An Orchid, Winslow Homer and Intrigue #10

I love a mystery…
and I had a lot of fun unravelling this one.

On a recent walk in Saigon, 
I came across this pink beauty.

It was and is extraordinary.
I did a quick google search and discovered 
that it is called the Hong Kong Orchid,
also known as Bauhinia blakeana.

Hong Kong Orchid Tree, Saigon, Vietnam

Enter Sir Henry and Lady Edith Blake

Sir Henry A and Lady Blake, 1888
Appeared in the Queensland Figaro

The flower is named for enthusiastic botanists, Sir Henry and Lady Edith Blake. Sir Henry was the British Governor of Hong Kong(1898-1903). The naming of the tree was in recognition of their contribution to the Hong Kong Botanical Gardens. 

I was curious about Sir Henry and Lady Edith and decided to read further…

Edith was born in Newtown, Anner, Ireland in 1845. Her family were moderately wealthy landowners and had plans for Edith. As it turns out, Edith had plans of her own. While her parents were negotiating an arranged marriage, young Edith eloped in 1874 with Captain Henry Blake of the Royal Irish Constabulary. To say her parents were not happy is an understatement. Unhappy with the marriage and Blakes lower social status, they disinherited her. 

This left poor Edith and Captain Blake to look after Blakes twelve siblings and widowed mother. Fortunately, Captain Blake was destined for greater things. At one point in his career he was appointed Special Magistrate, a position that I liken to the Sheriff of Nottingham. He was not well liked and was often under threat of assassination. Edith stood by her man through it all, carrying a concealed revolver when she accompanied her husband on his duties. 

Years later, Blake entered the Colonial Service of the British Empire, serving terms as Governor of the Bahamas in 1884-1887, Governor of Jamaica 1889-1897, Governor of Newfoundland 1887-1889, Governor of Hong Kong 1898-1903 and Governor of Ceylon 1903-1907.

During this time, Lady Edith took an avid interest in fauna and flora and painted nearly 200 watercolours. Her work can be viewed at the Natural History Museum in London. 

Edith Blake (1845-1928)
Giant sphinx moth (Cocytius antaeus antaeus Drury). 1892

 Watercolour on Paper, 300 x 25mm
The Natural History Museum, London

Onwards to Myrtle Grove, 
Youghal, County Cork, Ireland

Myrtle Grove
Youghal, County Cork, Ireland

Sir Henry and Lady Edith retired to Myrtle Grove in 1907. Myrtle Grove was a home once owned by Oliver Cromwell and Sir Walter Raleigh, in Youghal, County Cork, Ireland. They lived happily until Henry's passing in 1918. Edith passed away in 1926. Their final resting place, is the garden at Myrtle Grove. 

Fast forward to 1980..
The Winslow Homer Mystery

During Sir Henry and Lady Edith Blakes time in the Bahamas, Winslow Homer painted a scene of their children. It is a controversial painting with an interesting story. Stolen or lost..and long forgotten, the painting was discovered on a rubbish tip by a fisherman and his daughter in County Cork, Ireland in 1980. From there it made an appearance on Antiques Roadshow, in Althorp, England where it was said to be a Winslow Homer original and of considerable value. By 2009 it was up for sale at Sotheby's in New York. It was down to the wire and about to be sold when at the last minute, the sale was stopped. Enter the descendants of Sir Henry and Lady Edith Blake. It is a saga that is still going on. It's a doozy. If you are interested, you can read the full story here.  

Children of Sir Henry and Lady Edith Blake
Bahamas, 1885
Painted by Winslow Homer

Almost done...

When I read that the leaf of the Hong Kong Orchid tree 
is called the "clever leaf"
and is often used as a bookmark to bring good luck in studies…
I went and collected a bunch.

I decided you can never have enough bookmarks. 

and then..when I arrived in Hong Kong..

at the top of my "to do" list.
And today,  I found it!

And there you have it, all of this as a result of a walk 
around our neighbourood in Vietnam.

What a difference a walk makes…especially today, 
for I found another beauty…and it's love.

Signing off…with post #10
28 Day Writing Challenge
From Shangri-La
Hong Kong time


  1. I adore this story ..........Blessings and much love

  2. WELL..............all that knowledge from your phone on a walk!SIR HENRY and LADY EDITH would NEVER believe this could have happened!What a fascinating story about the painting!Adore the costumes on the children too.Your latest find is an ABUTILON flower.........humming birds LOVE IT!Would NOT survive the cold at YOUR FARM here in the STATES!You will have to come visit me to see them in YELLOW!XX

    1. I would love to Elizabeth…what a fascinating flower. Another reader, Edgar, sent me a photo of one in full bloom…just beautiful. Loved your post today, La Contessa STYLE! xx

  3. Jeanne, you are definitely the top banana. What great detective work to come up with such a great story. Such glorious flowers and priceless artwork.

    1. Thank you Judy…curiosity got the Hong Kong flower. ;)

  4. That's a new beauty you have found. The flowers in Vietnam and Hong Kong are amazing. I loved reading about Sir Henry and Lady Edith. What an immensely exciting life they must have led.

    1. I agree Loree…and you are right about the flowers in Vietnam and Hong Kong…all tropical plants for that matter. I was just happy to come somewhere and see a name associated with each plant, in English! I took lots of to match them up with plants in Vietnam. A project.

  5. Isn't it magical when you cross paths with people of an earlier time, in various far-flung places on the globe? So many lives, so many stories. Thanks for sharing this one :)

    1. Your welcome Quinn and you are so is magical. ;)

  6. You continue to do a great job keeping us entertained and educated. What an interesting account. Thanks.
    Farm Gal in VA

  7. P.S. I forgot to mention that, after reading the Winslow Homer Mystery article, I definitely think it is a case of Finders/Keepers. I believe the fact that it was found in the trash with no frame is a pretty good indication that it wasn't wanted and someone definitely put it in the trash. Surely it won't take a lifetime to get the matter settled.

    1. I hope so Judy…but can you imagine..someone putting it in the trash! Unbelievable…

  8. Imagine the shear guts it took for Lady Edith to walk away from home and family in the 1800's and to travel to all those far off places - no email, no Skype, so Iphone, no nothing!

    I once worked with a lady who took a five week packet boat trip alone to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in the mid-20's to join her new husband who was a tea dealer. I always thought she was the most remarkable woman I had ever met. perhpas a bit like you!

    1. You are very kind Webb…and what an amazing story. I so admire the women of that era, they took adventure to another level. Brave souls...

  9. Buenos días desde Madrid!
    Maravillosa historia llena de romanticismo y misterio.
    Gracias Jeanne.
    Esther.D. Abad

    1. .Buenos dias Esther... desde Hong Kong! Gracias!! ;)

  10. Art, by a much loved artist, flowers, history, Saigon, H.K. and more of my this essay, trip. Sheer delight and smart!

  11. Replies
    1. You are welcome Maywyn…thank you for reading along!

  12. I agree, mystery and intrigue, especially historical stories, are such fun. Enjoyed this one revolving around the stunning orchid - 'clever leaf' bookmarks are lovely, I could use one of those help my memory perhaps!

    Off to read about the Homer painting now - this story truly is intriguing. Mrs. Blake was one heck of a woman by sound of it - imagine a gun toting botanical painter, kicking over the traces and being disinherited for the love of a man. She was ahead of her time!

    The ownership of the Irish property is interesting to me as it involved Sir. Walter Raleigh whose birthplace and early home was Hayes Barton in East Budleigh, Devon - just a few miles from my home in England. Now I live in Raleigh, NC, named for him, and of course have his statue to glance at whenever I'm in town. Small world!

    Hugs - Mary

    1. So glad you were able to make a special connection with this post Mary. Once I read further on Lady Edith Blake I knew I had to write about her. Women of that era are the true adventurers in my mind. I so enjoy their stories. Thank you for reading along on my writing challenge.. very much appreciated! xx


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