Blue Orchid and Big Tree: Plant Hunters William and Thomas Lobb and the Victorian mania for the exotic


Categories: ,


This is the story of two of England’s most prolific plant hunters who travelled and collected during the heyday of the Victorian mania for acquiring exotic new trees and plants from around the world. The Cornish-born brothers were employed by the great horticultural nursery of James Veitch & Sons, which sent out twenty plant hunters, famous for some of today’s most popular garden trees and plants. William Lobb (1809-1864) collected in South America and western North America and Thomas Lobb (1817-1894) travelled through south-east Asia and India. Together they put in a total of almost 30 years travelling and collecting, often in barely explored regions. The seeds and plants they sent home were some of the most interesting and lovely to grow in English gardens and glasshouses. Their travels and adventures are full of drama, trial and tribulation. The Blue Orchid (vanda coerulea) was collected in the Khasia hills of India from under the nose of Kew collector, Joseph Hooker, who regarded Thomas Lobb as a mere ‘garden boy’ until he beat him home with this beautiful and valuable addition to the orchid world. William Lobb discovered the ‘Big Tree’ or Wellingtonia (sequoiadendrn giganteum) on the Pacific coast of California and rushed home with sacks of seeds which made the Veitch nursery huge profits. This book will be published in June 2014 – 150 years after the death of William and 120 after that of Thomas. It is an attempt to celebrate their lives and achievements and put the name of Lobb firmly in its place in the long history of plant introductions to British gardens.


270 x 210mm
136pp full colour throughout