ORCHIDS ARE the most beautiful of flowers; and while the huge hybrids are too flamboyant for balance and grace (however superb they may be as individual blooms), there are thousands of other orchids that simply cannot be faulted for form, color, substance, texture and beauty of the most complex sort.
They are not, I admit, daisies. I have always considered daisies as rather dumb flowers, suitable for carpeting meadows, no doubt, and very good for gardeners who adore monotony. I know that some derive comfort from those endless little bosses surrounded by endless little rays - everything repeated 85 times in the individual flower, and every plant repeating its blooms by the hundreds. If one fails to get the point of the daisy the first time (and some bugs may be none too bright), no harm is done because the same simple daisy architecture repeats itself by the trillion through the floral kingdom.
The daisy, therefore, has a reputation for "innocence," that proud state that any creature lacking 24 different dimensions may safely claim. And when we gardeners occasionally feel the garden is too complex, too slow, too profound and too far beyond our grasp, we naturally admire the daisy (and aster, chrysanthenum, ect.).
The orchid, by contrast, is structurally so complicated you wonder how it ever got itself together, and how anything so spectacular could make its way in a world of dandelions, typhoons and rats.
And yet the orchid is marvelously successful. Extremely complex creatures survive just as well as basic amoebas or daisies.
I do think the various wild orchids are rather an embarrassment, if not a reproach, to those "plant wizards" who breed flowers. You can fiddle from now to doomsday with the daisy, the plum tree, the marigold - infusing new genes and raising huge crops and selecting the variations - and going on from there; and all that is commendable. The modern zinnia, for example, is all very well.
But in the filtered light of trees in a rain forest there are wild orchids far surpassing in beauty anything yet produced by breeders of anything else. I never see a batch of orchids, or even a single one, without thinking how futile a thing it is to vaunt human accomplishment in our trifling achievements and efforts at "improving" plants.
The local orchid society show - always a wonderland - is at the National Arboretum, free, and the hours are 10 to 6 today and 10 to 5 tomorrow. On your way out, try not to curl your lip at the dahlias.
Two shrubs beautiful for their berries this time of year (at their best in late September, I suppose) are Viburnum setigerum and V. wrightii, both Chinese, which is not surprising since almost everything esteemed in the garden comes from China.
V. setigerum makes a loose shrub perhaps 10 feet high, with little clusters (rather flat and about half the size of a poached egg) at the ends of its twigs, of very bright red with a good bit of yellow in it.
The other one has clusters of fiery crimson-red berries, the size of your hand or a bit smaller. I suppose they would do better in full sun, but one of mine is under a maple and the other is beneath an oak, so it is good of them to flower and fruit at all.
Virtually all hardy shrubs may be planted from now till Thanksgiving, but a nurseryman told me most people like to wait until the spring sunshine inspires them to run about like rabbits through clover.This is understandable but fall, not spring, is the great planting season for woody things.
If, in other words, you had thought of lolling in the warm weekends admiring the chrysanthemums and the dogwoods turning red, congratulating yourself perhaps that the weeds are losing heart, let me cheerfully remind you that you should be exhausted (not lolling) since this is the busiest of all garden seasons. When you are not planting bulbs, digging up bindweed roots, rooting out pokeberries, soaking bamboo, there are still other tasks. Thousands of them. You are terribly behind. The very idea of just sitting about in the sun.