Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Bean looks over the blooms of this Sharry Baby, thinking that they might be treats. She discovers nasty aphids.
Sure enough, I spotted the pests on adjacent soft-leafed plants. I pulled them off the table and wiped their leaves with warm water and diluted rubbing alcohol. Bean helped, and together we got most of them killed.
The Sharry Baby required more extreme measures, so I consulted my home library.
The otherwise rich and informative The Best Orchids for Indoors, published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, lives in a blissful world where insects pose no threat. Batchelor's Your First Orchid, published by the AOS, seems to cover all of the insects except aphids. Banks' Orchid Grower's Companion encourages me to consider insecticides only as a last resort and to "take a shower afterward" (pg. 73) as if I'm Karen Silkwood. Frowine's Orchids for Dummies informs me that aphids are carriers of viruses and diseases, which only ratchets up my growing neurosis. He recommends two lines of defense: warm water and then, if necessary,insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, orange oil, and/or isopropyl alcohol. Finally, Orchid Growing Illustrated by the Rittershausens sends me into a tailspin of paranoia with twenty pages of vivid illustrations of orchid pests and disorders, giving me whole new categories of things to worry about. Pseudomonas cattleyae? Fusarioum oxysporum? And here's a giant picture of a wood louse. Feel better now?
Although each individual book suggested soft initial steps, collectively they led me to attack the problem with extreme prejudice. Break out the Agent Orange! Or "orange oil." Whatever. Ultimately, I wanted an insecticide that accurately captured my emotions upon seeing the bugs. I couldn't find "Frustration." I was also unable to locate "Disgust." So, I settled on "Concern."
I sprayed down the plant in the shower, let it sit overnight, and then washed it down the next day. I waited a week before reintegrating it with the others. Next time, I might apply a softer touch, but the aggressive approach appeared to have worked. I'm prepared for the next outbreak, unless it's giant wood lice.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
At the end, we learned how to pot a phalaenopsis. We took our plants home, but Dave observed that we will truly pass the class only when we can get them to bloom. The class was conducted with a lot of good humor, and I think the best advice concerned WalMart phalaenopsis packaged with the infamous recommendation to water the plant with three ice cubes per week. With a flash of fierce dry humor, Dave said that we might as well use thirty ice cubes, since that will kill it quicker.
The next class is January 14th.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
What could possibly be wrong? Teeth marks on the leaves pointed to at least one of four possible troublemakers. Then, I witnessed Griffin barf up suspicious looking plant matter, but I it didn't explain the wholesale misery of our particular specimen. Then I saw it. Griffin was sitting on the spider plant. Moreover, she seemed to have no awareness that she was doing anything wrong. It must have seemed like a perfect place to watch squirrels and -- you have to admit -- she looks extremely content. Recognizing our uphill battle, I moved the plant from the clay pot to a hanging plastic pot. It's thriving now that Griffin is unable to sit on it.
We were interested in spider plants (chlorophytum comosum) after learning about their ability to absorb air pollutants. I didn't think they were going to be a problem because some say that these plants are "the easiest to grow of all the hanging or trailing plants" and are "among the easiest houseplants to propagate." No one, however, considered the Griffin factor.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Before World War II, Ben Bracey trained renown orchid breeders Oscar and William Kirsch, Joe Ozella, and Joe Hampton. In 1952, he founded his own company and created the famed Lc. Bonanza -- an orchid Robert Atkinson described as "one of the greatest orchids of all time" (LAT, 17 Apr. 1966, pg. 18).
[Sidney Bracey is shown in the photo above and Ben Bracey is shown working in his lab below on the left.]
Monday, November 30, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The C. labiata is one of the most famous plants in Orchidaceae because it was the first of the large-flower Cattleyas to be identified, and it has a compelling story of being "lost" in the 1820's and "rediscovered" in 1889. (I put "lost" and "rediscovered" in quotation marks because I assume that some of the native peoples of Brazil saw this plant all the time.)
Cattleya labiata entered the Western botanical world after it was discovered by William Swainson in Pernambuco Brazil in early 1817. In 1818, Swainson reportedly returned to England with over 20,000 insects, 1,200 plant species, hundreds of bird skins, and a goodly number of fish. His apparent obsession with bugs might explain why he didn't marry until 1823. Anyway, Swainson sent the labiata specimen to John Lindley and, in 1821, Lindley formally named the genus after his patron, William Cattley.
William Swainson left for New Zealand and, without a high-speed Internet connection, the English horticulturalists (who were going bananas over the C. labiata) had no way to contact him. Also, from what I've read, these explorer types were often reluctant to share their knowledge of where to find precious flowers. Some people thought that the plant could be found in Rio de Janerio because Swainson made his shipments from Rio. No luck. So, this plant, whose flowers Lindley described as exceptionally large and beautiful, disappeared from Western view for over seventy years.
Chadwick and Chadwick's 2006 book The Classic Cattleyas, published by Timber Press, gives the definitive account of the discovery and 1889 rediscovery of C. labiata. (Chadwick and Sons Orchids, by the way, offer several rare C. labiata plants for sale on their website.) Their account of the rediscovery of C. labiata is definitive, in my opinion, because they consider and reject competing explanations for why the plant came back into English society in the late 19th century. They also examine why some of the tall tales became popular. This is unique because other accounts I've read either champion a single explanation or they simply list the different theories and let the reader decide.
There are at least two apocryphal tales told about the discovery and rediscovery of this plant. In the first, C. labiata was discovered because someone used them as packing material for a shipment of lichens sent to William Cattley. Cattley threw them in a corner of his greenhouse and, with healthy neglect, they bloomed. The true account is much more straightforward: Swainson sent a C. labiata specimen to Lindley.
The second tall tale is that the species was rediscovered when someone knowledgeable about orchids spotted C. labiata on a lady's corsage at an evening ball. Again, the most likely and realistic account is also the most boring. Some guy (who wasn't really into flowers) had some C. labiatas from his collector in Pernambuco. Some other guy, who knew a lot about orchids, was visiting while the flowers were blooming, and he soon thereafter recognized them as the "lost" species.
Despite Chadwick and Chadwick's book, and despite informative site like Garden Notes, the dubious tales surrounding the C. labiata will likely persist. I say this because both stories are repeated as established fact, with no accompanying references or citations, in Susan Orlean's best-selling The Orchid Thief (see pages 65 and 69). Andrew Weil's blurb on the inside cover says, "The Orchid Thief provides further, compelling evidence that truth is stranger than fiction," but Orlean's bungling of the C. labiata story makes me wonder about that. .
Friday, November 20, 2009
The photo on the right shows Ted sitting on the Pluerothallis, staring at the Bulbophyllum. Maybe he's looking at the spike poke out underneath the left-most leaf of the Bulbophyllum? I was a little worried that Ted was going to crush these small plants during an afternoon cricket hunt but, as of this writing, he's left the spike alone, it's extended a couple of centimeters, and I think its tiny flowers are about to open. Stay tuned . . .
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The victim here is a Cattleya hybrid from Oak Hills Gardens. It’s not yet flowering size but – if it does – it should produce large white flowers with a complex lacey lip. It’s a cross between C. Joyce Hannington and C. Empress Bells ‘White Sands.’ Joyce Hannington was registered as a new hybrid in 1945 (C. Barbara Dane x C.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sabine towers over a C. maxima seedling that I picked up from Clackamas Orchids. The other image is a maxima from Warner and William’s 11-volume illustrated series The Orchid Album, published in London from 1882-1897. The maxima species is found in
Sabine (or “Bean” as she’s known around these parts) is concerned about the yellowing leaf. She’s read on the OrchidBoard that seedlings need more water, and she encourages me to water the babies when they need water, not necessarily to water them on a set schedule. So, I’m going to try Bean’s advice and we’ll see how it goes.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Selena Sabine remembers the evening in scary fragments. Towering men. The smell of booze, stale pizza, and gasoline. A bet. A dare. Cruel machismo. One yanked her tail. Another pulled at her tiny head. A third revved up the truck. A crowd of six or seven men, representing a mentality and a slice of inhumanity no one likes to think about, prepared to crush a tiny black kitten just for kicks. From a distance, an extremely cute girl surmised what was going to happen and rushed in front of the pizza place and confronted the men. Her adorable cheeks scrunched up with rage as she let loose with screams of outrage and threats of immanent police involvement. As the men backed off, the then-nameless kitten looked up at her angel and tried to meow. She took her to her car and thought “Okay, I guess I have another cat.”
Over a decade later, Sabine is safe in the orchid room, looking at a Cattleya bowringiana that’s about 2-3 years from flowering, purchased from Clackamas Orchids. This species is native to