Friday, December 31, 2010

The Case for Catts

As Selena Sabine (left) prepares her final Brachypetalum posts, I've resumed normal blogging to enter a cool contest hosted by The Rainforest Garden blog.  Steve has invited other garden bloggers to write about their favorite epiphyte and possibly win some plants.  Soon, he's going to have Epiphyte Day on The Rainforest Garden blog featuring all of the posts.  Not only is this a great way to learn more about plants and flowers, but it helps create cohesion in the garden blogging community.  It's nice to know there are other people as crazy as you are and willing to blog about it.

I learned that many orchids were ephiphytic from a movie long before I started growing the plants.  In Adaptation (2002), Nicolas Cage shares a memorable and uncomfortable scene with a waitress in a diner.  The waitress looks down at a mass of orchid books and makes an innocent comment about how they grow on trees.  Charlie Kaufman (played by Cage), deep in orchid addiction, blurts out "They're epiphytes!" and hastens to add, "But they're not parasitic..."  The movie suggested that Orchid People are definitely obsessive and possibly deranged.  Looking at the average Phalaenopsis, however, I just didn't get it.

Then I discovered CattleyasCattleya is an Orchidaceae genus of 113 species.  The broader Cattleya Alliance includes related genera like Brassovola and Laelia.  From the 19th century into the 1960s, Cattleyas stood as the archetype of orchids, much like Phals dominate the orchid market today.  Steve Frowine, in Fragrant Orchids (2005), noted that "To many people, especially those from the older generation, the words orchid and cattleya were synonymous."

Griffin and a mini-Catt
The proper way to say "Cattleya" is KAT-lee-a, with a definite "lee" sound in the middle of the word.  But you'll hear many people, including people who have been growing and hybridizing orchids for years and years, say KAT-Lay-a or KAT-a-lay-a.  I don't advocate being a jerk and correcting the aforementioned orchid growers, but Cats and Catts readers should know that the genus is named after William Cattley, not "William Cattlay" or "William Cattelaya."

The biggest case for Catts: scent.  The perfume of a lavender Catt like C. Drumbeat 'Heritage' HCC/AOS is a life-changer.  One whiff and I instantly understood  orchid mania on a corporeal level.  Consider the range of fragrance-descriptors used in Frowine's chapter on the Cattleya Alliance: hot chocolate, spicy, sweet floral, vanilla, cinnamon, honey, and lemon.  None of those scents, however, really captures the sublime and enchanting smell of Cattleya flowers.  One flower can perfume an entire room for weeks.  Like Liz Lemon and popcorn, I catch a Cattleya scent and think "I Want To Go To There."

A second reason to go crazy for catts is their in-your-face beauty.  Cattleyas are flowery, showy, and proud.  I had to learn to love and find beauty in moth and slipper orchids, but catts won me over at first sight.  I'm not alone.  Cattleyas were the most popular corsage flower from the 19th century until the late 1950s and early 1960s (when cheaper Oncidiums captured the market).  I think back to the lame corsages I bought for major high school dances in the 1980s and feel cheated.  Not only did the so-called Greatest Generation have Cattleya corsages, but women wore them to all high school dances and major events, not just Prom and Homecoming.

Finally, the Cattleya genus has a fascinating history.  From the European discovery of C. labiata in 1818 to recent DNA analysis that's reshuffled taxonomic categories, Cattleyas have consistently played a major role in orchid history.  In 1922, for instance, Knudson made a sea-changing breakthrough in horticulture by germinating Cattleyas seeds on sterile agar.  The breeding histories of many catt hybrids stretch far back in time, inviting you to consider the regal parentage of that pretty $15 Potinara you bought at the show.

So, is there a case against Catts?  Yes, they're light-hogs that can grow big and unwieldy -- especially the ones that have the strong perfume.  A windowsill hobbyist might opt to have one or two in their collection, and the miniature and compact catts available at Sunset Valley Orchids can fill the remaining empty space.

We've discussed Cattleyas elsewhere on Cats and Catts (see below) but it's great to have this opportunity to make the case for Catts as an important epiphyte that belongs in everyone's collection.  Thanks!   

The Cattleya Alliance on Cats and Catts

Labiata Lore – We look at the apocryphal tale of C. labiata’s discovery and rediscovery, and explain why Chadwick and Chadwick’s The Classic Cattleyas (2006) offers the definitive historical account of this special species.

Bean Bumping the Brassavola – Selena Sabine acting cute, as usual.  (For bad kitty versions, see Stop Harassing the Brassavolas! and Worst Kitty in the House!)

Brassavola Award History, 1969-2008 – a report by Selena Sabine – The best cat in the house analyzes data on her favorite genus in the Cattleya Alliance.

Dancing to the Drumbeat – We take an in-depth look at the popular hybrid C. Drumbeat ‘Heritage HCC/AOS.’

Iguana vs. Orchid – In a guest post, Liza describes her triumph over root rot and examines the complicated relationship between her Cattleya and her pet iguana.

Large-flowered Cattleyas video part 1 – A cascade of large-flowered, or “labiata-type,” Cattleyas set to
the Grateful Dead’s “China Cat Sunflower.”

Large-flowered Cattleyas video part 2a – Now we go into professor-mode and kick around some Catt knowledge.

Large-flowered Cattleyas video part 2b – Yes, “finish part 2c” is on my list of New Year’s Resolutions.

Who Was Sidney Bracey? – This post traces the important role of famous orchid hybridizer Sidney Bracey in popularizing Knudson’s agar technique.

Who Was Bob Betts? – We look at an orchid grower known for breeding gorgeous white Cattleyas.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Paph. niveum

Brachypetalum -- Church of the Subgenus 
part 5 -- Paph. niveum

by Selena Sabine 

Selena Sabine studying Paph. niveum
Paphiopedilum niveum is Lan Lan’s favorite Brachypetalum and it’s easy to see why.  The glistening white flower with light purple stippling is amazingHarold Koopowitz claims that Paph. niveum “is one of the few pretty slipper orchids.”  Rebecca Northern praised its “dainty flowers,” but noted that its “culture is difficult” (Miniature Orchids, 134).  AOS judges have used a variety of color terms to characterize Paph. niveum including “pure white,” “glistening white,” “milky white,” “glossy porcelain white,” “snow white,” and in 1983 – perhaps as an unconscious reference to early 80s synthetic heroin – “China white.”

Growers have successfully line-bred Paph. niveum for rounder, bigger, and flatter flowers.  In breeding,  Paph. niveum is albinistic – it washes out the color of the other species with which it’s bred.  Paph. Psyche (niveum  x bellatulum) and Paph. Greyi (niveum x godefroyae) stand out among the 66 primary hybrids involving Paph. niveum

Like Paph. godefroyae, Paph. niveum doesn’t really have an impressive award history compared to its sister Brachies.  The Wellensteins, of AnTec Laboratory, hold more AOS awards for Paph. niveum than anyone else (ten).  Similarly, Paphanatics’ seven niveum awards account for most of the twelve niveum awards from the Pacific South Regional Judging Center in Long Beach, California.  G.A. Wright, A&P Orchids, Nick Tannaci, and Rainforest Orchids have all earned three AOS awards for their Paph. niveum.  I don’t have the awards-over-time data for this entry.  Sorry!  I think Griffin messed with the Excel spreadsheet.  Griffin!

Like the other Brachies, AOS judges sometimes noted explicit flaws in their descriptions about Paph. niveum, and these comments often referred to cupped dorsal sepals: “cupping of dorsal sepal and overall shape considered faults”;  “notched petals and slight refelexing of dorsal precluded higher score”; cupping of flower precluded higher score”; “size and cupped shape precluded higher score”; “score would have been higher if form had been flatter”; “a small and ruffled dorsal sepal was limiting.”

The less nerdy readers might be relieved to know that I’ve almost finished my report.  The next post in this series will look at select Brachypetalum hybrids.  Hang in there.  We’re almost done.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Paph. godefroyae

Brachypetalum -- Church of the Subgenus 
part 4 -- Paph. godefroyae

by Selena Sabine 

Paph. godefroyae
Despite all of the propaganda you read on Cats and Catts, Santa Cat must have thought we were good kitties this year because we found OrchidWiz under the tree!  OrchidWiz is the premier orchid software and it will take my research to the next level. In fact, I wish I had it before commencing the Brachypetalum project.  I would have known, using its Most Awarded function, that Paph. bellatulum was the 32nd most awarded orchid from 2000-2010 (Paph. godefroyae was 43rd, Paph. S. Gatrix was 78th, and Paph. conco-bellatulum was 86th).  Bill Neal’s Gardener’s Latin was also under the tree, and I learned that brachypetalus means “short-petaled.”  Another outstanding gift was Koopowitz’s Tropical Slipper Orchids, which has an entire chapter on the Brachypetalum subgenus (which he refers to as the Brachypetalum Alliance).  It’s given me a lot to work with.

Paph. godefroyae is found in Thailand.  Of the Brachys, it’s closest to Paph. bellatulum in terms of form and color, but Paph. godefroyae tends to have a stronger stem and its markings are more irregular – less dot-like and more stripe or blot-like.  Paph. S. Gatrix (godefroyae x bellatulum) and Paph. Wellesleyanum (godefroyae x concolor) are two immensely important Paph. godefroyae primary hybrids.  For more information and sources for additional reading, offers an excellent overview of this species.

As I mentioned in the first post of this series, taxonomists have treated Paph. leucochilum as a variation of Paph. godeyfroyae at some times and as a separate species at other times, creating confusion about these plants among hobbyists.  So, when looking at the AOS judging data, I made a decision to combine the results for Paph. godefroyae, Paph. leucochilum, and Paph. godefroyae var. leucochilum – and I’m going to refer to them as “Paph. godefroyae” for the sake of simplicity.  I’m only a cat, after all, and Cats and Cats has demanded a lot of my nap time this holiday season.  

In terms of AOS awards, Krull-Smith dominates the Paph. godefroyae field.  They earned a vaunted Award of Quality (AQ) in 2007 with a collection of Paph. godefroyae that included Paph. godefroyae ‘Krull’s Perfection FCC/AOS.’  For a mere $75, you can have a taste of 'Krull's Perfection FCC/AOS' at June's Orchid Estate, the exclusive carriers of the Krull-Smith Paphiopedilum collection.  From 1970-2010, Krull-Smith earned three of the top five flower scores for Paph. godefroyae.  Here’s the breakdown:
Paph. godefroyae AOS Flower Awards By Score

Hanes Orchids
L.W. Strasburger

Paph. godefroyae AOS Flower Awards By Frequency
Number of Awards
Bob and Lynn Wellenstein
Nick Tannci
William H. Starke and Sons
A&P Orchids
Orchid Inn, Larry Wiklund, Jim and Emily Clarkson, Cal Orchids, J. Frank Hughes Albert A. Alberts
The distribution of these awards over time shows a range of zero to seven awards per year, with notable peaks in 1976, 1979, 1990, 1997, and 2007.  I don’t care to speculate on the causes of these upticks.  The pattern of the award history of Paph. godefroyae doesn’t seem obvious and it’s above my pay grade to further delve into it at this point in time.  Instead, I intend to take a nap, but I hear Griffin begging for treats in the kitchen, so I might want to get in on that action before doing anything else.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Paph. concolor

Brachypetalum -- Church of the Subgenus 
part 3 -- Paph. concolor

by Selena Sabine 

I’ll discuss Paph. concolor in just a moment, but I first need to tell you about the complaint I intend to file with the ASPCA.  Kitty labor standards have been severely breached with the Brachypetalum: Church of the Subgenus project.  All of this work on a holiday?  Can a kitty get a little help?  Riley has been exceedingly lazy, lounging in his cat bed all day.  Griffin has commandeered and camouflaged herself in a special new kitty blanket from L Spice.  Lan Lan has frittered away her time playing with the Cosmic Catnip Banana.  So, I’m researching these plants and compiling data while my siblings are sleeping, begging for treats, and chasing imaginary bugs.  I’m going to notify the proper officials.

Paphiopedilum concolor is the yellow Brachy species.  Judges’ common color descriptors include variations of yellow (e.g. “light butter yellow” and “creamy yellow”).  My orchid books suggest that it’s the easiest Brachy species to grow and, perhaps not coincidentally, it’s found in a wider geographical range compared to other Brachies (it's found throughout Thailand, Cambodia, Lao, and Vietnam, as well as parts of China and Burma).  Frowine describes it as “commonly offered and easy to grow.”  You can purchase a Paph. concolor of your very own at Sam Tsui’s Orchid Inn or EnLightened Orchids.  For the hardcore, Paphanatics offers them by the flask.
Paph. concolor is a parent to over fifty primary hybrids, including two that are enormously important for complex Brachy breeding: Paph. Wellesleyanum (Paph. concolor x Paph. godefroyae) and Paph. Conco-bellatulum. 
Paph. concolor tends to have smaller flowers than its sister Brachies, and that’s reflected in its judging record.  There are almost as many Paph. Conco-bellatulum awards as there are Paph. concolor awards.  From the 1966 to 2010, AOS judges awarded only 54 Paph. concolor flowers HCC, AM, or FCC awards (compared to Paph. bellatulum's 148 awards).  The best of the bunch was Robert W. Koffler’s “BK’s Gem” FCC/AOS awarded in 1992 (91 points).  It’s quite an accomplishment – the only FCC awarded to this species.  The judges said that the “nearly flat” flower had a “striking combination of large size, dark color, and superior balance of floral parts [that] led to an immediate consideration for an FCC.”  More recently, Marriott Orchids earned an AM (84 points) in 2000 with Paph. concolor ‘Massive’ AM/AOS, which is in the upper ten percentile of all concolor flower awards.  The most successful exhibitors were (you guessed it) Lynn and Bob Wellenstein with four awards.  Marriott Orchids and Limrick Inc. each claim three AOS awards for Paph. concolor.  Orchid Thoroughbreds and Rod McLellen won two AOS awards for their concolor flowers. 
You can see from the graph that 1991 and 1992 witnessed a surge in Paph. concolor awards.  Limrick and the Wellensteins earned a total of five awards during those years, but whether their successes account for the statistically significant upsurge was more than I wanted to think about this Christmas Eve.  There are rumors of summer sausage treats, I need to study that Koopowitz book, I’m missing my nap, Riley is acting like a complete weirdo, and then there’s that ASPCA thing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Paph. bellatulum

Brachypetalum -- Church of the Subgenus 
part 2 -- Paph. bellatulum

by Selena Sabine

Paph. bellatulum was first described by Reichenbach in 1888 and it remains the best known and most awarded Brachypetalum species.  Its name comes from bellus, which means “beautiful” in Latin.  Hybridizers have made extensive use of Paph. bellatulum for its round flower, and it’s in important primary hybrids like Conco-bellatulum, S. Gatrix, Vanda M. Pearman, and Psyche.  The problem with bellatulum is its weak and short stem, which is often targeted in breeding programs by crossing bellatulum with Paph. niveum or Paph. godefroyae. (For more information, see this thread on, this info sheet on, Rebecca Northern, 1980, Miniature Orchids, pg. 133, and Steve Frowine, 2007, Miniature Orchids, pg. 157.).

The best bellatulum in AOS judging history is Paph. bellatulum ‘Rainforest’ FCC/AOS (90 points) exhibited by Rainforest Orchids in June 1987.  The judges praised “a significant size increase over [the] previous AM,” which produced “nearly perfectly symmetrical conformation of parts, and consequent delightful harmony of shape and color.”  This FCC is quite an achievement given large number of bellatulum flower awards from the 1960s to present (148) and the fierce competition from the Wellensteins (10 bellatulum flower awards), Marriott Orchids (6 awards), South River Orchids (6 awards), and Nick Tannaci (5 awards).  Examining the award data over time, 1981 and 1997 emerge as the years with the highest number of AOS awards (13 and 15, respectively).  This variation can be explained by the successful efforts of Bob and Lynn Wellenstein, who earned eight of their eleven bellatulum AOS awards in 1997, and South River Orchids, who earned four of their six bellatulum AOS awards in 1981.

What did judges praise and criticize in their evaluations of Paph. bellatulum flowers?  Reading judging descriptions are one way to understand the criteria by which AOS judges award Paph. bellatulum flowers.  A single description isn’t very descriptive.  Sometimes, however, the judge’s description will make an explicit comment about why the flower gained or lost points.  Collected together, these comments emphasize a round and proportional flower with little or no cupping, with symmetrical dotting.  I’ve listed the raw data below.

Now, where’s my treats?

Explicit Praise or Criticism in AOS Judging Descriptions of Paph. bellatulum flower awards
Asymmetry of petals reduced score; flower form more flat than previous awards; form with minimal cupping; flower commended for size and dark even spots; noted for pleasing form; substance exceptionally firm; commended for exceptional form and balance; cupped dorsal sepal precluded higher score; awarded for attractive patterning, symmetrical form and size; slight rolling of petals reduced score; awarded for pleasing shape, proportions and color; reflexed petals precluded higher score; judges impressed by intense saturation of maroon spots and blush; one superb, round, beautifully balanced flower; one well-formed flower; Spotted very nicely with burgundy; Evenly spotted; Uniformly distributed maroon spots; flower larger in all dimensions and better presented than previous HCC in 1976; Increased side compared to previous award; Excellent form; Extra heavily spotted; Slightly reflexed; Unusually wide petals and very round shape, but slightly cupped; Heavy maroon spotting; Excellent substance and form; Uniformly arranged vivid red-brown spotting; Although flower about average size for awarded clones, spots of intense glossy maroon-red mainly centered near column makes a particularly attractive flower; Dorsal sepal somewhat wider and flatter than usual; flower of good size; A well-balanced flower; flower very round; notable for especially round shape dues to wide, well-shaped dorsal sepal; Petals evenly spotted with deep burgundy; Spotting pleasingly arranged; Flower exceptionally well-rounded and balanced; gloss, color, and substance excellent.; Flower strong, nicely proportioned; Size and overall shape good but small pouch prevented higher award; Flower slightly cupped; Slight curling on petals precluded higher score; Excellent conformation; Dorsal sepal and basal area of petals exhibit slight cupping; Dorsal sepal and petals rolled at edges precluding a higher score; One unusually large, full and well proportioned flower on one inflorescence; Petals slightly reflexed, dorsal sepal slightly cupped, resulting in lower point score; Asymmetry caused by leaf interference precluded higher score, otherwise pleasing vertically ovoid flower; One large, pleasing, beautifully shaped flower; Substance excellent; Dorsal sepal slightly cupped, with good overall maroon spots arranged longitudinally; Uneven suffusion of oxblood color at margins of petals precluded higher score; Commended for markings, size, and substance; Noted for attractive proportions and color; One superb, round, beautifully balanced flower.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brachypetalum -- Church of the Subgenus

by Selena Sabine

We’re going to close out 2010 with an in-depth look at Paphiopedilum Brachypetalum (also known as “Brachies” or "Brachys").  What’s so great about Brachies?  How do you grow them?  What exhibitors have won the most AOS awards for their Paphiopedilum Brachypetalum? Who are the up-and-coming Brachy growers?  How has the frequency of Brachy awards changed over time?  Which Judging Centers have seen the best Brachies?  What Brachypetalum species have garnered the most awards?  How do the Brachypetalum species compare against one another?  What are the qualities in Brachypetalum flowers that judges considered praiseworthy or problematic?

Will this report get me more treats?  Maybe not, but Brachies comprise an ever-growing segment of the Cats and Catts orchid collection and it’s about time we learn about them.  During the final week of 2010, I’ll explore the award histories of Brachypetalum species and select primary and complex hybrids.  Here’s the plan:

Part 1: Paph. Brachypetalum, an overview
Part 2: Paph. bellatulum
Part 3: Paph. concolor
Part 4: Paph. godefroyae
Part 5: Paph. niveum
Part 6: Brachypetalum primary hybrids
Part 7: Brachypetalum key complex hybrids

Why Brachies?
Brachypetalums host a dynamite flower on a compact plant.  The flowers remind me of snow globes, kaleidoscopes, blood splatters, Pollock forgeries, Rorschach tests, space aliens, and other ventures into the weird and disturbing.  They’re terribly cute in flower, but they look good all year.  Brachies, like other Paphs, have gorgeous foliage.  The neon leaf marking is almost like a jewel orchid, and the succulent quality of the leaves makes them glorious, even in the off season.  You can comfortably grow a baker’s dozen with one or two square feet and a couple of compact florescent bulbs.  These are not easy plants to bloom or keep alive, so you can indulge in Brachypetalum pride when you grow them.

What are Brachies?
These species are found in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand,and Vietnam.  Taxonomists describe Brachypetalum as subgenus of Paphiopedilum that includes species Paph. bellatulum, Paph. concolor, Paph. niveum, Paph. godefroyae (syn./var. Paph. leucochilum), and Paph. thaianum.  If you remember your high school biology class, you might recall that “Subgenus” is a taxonomical category narrower than “Genus” and broader than “Species.”  Divisions among subgenera help make sense of an otherwise bewildering array of species. 

The five Brachy species include bellatulum, concolor, niveum, godefroyae, and thaianum.  AOS judging descriptions list Paph. leucochilum as either a variation of Paph. godefroyae or, more recently, as a synonym. notes the “great debate among taxonomists over the relationship between Paph. godefroyae, Paph. leucochilum, and Paph. x ang-thong,” but I’m going to refer to them universally as godefroyae for the sake of consistency.  Paph. thaianum, the newest kid on the Brachy block, was first described in 2006 in Orchid Digest and has no judging history as of 2010.

Brachypetalum Culture
I'll keep this section brief and refer you to the two essential readings on Brachy culture: this essay by Lynn and Bob Wellenstein and this essay by Dr. Tanaka.  The Wellensteins observe that the fat roots and succulent leaves of Brachypetalum suggest, “They are not naturally inclined to grow well in continually wet conditions.”  In my experience, they need more water than Cattleyas and less water than other Paphiopedilums.  The best growers use high-quality water, water with few dissolved solids (i.e. reverse-osmosis water).  I’ve been using a mix of RO water and tap water with few problems.  Water is easily trapped in the nodes of the leaves, so high air circulation is essential.  I keep a fan running nearby twenty-four hours a day.  My anecdotal evidence leads me to believe that lack of air circulation and overwatering are the biggest Brachy problems for the home hobbyist, but I’ve also killed one or two from underwatering.  They're a little bit fussy and you have to watch them carefully -- daily -- because they're usually far into the danger zone by the time their leaves show signs of distress (look for a loss of shine or sheen on the leaves, tiny pock marks, dry edges, or rust).

Judging Brachypetalums
I’ll discuss specific judging comments when I cover the different species, but definite themes emerge.  The judging descriptions of Brachy species favor round, well-proportioned, and flat flowers.  Cupped and reflexed flowers tended to lose points, but some awards went to flowers with “slight cupping.”

The vast majority of AOS awards for Brachypetalum were given at AOS Judging Centers (JCs).  Out of 338 Brachypetalum AOS flower awards (excluding Judges’ Commendations and cultural awards) only 51 awards were given at orchid shows.  Three JCs (Mid Atlantic, Pacific Central, and the Pacific South) saw the best Brachies.  I’ve listed the full results below with the number of awards in parentheses.  It’s difficult to draw conclusions from these data because the individual exhibitors largely drive the results.  It’s not like the Mid Atlantic region is the best place to grow Brachies, or that the Mid Atlantic JC is Brachy-biased.  More accurately, the Wellensteins showed their plants at that particular JC, and the numbers reflect that fact.

1. Mid Atlantic (48)
2. Pacific Central (38)
3. Pacific South (34)
4. National Capital (14)
5. Florida North Central (10)
Honorable Meows: Northeast Judging Center (8) and Mid-America (8)

With 28 AOS flower awards for Brachy species, the Wellensteins are, by far, the best Brachy breeders of all time.  Nick Tannaci, South River Orchids, and Krull-Smith have also produced a notable number of award winners.  In recent years, The Orchid Inn is capturing an increasing number of awards.  
I broke the data into separate decades, which produced some interesting results.  In the 1970s, Nick Tannaci was leading the forefront of Brachy breeding.  In the 1980s, three companies, including Paphantics, River Valley, and Rainforest Orchids, created the top shelf of awardable Brachy species.  The 1990s were dominated Bob and Lynn Wellenstein.  No one came close.  During the 2000s, however, Krull-Smith surged ahead with 10 awards.  The full results are below.
Top Ten All Time Best Brachy Exhibitors
1. Bob & Lynn Wellenstein (28)
2. Nick Tannaci (12)
3. South River Orchids (9)
4. Krull-Smith (7)
5. Rainforest Orchids (6)
6. Marriott Orchids (5)
7. Orchid Thoroughbreds
8. W.W. Wilson
9. William H. Starke and Son
10. G.A. Wright
Honorable Meows: Albert A. Alberts, A&P Orchids, Fort Caroline Orchids, Orchid Inn, Edwin & Donna Wise, Harold E. Walker, The Beall Orchid Company

Brachypetalum Species AOS Awards by Exhibitor Over Time

Nick’s World (1969-1979)
1. Nick Tannaci (7)
2. W. W. Wilson (4)
3. Harold E. Walker (4)
4. The Beall Orchid Company (4)
5. Albert A. Alberts (4)
Honorable Meows: Carl and Imogene Keyes (3) and Fort Caroline Orchids (3)

Age of the Paphanatic South River Rainforest (1980-1989)
1. Paphanatics (8)
2. South River Orchids (7)
3. Rainforest Orchids (5)
4. Bob & Lynn Wellenstein (4)
5. Nick Tannaci (4)
Honorable Meows: Krull-Smith Orchids (3), Limrick Inc. (3), and Marriott Orchids (2)

The Wellenstein Era (1990-1999)
1. Bob and Lynn Wellenstein (16)
2. Paphanatics Orchids (4)
3. Breckenridge Orchids (3)
4. Krull-Smith Orchids (3)
5. Marriott Orchids (2)
Honorable Meows: Orchid Inn (2), Woodstream Orchids (2), and Hanajima’s Orchid Co. (2)

The Krull-Smith Era (2000-2010)
1. Krull-Smith Orchids (10)
2. A&P Orchids (3)
3. Jim and Emily Clarkson (3)
4. Orchid Inn (3)
5. Marriott Orchids (3)
Honorable Meows: Stephen and Geraldine Male (2)

Disclaimers: I'm a beleaguered cat in a crazy house full of freaks and frogs.  I aimed for accuracy, but I'm sure I made errors.  I invite others to double check my work and correct me when I've written something incorrect.  Also, my report uses AOS award information to shed light on these amazing plants, but I’m not an orchid judge.  I’m only a cat, so there’s only so much I could do between naps.  For instance, my reports refrained from computing flower count and flower size.  The former seemed unimportant and the latter required too much math.  Most AOS awards were given to plants with one or two flowers, so I surmised that a Brachy's flower count is not really a big deal (AOS cultural awards are a totally different story).  The AOS records flower size along multiple dimensions, inviting complex mathematical modeling.  Should I index flower size by the height of the flower’s dorsal sepal?  Should I add the size values together to create a composite score?  It gets thorny.  Parsing the relationship between flower size and AOS scores could prove to be important, but it’s an undertaking for another time or for another cat.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Orchid Murder in New York City

I've spent a decent amount of time in the New York Public Library and I'm familiar with the security protocol.  The special reading rooms are under extra special surveillance, and the librarians will let you know if you should, for instance, handle rare photographs with white cotton gloves or if an old book needs book weights and a stand so the spine doesn't crack.  Even the drinking fountains and washrooms have a regal air.  So, I was a little surprised to learn that Keith Richards was smoking in the NYPL and that he killed an orchid in the process (h/t Caroline).

Marie d'Origny, deputy director of the Library, found her Phal. amabilis dead, killed by the smoke coming from Keith Richard's poorly placed ashtray.  She was very upset about it.  She's not the only one angry.  The folks on dListed expressed rage at the library director, the aging guitarist, orchids, and each other.  If this wasn't a G-rated blog, I'd love to share with you some of their colorful descriptions.  Ultimately, I found myself most aligned with joe shmoe @ 6:11: "I take defiling orchids very seriously. TEAM NOT KEITH."

The Great Baklava Debacle of 2005

Tonight, I prepared a batch of baklava for my Orchid Society's holiday gathering.  I couldn't help but recall the great debacle five years ago.  I was using this recipe from which calls for baking buttered phyllo dough while preparing a simple syrup with vanilla and honey.  On that fateful evening, I set the syrup on the counter and pulled out two Pyrex 9x13 glass cake pans from the oven.  I set the pans on the oven and, following direction, began to pour the syrup on baked pastry dough.  The syrup began to bubble up from the pan with a quickness.  I still didn't realize anything was wrong.  I still didn't realize I hadn't turned off the burner on the stove.

I turned away for a moment and heard the explosion.  It was like a gunshot!  The Pyrex blew up into hot shards of glass, dripping with burning sugar.  The baklava, now embedded with glass chips, was ruined.  The kitchen clean up took far more time than the cooking.  It was, in short, a baklava debacle.  

I've had success making baklava since the incident, but I'll never forget the sound of exploding glassware.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Power Watering

The all-white look was going for a Ghostbusters feel, but I may have missed the mark.  My 4-gallon Solo Pro Backpack Sprayer has cut my watering time substantially.  My past ritual of dragging the plants to the bathtub to be doused with a watering can took a lot of energy.  A sprayer typically used for insecticides, I reasoned, would do the job with greater efficiency.  Indeed!  It's given me the precision of hand-watering with the speed of a shower.

You only get one spine, so you have to protect your back.  Strangely, the backpack sprayer aids in that goal because (despite the above photo) I water with it off my back.  I sit comfortably in a chair, seat the plants in a plastic tray near the growing set up, and water away.  Most of them are on trays, but the bigger Cattleyas and Phalaenopsis are arranged in a Tetris-like configuration that I deconstruct and recreate at every watering.  That's the next issue I need to deal with before I'm completely happy with my system.

For now, I'm glad to harness the power of pump-driven technology for faster plant watering and a new way to torment Riley.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Alstromeria and Bean

Selena Sabine walked onto the scene as I was snapping some pictures of alstromeria and roses.  Her eyes provide a nice color contrast, I think.  She must have sized up the situation and concluded that the photo would be miserable without her presence.  She's probably right.  I needed a wider swath of black cloth and better light.  The cut flowers that come into the Cats and Catts house are so much more exciting and visually gripping than my photos convey.  Maybe my flower photography will improve but, until then, I'll rely on the kitties to walk into the frame.

Monday, November 22, 2010

'Griffin's Hello World'

In daylily circles, it's considered especially poor form to name a cross that's not officially registered with the American Hemerocallis Society.  This make sense.  If everyone named their crosses willy-nilly then tracking the parentage of different cultivars is that much more difficult.  As Oscie Whatley noted over twenty years ago in The Art of Hybridizing "Such fervor to stake a name claim hasn't been equaled since the Oklahoma land rush.  Consequently many a good name has been gobbled up forever by cultivars soon forgotten" (pg. 25-6).  Relatedly, a breeder shouldn't register a cross unless it contributes to the overall universe of daylily hybrids.  A named daylily should be exceptional. 

So, I'm committing some grave sins here, but at least I'm aware of it and making a public confession.  I tried several crosses this summer but this is the only one that worked, and this is the only seedling that sprouted this autumn. Griffin is standing watch over 'Griffin's Hello World' (noid pink daylily x 'Siloam David Kirschoff').  I decided to document it now because it could easily die on me.  I've done my homework, but daylily hybridizing is definitely a learning-by-experience endeavor.  Given its infancy, it's ridiculous that I would name it, even for internal record-keeping.  Yet, I wanted to make note of the small victory.

I did, however, check the Tinker's Gardens database to see if it's already taken (there's a 'Hello World' from 1966, but no 'Griffin') -- I'm not that much of a daylily barbarian. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Muffi's Orchids

I love looking at old newspaper and magazine articles about orchids and flower shows.  Isn't that how you spend your Friday night?  This 1970 photo shows Muffi Durham holding Dendrobiums from Orchids by Hausermann.  The super-awesome stage name "Muffi Durham" sent me down the Internet rabbit hole.  Muffi (Marilyn Durham-Hajebi) currently lives in California and appears to have a happy and beautiful life.

Muffi worked as an actress and singer during my favorite decade, the 1970s.  She played a dancer in a 1976 episode of Starsky and Hutch, had a part in a Fantasy Island episode, and played a working girl in a 1980 TV movie called Murder Can Hurt You.  Muffi was in the disco group Panic, best known for their song French Kiss.   Pretty cool.

And it all started with an armful of orchids.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Genius of Lan Lan

As we've documented at Cats and Catts, Lan Lan has an odd habit of demanding faucet water.  The dripping rate needs to be within the right parameters and she will let you know if it isn't.

It took a team of scientists, however, to appreciate fully the depth of Lan Lan's feat.  

Scientists used fast-motion photography, computer modeling, statistics, and a cat named Cutta Cutta to reveal the physics behind cats' drinking behavior.  Cats, the study shows, put the tip of their tongue in the water and retract.  Unlike dogs who scoop water with their tongue, cats create a stream of water as they pull back, and their mouths close around the water just as gravity is about to do its thing.  Cats make this tongue action four times a second!

Lan Lan's faucet drinking takes this highly complicated endeavor to the next level of elegance.  By coming at the water at a forty-five degree angle, she maximizes the hydraulic vectors ... or something.  I think we need further study.
In the same issue of the New York Times, the Home and Garden section ran a story called "Hard to Kill: Houseplants for the Inept."  But they paired the story with a harlequin Phal. inflorescence and listed "moth orchid" among eleven plants that are hard to kill.  Really?  I'm doing okay with the ones I have but, trust me, they don't deserve the "hard to kill" label.  And why didn't Sansevieria trifasciata make the list?  Despite these gripes, the article is still worth reading and I hope it will give well-deserved link traffic to the Plants are the Strangest People blog.     

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wheatgrass Kitty

Can we talk about these spoiled cats?  I've grown them their own wheatgrass from Thompson and Morgan seedSpoiled! (Especially Lan Lan, featured here). But, I have to tell the truth, I had an ulterior motive.

My seedling skills range from nonexistent to weak.  Last summer, "Operation Night Phlox" was an abject failure, and damping off is standard operating procedure.  Don't get me wrong.  I can kill big plants, too, but horticultural infanticide is my specialty.

Maybe it's my soil?  Lan Lan and I decided to harness wheatgrass's fast germination speed to teach us something about soil.  As an added bonus, the kitties love to nibble on the grass.

I used measuring spoons to divide the seeds into four equal groups.  I planted them at the same time, with the same watering, and with the same sun exposure.  I used four different soils:
a. Pure Soil -- 1 part vermiculite, 1 part perlite, 1 part peat moss
b. Premium Soil -- 1 part Pure Soil, 1 part MiracleGro regular potting mix
c. MiracleGro Regular
d. MiracleGro Moisture Control  

Lan Lan and I evaluated the data carefully and considered various explanations for the results.  Regular MiracleGro  was the weakest performer in terms of grass output.  Premium Soil (which contains regular MiracleGro) was second-to-last.  Pure Soil had the best looking and most bountiful grass.  MiracleGro Moisture Control was better than the soils containing Regular MiracleGro, but some of the seeds on the sides of the container refused to sprout.

What do Lan Lan and I make of these results?  Lan Lan thinks we should grow more wheatgrass and considerably expand the study.  In the short term, these preliminary findings suggest that either the texture and porosity of MiracleGro hurts seedling culture, or its nitrogen content is inhibiting seedling growth.  I think it's the latter.  The nitrogen is telling the wheatgrass, "Dude, you need to lay out a crazy deep root system so you can hunker down for some bad weather or something."  And the endosperms are all, "You think we're snapdragon seeds or something?  We have plenty of food here to sprout.  Why are you messing with us like that?" But, then, what is the Moisture Control thinking?

Lan Lan urges further study.