Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild - botanist and gardener
No mansion was complete without an extensive range of glasshouses and Waddesdon was no exception. Situated between the stables and the dairy, on the lower slope to the north east of the manor, the glasshouse complex, known as ‘Top Glass', adjoined a layout of formal flowerbeds, called ‘Paradise Garden', and included a large palm house.
Some of the glasshouses were given over to specific groups of plants such as anthurium, orchids and Malmaison carnations. The latter were also known as ‘Rothschild carnations', on account of their popularity with members of the Rothschild family, who grew them on a grand scale .
Other glasshouses were devoted solely to orchids. Like so many of his relatives, and as was fashionable at the time, Ferdinand had a strong interest in this species. In a letter to his aunt Charlotte he explained how his liking for them was based on their intricacies as much as their beauty .
The five glasshouses at Waddesdon Manor, filled in 1885 with choice species and varieties of orchids, were said to be only the beginning of Ferdinand's hobby .
The orchids came from a variety of sources such as William Bull, William Marshall, Protheroe and Shuttleworth, B.S. Williams and Stuart Low. The majority, though, appear to have been supplied by the so called ‘orchid king' of the time, Frederick Sander.
It was Sander who named a variety of orchid after Ferdinand, namely Odontoglossum wilckeanum var. Rothschildianum. Sander first exhibited the orchid at the Royal Horticultural Society's Great Flower Show, in May 1890. ‘The great beauty of the plant caused quite a sensation, and attracted the attention of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and other distinguished amateurs present', Sander wrote .
Baron Ferdinand also had a wild species orchid (as opposed to a variety) named after him in 1888, Cypripedium rothschildianum 'Reichenbach' (1888). This was re-named Paphiopedilum rothschildianum (Stein) in 1892. It is found in the wild on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo and is today extensively used for the production of hybrids .