobium’s and others, with just this one Cym primary hybrid registration. There are numerous mentions in the above publications in relation to Wigan showing other orchid species at meetings.

According to an entry in ‘Highlights of Orchid History’ by Duncan Rigby, Cym. Wiganianum was cultivated by the renowned McBean’s nursery in the U.K. It was subsequently registered by Wigan. However, no further information has been found to back up this claim. Additionally, the RHS was unable to verify this entry; only Wigan is mentioned in the registration records as the registrant and originator of this Cymbidium primary hybrid.

‘The Orchid Review’ of 1902 gives a mention to Cym. Wiganianum on display from Sander & Sons at at the February Royal Horticultural Society meeting, describing it as ‘a cream white flower marked with purple on the lip. Oddly though, it doesn’t mention Wigan in relation to Cym. Wiganianum, but it does state that Wigan is a steady exhibitor of superb new orchids. This publication also shows a Mr W. H. Young from Clare Lawn Gardens, East Sheen to be on the Orchid Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1902. Mr Young may have been Wigan’s senior gardener on staff at Clare Lawn, as he is mentioned as the grower of some of Wigan’s plants on display.

‘The Gardener’s Chronicle’ (January to June 1902) also mentions Cym. Wiganianum as among the new or rare orchids represented, describing it as ‘a cream white flower marked with purple on the lip, which partook in the form of Cym. tracyanum. A description much like one of the photos below…..

This Cymbidium primary hybrid is notable for a number of reasons.

The expected and outstanding characteristic of the Cym. Wiganianum hybrid is its fragrance; you can usually smell the perfume before you see the plant. It is not a significant parent, comparatively, only being used as a parent for 22 registrations. However Cym. Wiganianum is a parent of more well known plants like Cym. Schlegelii and Cym. Grand Monarch. Dig a little deeper and Cym. Wigianum appears in the background of later hybrids like Cym. Early King, Cym. Remus, Cym. Cariga and Cym. Peetie. It is interesting to note though that Cym. Wiganianum has only one new registered progeny in the last 55 years!

Most importantly, it appears to be the first Cym. tracyanum primary hybrid registered with the RHS. It is a hybrid between the two potentially most fragrant cymbidium species we have, Cym. tracyanum and Cym. eburneum. And it was first bloomed all the way back in 1901/1902! It has that great wild species charm to it. I love seeing this flower, but plants are very hard to come by. Most of all, though, it has a nice, sweet fragrance, clearly inherited from the parents. Blooming between Cym. tracyanum (early Winter) and Cym. eburneum (Spiring), around August in the Southern Hemisphere and February in the Northern Hemisphere, it really is a true combination of both parents.

Cym. Wiganianum Remakes

Above are two different seedling photos provided by Springfield Orchids of a recent remake of the Cymbidium primary hybrid Cym. Wiganianum. Clearly Cym. tracyanum exhibits its dominance in both flower shape and the spots on the lip. Fortunately, I have managed to acquire a seedling from this remake through Springfield Orchids. Whilst it hasn’t flowered yet, I eagerly anticipate witnessing its bloom and experiencing the fragrance it emits.

Unfortunately, Springfield Orchids has sold out of this primary hybrid remake. Nevertheless, I will remake this cross, albeit in reverse, with Cym. tracyanum as the pod parent in the very near future. I have carefully selected two high-quality parent plants for this endeavour. So let’s keep our fingers crossed for another great outcome! I also plan to convert some seedlings to tetraploid to observe the outcomes. Seedlings will be available through Orchid Wise in the coming years!

Small sections of this article were adapted from the Mortlake History website and additional information was gathered from various sources across the internet, including Wikipedia, and gardening journals from the time. Further comments were provided by and with permission from Andy Easton.

If anyone is able to assist me with verifying the accuracy of this information or providing additional data on Wigan or his horticultural endeavors, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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