Most of the concern with blue cattleyas and laelias centers around the production of the large blue hybrids, or at least attempts at attaining them. Size has been a limiting factor due to the parental stock used, primarily Cattleya Ariel coerulea, C. Portia coerulea and Laeliocattleya Blue Boy. But, small size should not be a factor to overlook, nor should "unusual" character, for from these can come some "real jewels." In the blue laelias and cattleyas we have several of the smaller species which can be developed into very exciting hybrids, primarily among themselves, with many variations of shape and coloration, but still retaining the blue areas. Of this group, there are about six which come to mind that seem worthy of further development. These are the blue varieties of C. amethystoglossa, C. schilleriana, C. nobilior, Laelia anceps, L. pumila, and of course, C. bowringiana.
Cattleya amethystoglossa is one of my favorite blues. Its blue polka dots and forelobe of the lip form a lovely contrast to its off-white sepals. The lavender bar coloring in the lip does not really mar its appearance. If only it didn't "blast" so readily. Breeding usually must be done utilizing it as the pollen bearer.
Of the laelias, L. pumila has no comparison, in my way of thinking. Here, one specific clone is concerned, the variety coerulea "Werkhauserii." Every fall, the white-tepaled, dark blue, solid lip flower is eagerly awaited. Each fall it drops its pod of the selfing, or anything else for that matter, and smog has taken its toll on the flower. But, the pollen is usually good so some breeding can be done.
Cattleya schilleriana var. coerulescens is another intriguing subject. The blue veining of the lip offers us a good contrast to the greenish bronze sepals and maroon pin dots. The potential here is most interesting. Unfortunately, my only photograph is from a friend and the plant has yet to bloom for me.
Cattleya nobilior var. coerulea is another lovely blue. The lack of darker blue color on the lip is a feature. It is a good breeder, excepting when selfed, and is touchy about repotting. It offers some interesting off-shoots to follow in breeding.
Laelia anceps var. veitchiana, though lacking somewhat the depth of color found in other laelias, can be used with success. The lovely white sepals and blue lip are certainly worthy of any collection. The tall spike, rambling habit, and star shape should not be drawbacks and its fertility certainly isn't.
The place of Cattleya bowringiana in this group for breeding is established with its use with L. pumila to make Lc. Parysatis. But involving it with the others can prove interesting, also.
This group can be very rewarding since they grow rapidly and mature early, especially the laelias, as do their progeny. Success, however, is not always that simple. Mine has been limited to only three crosses out of nearly six times that many attempts.
The first successful cross was between Laelia anceps var. veitchiana and L. pumila var. coerulea "Werkhauserii." It has been previously registered as L. Amoena, but searching through the literature gives no information on the outcome of it in regard to size, shape, veining, etc. Currently, the expectation is for white sepals and blue lip as the primary consideration. As for size, three inches is probable. By applying the geometric mean to the number of flowers and the size of the spike, two flowers per six inch spike is determined. The flower is expected to be more round than Laelia anceps, with the pseudobulbs spaced more closely, and to have good substance and texture. The yellow in the throat being different in the two parents, the presence or absence of veining will make for interesting genetic observations. Personally, this cross had high priority as a "natural," and I am very enthused about it. It should be very lovely and may prove useful for further breeding.
The second success was the cross Laelia anceps var. veitchiana x Cattleya nobilior var. coerulea. Expectations here are really not firm. Three to five star shaped, three and a half inch flowers on a twelve-inch spike is a fair guess, with spacing between pseudobulbs rather wide. Tepal color should be rather blue unless Laelia anceps suppresses it. Lip color should be a good blue, with veining in the throat probable. The yellow color in the throat is again questionable. The shape of the lip should prove to be an interesting aspect as to which parent it will favor most.
The third hybrid was a remake of Lc. Parysatis using Cattleya bowringiana 'alpha' as the pod bearer, with Laelia pumila var. coerulea 'Werkhauserii' giving the pollen. Only one clone of Lc. Parysatis coerulea is in existence to my knowledge. It has lovely blue-lavender sepals and darker lip. The flower has rounded petals, tubular lip, and is fairly flat. Size is two and a half to three inches. Flowering occurs both spring and fall. From this crossing much the same is expected, only with more blue coloring in the lip, and slightly lighter sepals. This strain's use in further breeding will more than likely depend on the outcome of crosses which have already been made using the aforementioned Lc. Parysatis coerulea.
So, we are off on the start of an adventure which can easily lead to more and more fascinating "unusual" jewels in the "world of blues" taking shape.
(The Orchid Digest, Vol. 33, No. 10, December, 1969, p. 317.)