Gone are the days of the $35,000 commode.
John A. Thain, chairman and chief executive officer of CIT Group Inc., got into trouble over the pricey antiques he bought for his Merrill Lynch office. But last night at the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Dinner, he bought a plant.
It was an orchid sweetly named Cattleya Pastoral Innocence, which boasts large white flowers and a relatively small price tag of $170.
Thain and his wife, Carmen, both board members of the New York Botanical Garden, arrived at the venue, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, just after 7 p.m., as the sale and cocktail hour got under way.
“They remind me of high-school corsages,” said Martha Stewart of her purchase, an orchid with pink blooms. The domestic diva noted that her own orchid collection includes plants grown from cuttings she acquired in the Himalayas.
Robert P. Morgenthau, CEO of NorthRoad Capital Management LLC, snapped up a chocolate orchid. When he gives flowers to his wife, he buys Diana tulips at Dahlia Flowers in Grand Central Terminal, which he passes on his way home to Riverdale.
“They’re ivory and they’re my favorite,” Susan Morgenthau said.
James Tomilson Hill III, vice chairman of Blackstone Group LP, said he planned to give a white orchid to his wife today, their wedding anniversary.
John M. Sullivan Jr., chairman of American Silk Mills Corp., gives his wife peonies on the anniversary of the day they started their relationship.
The president of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, Louise Hirschfeld Cullman, took advantage of a reporter’s question to tell her husband of almost two months, philanthropist Lewis B. Cullman, chairman emeritus of Chess in the Schools, that she likes yellow roses.
Once the orchids sold out, it was time for dinner around dramatic floral centerpieces created by various designers. David Scott Interiors placed lady slipper orchids over a $70,000 sterling silver sculpture by Michele Oka Doner. (The napkins, from Barney’s, were only $16 apiece.)
Little Tiffany & Co. boxes containing miniature Phalaenopsis orchids greeted guests at the table designed by Richard Lambertson. With John Truex, Lambertson has a spring line of handbags hitting Tiffany stores on Feb. 14. The most expensive item is a satchel in coral alligator for $17,500, Truex said.
Right before the beef and potato gratin came out, the president of the New York Botanical Garden, Gregory Long, introduced the event chairmen, among them Mary Davidson, Nonie Sullivan and Deborah Royce.
The event raised $600,000. The botanical garden’s orchid show, which this year has a Broadway theme, opens March 5.