It was in the early 1960's, perhaps even a bit earlier, that I first met Carson Whitlow. In those early years I was actively engaged in cattleya and cymbidium hybridizing at Stewart Orchids in San Gabriel. We had a very active cattleya hybridizing program in a full spectrum of types and colors. Carson Whitlow was a friend and customer, however, his extraordinary enthusiasm for breeding Blue Cattleyas and acquiring Blue Cattleya parental stock far exceeded my or the company's ability to concentrate on one particular color section of the cattleya alliance. Because he was not involved in commercial orchid growing per se an arrangement was worked out where he would acquire on his own the stud plants, make the hybrids and Stewart Orchids would grow them on with the right to merchandise. Over the years it proved to be quite equitable for both parties. Many a rare blue cultivar of a species was obtained by Carson who industriously searched the orchid world for new parental material often unknown and unavailable to anyone else. Not only did he obtain rare blue cultivars but his correspondence with many of the sources is an increasingly valuable historical file.
The breeding of blue cattleyas has been perennially difficult and often without reward. As the years passed, Carson pursued his blue breeding, the pods were harvested, seeds sown and crosses grown on. As they flowered he made his observations and in time wrote for publication of the results. Many of the famous early hybrids in the orchid world were remade in their blue strain; Cattleya Alcimeda Coerulea, Laeliocattleya Gaskel-Pumila, C. Suzanne Hye Coerulea, C. Purity Coerulea and C. Dupreana Coerulea. There were many more and of course many were entirely new hybrids.
The precise listing of his work does not serve a purpose in a forward. Some blue breeding had been done prior to Carson Whitlow's efforts. Perhaps the most notable was Sir Jeremiah Colman of England who worked from the early years of the century to the late 30's. Sir Jeremiah's work is still valuable however that by Carson Whitlow shall probably stand as the most notable in this cattleya color section ever done. I can wonder if it can ever be equaled or surpassed.
For various reasons a recording of Whitlows effort serves several purposes: it makes interesting reading, is of value to those who seek plants in this color section and to those who wish to continue the breeding of blue cattleyas and who need references and guide lines.
June 11, 1990