Monday, November 30, 2009

How Are Those Humidity Levels?

Griffin likes to wander during watering time, inspecting the health of the plant babies and making sure everything is okay. Here, she sniffs a C. bowringiana. Next, she’ll check on the Dendrobium ‘Berry Oda’ AM/AOS (Den. kingianum x Den. ‘Mini Pearl’), a fragrant miniature with dreamy pink flowers. It’s the thirstiest one in my collection and it's about a week from blooming. One day, maybe it will look like this, but only if Griffin gives it plenty of light and a solid temperature drop during the winter evening.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Frog Friday!

This aerial shot shows all of the frogs out to play.  You'll notice that we've added a fifth. Horst is an European Fire-Bellied Toad (the others are Asian Fire-Bellied Toads).  Horst appears to be integrating into the commune nicely.  In the upper right corner, you can see the flowers of the Bulbophyllum flavescens, which made an appearance during the last Frog Friday.  It has fewer than ten flowers, but it's still pretty exciting.  I'm having a hard time adjusting my camera settings so I can focus on the flowers.  Until I figure it out, you can take a look at this photo from for a closeup.  My Bulbophyllum flavescens gives me hope that the other miniatures are doing okay and -- like the fresh presence of Horst -- it's another fun and exotic element of the vivarium

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Griffin is Thankful . . .

. . . I wasn't watching the breadsticks more carefully.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lan Lan Gets a Lady Slipper!

Lan Lan is the first kitty in the house to get her own orchid!  She let's her siblings enjoy the orchid room while she commands a different part of the house.  Here, she proudly poses next to an extremely cute Paph. hainanense I purchased from Oak Hills Gardens.   From OrchidWeb, I learned that Paph. hainanense is a warm-growing species native to the Hainan Island of China, and it's part of the appletonianum group of Paphs.

The orchid is all alone in a makeshift "humidity Tupperware" and, perhaps in the future, it will be joined by other Paphiopedilum friends.  For now, I trust Lan Lan to watch over it and give it company.  I think it will work well in Lan Lan's paws because it doesn't need much light (750-1,000 fc) and can live happily away from the highly humid orchid table.  You may have noticed Lan Lan's dark eye.  She has iris melanoma (also called "iris nevi") but we've taken her to a specialist and it didn't have any signs of malignancy.  We will continue to watch over Lan Lan just like she's going to watch over her new lady slipper.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Labiata Lore

The picture on the left is a gorgeous flower from a C. labiata.  This image is one of over a thousand orchid pictures compiled by brothers Arne and Bent Larsen on Orkide Galleri.  Their site is informative and educational, but I need to warn you that gazing at pictures like this or this can generate serious orchid envy.

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

Frog Friday!

In the photo on the left, Ted sits next to a Bulbophyllum flavescens. It’s a good spot because some of the crickets escape into the bark and moss during the morning feeding, and Ted definitely has the patience to wait until they emerge. We distinguish him from Bob because he has two green dots on his back that echo Elliot Gould’s hairy back (as seen in the film Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice). The Bulbophyllum flavescens is a miniature orchid found in the Philippines, Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, and the Cats and Catts vivarium. I purchased it from the good people at Clackamas Orchids

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

Bad Kitty!

I’ve narrowed it down to four suspects. Lan Lan spends most of her mornings upstairs and tends to avoid watering time. Sabine is too graceful for such a blunder. That leaves Riley and Griffin. If it was Riley, I might expect the spill to be more dramatic. Griffin, on the other hand, was probably inspecting the plant, giving it gentle nudges in an attempt to have the plant give her treats. This is all speculation, however. I don’t want to underestimate Riley’s clumsiness.

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. Snowdon) and it went on to receive 18 awards from the American Orchid Society. Given this esteemed heritage, you’d think the kitties would show my plant a little more respect.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cuteness Maxima

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 Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, and parts of Peru. It was first named by botanist John Lindley in 1833.

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

Pretty Tacky!

Guest-starring for the first time on Cats and Catts, Tachometer (aka "Tacky") shares the sun with a noid Phal.  It's hard to believe from looking at her that she was once feral.  Now, she's mellow and healthy like her phalaenopsis friend.  Tacky competes for Best Kitty in the Condo with her siblings Hamcat and Katana.

If you have a cat/orchid photo you'd like to share with the vast Cats and Catts audience, please send it my way.  This blog doesn't always have to be about the four weirdos around here.  So, send those kitty pics! temperanceunion #at#   

Thursday, November 12, 2009

He's Cool for Catts

Riley sniffs “Wendy’s Valentine ‘June.’” This is a Slc. I purchased as part of a bargain 10-pack of Cattleya hybrids from Oak Hills Gardens. It’s years away from blooming -- what are suppose to be -- amazing red flowers (see above). In the meantime, I have two bold aspirations: don’t kill it and don’t let Griffin kill it. Maybe I need to have Sabine guard the plant to protect it from the other kitties.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Lan Lan Inspects a Dendrobium

In today’s photo, Lan Lan admires a healthy shoot coming up from our Dendrobium Thongchai Gold ‘Pinwattana.’ Trixie pointed out that the lip of the flower from this one feels kind of like a cat’s tongue. It has more of a sandpaper quality than some of the others. Perhaps an evolutionary biologist or botanist can explain why – all I know is that the blooms are gorgeous and exotic with striking veins of red. They’ve also been long lasting. This bloom held up for nearly eight weeks:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chocolate Treats!

Griffin is always looking for treats. Begging. Crying. Causing trouble. That’s Griffin. Here, she’s taking in the dreamy chocolate and vanilla aroma of an Oncidium ‘Sharry Baby.’ Steve Frowine in Orchids for Dummies declares, “This is thought to be the single most popular orchid in the world!” Frowine places the ‘Sharry Baby’ on a Top Ten Easiest Orchids to Grow list, but he didn’t consider how its heavenly scent would attract bad cats looking for treats. To be fair, I’ve had it for three months without Griffin trying to eat it, but she’s full of surprises.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Selena Sabine with a Taste of Belize

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 Belize, and is named after a 19th century English orchid enthusiast and political economist (Sir John Bowring). Chadwick and Son Orchids explains that “everyone had a plant or two 50 years ago,” so the species went out of style. They promise that C. bowringana “is probably the easiest of all the Cattleya species to grow,” so Sabine and I are hoping we won’t kill this one.