Coelogyne Lyme Bay is one of those hybrids that everyone seems to have heard of, but few seem to grow. This is a great shame, as it is easy to grow and flower, and appears not to grow too big. I have two plants carrying this name. One of these is a division of a mother plant from Burnham Nurseries (who first made the cross from selected forms of C. speciosa and C. usitana in 1996), and should probably carry the clonal name ‘Burnham’, although this doesn’t appear on the tag. The second is a plant that I purchased from a German nursery, which is almost certainly a seedling from a batch that they made and does not carry a clonal name. It is this second German plant that I shall discuss here, as I have managed to get it to bloom. It was quite a large plant when it arrived, and had clearly bloomed before. I generally prefer plants not to be in full bloom when they arrive, as the flowers will almost certainly not last once unpacked, and I am then faced with a long wait before I am presented with blooms again. After a few weeks of doing nothing, the plant produced several new shoots, the first of which has by now flowered. On a recent visit to Devon, I saw Coelogyne Lyme Bay in flower at Burnham Nurseries. The flowers were quite striking, with lime green petals and sepals and dark chocolate brown lip and column, especially on freshly opened blooms. I hope that my division from them will be similar, but at the time of writing, I have yet to flower it.
My plant from Germany is far more ‘clumpy’ in habit (perhaps this is a trait that they select for) than my plant from Burnham Nurseries, though it might be that it too will become more clumped as it gets older. It is also possible that there is more than one seedling in the pot. I shall find out as more flower spikes open toward the other side of the plant. More importantly, however, the flowers are quite different. You expect this from a batch of seedlings, and many slightly different crosses involving the Speciosae group of Coelogyne can tend to look rather similar to each other. Therefore, when a good plant turns up in any batch of seedlings, it is given a clonal name (like Burnham Nurseries’ ‘Burnham’ clone) to differentiate it from the rest. My plant from Germany has a much more brightly coloured lip, and the column is almost the same colour as the petals and sepals. This in itself isn’t a problem and the flowers are perfectly nice, though my plant has inherited the unfortunate habit from C. speciosa of flinging its petals right back until they almost cross at the back of the flower. While this is an endearing feature of the species, it is not as desirable in the hybrid, as the flower lacks the ‘fullness’ that the named clones possess. All in all, I am not convinced that the hybrid is any more desirable than its parents (although I see no reason to pass it on either, as it wasn’t expensive and besides, I think it is very informative to grow more than one clone of any given hybrid, especially if one of them has a clonal name and the other doesn’t). It is very clear why Burnham Nurseries have given their plant a clonal name and why it so often wins awards when displayed.