Here are the known (to me; more will be added as I obtain photos of them) limited editions florals produced by the original 1980-1994 Connoisseur of Malvern studio. Many of the bird and butterfly studies also include flowers but, because those were not the focal points, they were not placed into the floral category by either the studio or myself.
Because I think it is interesting to see the progression of designs and quality over time, these limited-edition pieces are arranged below in chronological order by introduction year; pieces for which that is not known – usually because I do not have a photo of the backstamp – are at the end. A name index of all Connoisseur sculpture names will be added in the near future.
Delta Queen Magnolia evokes all the charm of the American South. Designed by Diane Lewis exclusively for sale at Brielle Galleries, it was an edition of 25. Dimensions are approximately 15″ high and 12″ wide.
Rhapsody in Blue is an absolutely gorgeous study of pristine white roses and Wedgwood-blue delphinium! It is 15″ high. This was created exclusively for sale by Brielle Galleries in New Jersey in 1980, as an edition of 25. Designed by Diane Lewis.
Geranium Still Life was a limited edition of 10 in 1981, measuring 10″ high and 12″ in diameter. Despite the title and common name, the flowers depicted are properly called Pelargoniums; the true Geranium is a hardy plant.
Connoisseur issued several incredibly detailed studies in 1981 and 1982. Two depict miniature Japanese gardens, and four are examples of bonsai. There were only 10 or 25 of each, as noted.
Eternity showcases a weeping willow and groups of Japanese iris (Iris ensata) as well as the white star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) in glorious bloom. The stone lantern is one of the traditional types called ishi-dōrō or pedestal lantern. The study is 14″ high and approximately 18″ wide and deep on its custom walnut base. This was an edition of only ten.
Infinity was the other garden study and is a large piece, being 21″ high and also 21″ wide and deep. The intricate workmanship seen in every aspect of this study is on a level that almost defies adequate description; every roof tile is meticulously detailed, every leaf seeming almost capable of swaying in the wind. This too was an edition of only ten.
Serenity (ornamental cherry bonsai) was an edition of 25. Measuring 13″ high x 12″ wide, it depicts the classic flowering cherry in leaf and full bloom.
Tranquility (wisteria bonsai) was an exclusive design sold only at Brielle Galleries in New Jersey. This too is an issue of 25. Designed by Diane Lewis, it is 13″ high x 10″ wide.
This is Meditation (Japanese red maple bonsai), which was an edition of 10. The rich red color of Acer palmatum is a particularly difficult one to reproduce properly in porcelain but is here done flawlessly. Dimensions are 14″ high by 12″ wide and deep.
Peace (azalea bonsai) is the only one not depicted as in a container. This too was an issue of only 10 sculptures, and is 14″ high. The study, as actually produced by the studio, included the naturalistic wood base as shown. I have only seen it come up for sale twice in recent years, and both times the base was missing although that fact was not mentioned by either auction house.
Speaking of personal favorites, Yakusimanum was Diane Lewis’ own most favorite design. This was a limited edition of 25 and is 15” high. Rhododendron yakushimanum is native to Yakushima Island off the coast of Japan and has been used extensively in USA and UK breeding programs ever since the 1930s. The underside of its leaves has a soft woolly covering known as ‘indumentum’ which is a characteristic of this species. The taxonomists have recently been at it again and have now renamed it to Rhododendron degronianum subsp. yakushimanum (good grief!!) but by any name it is an amazing plant whose offspring has been many times awarded worldwide. The well-known cultivar ‘Percy Wiseman’ was named after the manager at Waterer’s Nursery (UK) who made the first “yak” crosses during the 1950s. (Although the correct spelling of the species name is yakushimanum, the Connoisseur study’s backstamp omitted the h and thus it appears as Yakusimanum.)
Camellias were a favorite floral subject at Connoisseur; this is El Dorado issued in 1983 as an edition of 50. It measures 5.25″ high x 12″ wide. This hybrid is also known as Camellia ‘Hazel Asper’ in honor of the wife of the original 1967 hybridizer.
Peony by Diane Lewis was an issue of 100. This was among the first of several peony studies by Connoisseur of Malvern. It stands 11″ high.
Autumn Gold, issued in 1984, was an edition of only 10 pieces. This is low but wide study at 6.5″ high x 15″ wide.
Buddleia with Peacock Butterflies was a Diane Lewis design in an edition of 10 sculptures. It is only 9″ high but is 11″ wide and 14″ deep. Feeding on the flowers is the aptly-named Peacock Butterfly, Inachis io.
Bluebonnet by Diane Lewis was a limited edition of only 100 sculptures; height is 6.5”.
This elegant white rhododendron Galactic stands about 10″ high. It was an issue of 50 pieces.
Here we have two different colorways of the same limited-edition sculpture. The pink version is titled simply Hydrangea in the backstamp, which also shows the issue year as 1984 and the edition size as 50. It was designed by Diane Lewis and is 9.5” high. The plant itself is Hydrangea macrophylla, often called the “mop-head” hydrangea because of the form of the flower clusters.
The studio also issued an alternate colorway, Hydrangea Blue Wave, as an issue of 50 although I don’t know if that meant “fifty in blue” or “fifty in blue or pink, your choice.” Also, the only photo I presently have of a backstamp on one of these is illegible as to issue year, so it’s not known if it was 1984. ‘Blue Wave’ is a longstanding cultivar that has also been known as ‘Mariesii Perfecta’ although ‘Blue Wave’ is the more common name seen in the trade. Hydrangea macrophylla is pH sensitive; grown in acid soil the flowers will be blue but in more alkaline soil they will be mauve or even pink. ‘Blue Wave’ has been a favorite for more than a century; it was first introduced in 1904 by Victor Lemoine.
The Prof. C.S. Sargent camellia is a one-of-a-kind piece that is 5.5” high, 10.5” long, and 6.5 deep. Designed and created by Diane Lewis in 1984, it was autographed by her in May 1985. Charles Sprague Sargent was a botanist who taught at Harvard University during the 1800s, and was the Director of its famed Arnold Arboretum from 1872 until 1927, when he died at the age of 86. Interestingly, Sargent is not known for camellias at all: He is famous for his research and publications about trees and forestry. It is possible that the Connoisseur piece was commissioned or created for the commemoration of the restoration of the Forest Hills Gate at the Arboretum, which indeed took place in May 1985.
The Poinsettia group, accented with a holiday bow, debuted as a limited edition of 50. Although the red version shown was the most popular, it was also produced in pink and in white albeit in much smaller quantities. Dimensions are 8.75″ high x 7.5″ wide x 9″ deep.
White Dogwood was a limited edition of 25; it is 10” high. It was also produced in pink although the example in the photo does not have a name on the backstamp. This is either Cornus kousa or Cornus florida; I confess that I’m hopeless at telling those two species apart without seeing the fruits!
Camellia Hawaii is a 1985 limited edition of 100 sculptures. Like ‘Betty Sheffield’, this is also a Camellia japonica cultivar.
Double Cherry of course represents the spring-flowering ornamental tree within the Prunus family. It is a limited edition of 50, measuring 13″ wide and 7″ high.
The Donation Camellia Group measures 4.75″ high x 14.75″ wide. It is a limited edition of 50 designed by Diane Lewis. Many gardeners consider this to be the finest camellia ever bred. Camellia x williamsii was the result of a cross between C. japonica and Camellia saluenensis performed at the J.C. Williams estate at Caerhays Castle in Cornwall in 1923.
Golden Spring is a simple but evocative study combining one branch of forsythia with one of pussy-willow catkins. Issued as an edition of 100, it is diminutive in size (only 8” high) but not in impact. The example in the first photo was noted by the seller as “missing flower and petals” but it definitely has more pussywillow catkins than are shown in the example in the second photo. The seller of the second example did not cite any condition issues other than simply describing it as “good” but may not have realized that there should be more than two catkins on this sculpture.
Summer Harvest combines brilliant red poppies, sparkling white daisies, and burgeoning wheat. A limited edition of 50, it is 11.5” high.
The lush Angela Leslie Fuchsia study is 14” high and was an edition of 50 in 1986.
The Joyful News iris was an edition of 25, measuring 13″ high x 19″ wide. This represents an actual tall bearded iris cultivar that was introduced to the trade in 1984.
Peony ‘Oriental Silk’ by Diane Lewis. This was issued as an edition of 100 and is 5.75″ high x 14″ wide.
Autumn Melody, by Diane Lewis, was an issue of 100 in 1987. It is 12” high.
Elegance displays a group of white Asiatic lilies with pink spots and “piecrust” edged petals. (The accompanying foliage shown is not that of the lily.) This was issued as an edition of 100. Thanks to a helpful reader I can report the measurements as 8″ high, 11″ long, and 7.5″ deep.
Flowers of the Valley was an edition of 50 sculptures and is 20″ long. The seller of this piece noted that it had a detached jonquil and is missing two stem ends. Although sharing the same name, it is an entirely different design from the Flowers of the Valley dimensional botanical plaque that will be shown in an upcoming post.
Magnolia Soulangeana is one of the hardier members of the magnolia tribe, portrayed by Aileen Burton in an edition of 100. Dimensions are not known.
The Single Donation camellia, also designed by Aileen Burton, was issued as an edition of 100. It is 3″ high x 7” wide.
Sadly, this lovely azalea study named Strawberry Ice is also damaged, having three petals broken off. Designed by Diane Lewis, it was an edition of 100 and is 9″ h x 10″ w. The actual hybrid is a Knaphill-Exbury deciduous azalea that can reach 8 feet in height.
Turning from romantic to dramatic, the 18″ high Bird of Paradise was a 1988 limited edition of 50. The striking African native Strelitzia reginae was discovered in 1773 and named in honor of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III.
Lilac measures 10” high x 13” wide and was an edition of only 50. A flyer from that time period says “also available in pink and white” which I assume means three different colorways (purple, pink, or white) rather than two (purple, and pink-and-white). To date I have only found a photo of the rich purple version.
Here is a bluer version of the purple colorway.
Magnolia Grandiflora is 7.5” high and was an edition of 200. The USA Connoisseur advertising named this as “Magnolia Grandiflora” although the piece is marked (on one of the leaves) simply as ‘Magnolia’.
The Swan Lake Camellia by Diane Lewis was an issue of 100. Dimensions are 7.25″ high x 12″ wide.
The Betty Sheffield camellia is a 1989 limited edition of 100 by Aileen Burton and is 5” high. The actual plant is Camellia japonica ‘Betty Sheffield’.
Deen Day Camellia with Buds is a limited edition of 100 sculptures and is 11” high. Camellia ‘Deen Day Smith’ was registered in 1989 and named in honor of Mrs. Cecil B. Day, after whose husband the Day Butterfly Center (part of Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia) is named. Deen Day Smith is a prominent collector of the art of Diane Lewis and Connoisseur of Malvern, and she worked closely with the studio on the Butterflies of the World Collection.
This lovely study of three chrysanthemum and two sprays of pine is called Ikebana. It was an edition of only 25. It has a low profile: only 5” high. Sadly, I have seen two of these being offered for sale as “mint condition” even though the pine sprays were missing.
Blue Velvet, a Diane Lewis study in 1990, was an edition of 50. It is 14.5″ high x 9″ wide but unfortunately this example was noted as having “several broken off pieces.” The rose here is cited as ‘Highness’ which may refer to the hybrid ‘Royal Highness’, a very fragrant lovely pink from 1962.
Silent Verse is about 8″ high. This edition of 100 was designed by Wendy Green as part of the 1990 fundraising series for The Rainforest Foundation. Because of the design of this study, there are two backstamp areas: The full Connoisseur of Malvern logo appears on the underside of the front-most leaf while the Rainforest name and logo are shown on the leaf adjacent. (The example in the photograph is missing a small section of the top left flower.)
Connoisseur issued the American Wildflower Collection in 1990, in conjunction with the grand opening of the National Wildflower Center which was sponsored by former First Lady of the USA, Lady Bird Johnson. It contained six limited editions and six open (non-limited) edition pieces.
The stunning red-white-and-blue Pride of Texas Centerpiece is a limited edition of 50 sculptures; dimensions are 12.5” high x 5.25” wide x 11.5” deep. Lupinus texensis, the beloved “Texas bluebonnet”, thickly carpets acres of fields with blue in early spring. As a member of the legume family, lupines are nitrogen-fixing plants that help to enrich the soil. The low-growing white Phlox drummondii has naturalized through much of Texas and the surrounding states; although the genus name means “flame”, the early spring phlox are seen in various colors in the wild and in gardens. Red is represented by the Indian paintbrush, Castilleja indivisa, a brilliantly colored member of the snapdragon family.
The other five limited editions feature plants native to specific sections of the USA. These were all editions of 100 per design.
Prairie Bouquet, 6.5” high and designed by Aileen Burton. Both of these well-known purple flowers are found in the Midwest. The larger is Anemone patens, known variously as the pasqueflower or prairie crocus (the latter name derived from the flower shape and early bloom time; it is not in the crocus family.) It flowers from March to early June depending on location. The sweet birds-foot violet, Viola pedata, belongs to the widespread and reliable genus that has been beloved for centuries.
California Gold, at 6.5” high, represented the West coast. The title refers to the common name “goldfields” for the yellow flower, Lasthenia glabrata, whose season of bloom begins in March.
Sunset Jewels is six inches high and represents the American Southwest. This pair of cheerful and drought tolerant plants are Melampodium leucanthum which is also called rock daisy because of its very minimal soil and water requirements. The yellow “Texas dandelion” is Pyrrhopappus multicaulis; similar in appearance to the common dandelion Taraxacum officinale (the bane of all perfect-lawn tenders!) and it also shares its exuberant reproductive characteristics.
Wetland Wildflowers is 9” high. Native to wet meadows and marshlands in the Northeast, these two plants span most of the gardening year. Iris versicolor blooms first (May–July) from the US-Canadian border south to Wisconsin and parts of Pennsylvania. The ivy-leafed morning glory, Ipomea hederacea, flowers July–Oct in moist areas all along the east coast.
Woodland Wonders, 8.5” high, honors the Southeastern states. Here we have two spring-blooming Southeastern woodland gems: the yellow lady’s slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus) and Catesby’s trillium (Trillium catesbaei). The trillium starts out white and gradually ages to red. There is well founded concern about the overcollection of many trilliums; it is always best to obtain them from a reputable nursery’s propagated stock, so that the wild populations can be left alone to re-establish their dwindling numbers.
This study is named American Glory, a 1991 edition of 50 standing 13” high, designed by Diane Lewis. This piece is connected to, but was not officially part of, the American Wildflower Collection series that had been issued the year before. The most elaborate 1990 limited edition, The Pride of Texas, honored that state specifically, and so this 1991 study can be considered as a ‘national’ (rather than ‘regional’) companion piece.
Honeymoon, by Aileen Burton, is 8” high. It was an edition of 100 and is one of three known honeysuckle studies by Connoisseur
Introduction Year Unknown
These are listed alphabetically by sculpture name.
A Moment in Time uses the same base mold seen in the bird study Finches in Unison with a few cosmetic tweaks: a smooth-surfaced birdbath has been modified into a stone sundial (or vice versa.)
No backstamp photo is available for “Moment”, so I do not know the issue year and edition size; however, the piece itself is probably the same size as Finches in Unison which is about 22” high. The finches were issued in 1983 and the question becomes one of “which came first.”
Blue Passion Flower was an edition of 100; issue year and height are unknown at present. Passionflowers (Passiflora species and hybrids) are frost-tender but can be grown in some parts of the USA as an annual.
Days of Wine and Roses is undated in the backstamp but was an edition of only 15 pieces. Designed by Aileen Burton and measuring 13” high, 8” wide and 9” deep, the TA indicates that it was painted by Tracy Arrowsmith. The unusual (for Connoisseur) coloring reminds me very much of the Orchid and Grapes study, which was also painted and initialed by Tracy. My gut feeling is that both designs are products of the final years of the Lewis-owned studio operation, i.e., the early 1990s.
Elegant Morn is a symphony in early-summer pastels, combining pink Magnolia soulangeana with sprays of lavender wisteria. It is a limited edition of 50, and 13” high. I hope to someday obtain a photo without any distracting elements!
Connoisseur often created multiple designs featuring the same flower. An excellent example of this is the Honeysuckle in the 11″-high, limited edition of 100 designed by Wendy Green. Obviously, “Honeymoon” and “Honeysuckle” are both studies of the Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, which although deliciously fragrant does have territorial ambitions and can easily become invasive if allowed to.
Meadowlands is 6” high and was an edition of 100. Unfortunately, the backstamp on this piece does not include an issue year.
A mystery piece with an intriguing name was Midnight Sun which appears on a mid-1980s text-only list under the Florals heading as an edition of 25. No further particulars, unfortunately, but I would certainly like to unearth a photo someday!
Shifting from spring to summer, Montbretia Sprays also incorporates gazania blooms and lotus flower pods in the composition. Other than the height of 11″ and an approximate dating of the mid-1980s I currently have no other information about this study. The genus Montbretia is also known as Crocosmia; the flowers come in shades of yellow, orange, and a true red aptly named ‘Lucifer.”
Moonflower was an issue of 100. This piece has been misidentified more than once as a chrysanthemum – somewhat understandable because typically “moonflower” refers to either Ipomoea alba which looks like a giant white morning glory, or to a white Datura. By any name this is a striking sculpture. However, there is indeed a white double flower that blooms at night: Selenecereus grandiflorus which is also called the Queen of the Night.
Another Diane Lewis study is Pink Oasis. Its issue year is not known but it was limited to 50 and is 11.5″ high x 14″ wide. It is very similar to Pleasure Island shown next, using the same base and same blue container. However, that study contains sprays of blue iris instead, providing very different effect. It would be lovely to have both displayed together! (The Pink Oasis shown here has one broken-off catkin, shown as a detail photo.)
Pleasure Island certainly evokes the spirit of the tropics! It is 20″ high and was a limited edition of 50. This is another case where I wish there was more than a single image available.
The evocative Potomac Memoir study of cherry blossoms is an edition of 50 designed by Diane Lewis. It is 7” high and as wide. Issue year is not known.
This is the Wind Song bearded iris, which measures 14” h x 10” w and was a limited edition of 50. I am endeavoring to discover whether there were two colorways of this study. The first photograph is taken from an actual Connoisseur of Malvern brochure; the second photo was kindly shared by a collector. One appears to be a bitone (blue standards/mauve falls) while the other is clearly blue. The Iris Database is of little help, because its entry for ‘Wind Song’ doesn’t include a photo.
The following limited-edition butterfly studies – which of course also include a floral element – are shown in the Connoisseur Butterflies post: Brimstone with Bluebells, Camberwell Beauty, Georgia Tiger Swallowtail, Green Hairstreak with Dog Rose, Large Blue with Gorse, Large Tortoiseshell with Oxlip, Monarch with Buddleia, and Orange Tip with Blackthorn.
The next post in this series will be an overview of Connoisseur’s open (non-limited) edition floral studies.