By Courtney Barnes
The Wall Street Journal
Each year, around this time, orchids have a moment. Botanical gardens from New York to Atlanta to London fill their glass houses with exotically speckled and striated blooms that ignore unpleasant realities such as polar vortexes, and blithely evoke tropical climes. These annual displays offer winter-weary visitors a chance to see the sort of opulent species that rarely show up at their local nurseries.
In Victorian England, however, when plant hunters first brought orchids back from South America or Asia, any variety was literally an otherworldly sight—and dangerously out of its element.