Saturday, January 30, 2010

Going Catalog Crazy

Sure, plenty of varieties bloom during the winter months and the local nurseries and better grocery stores are fully stocked with orchids.  But the unique mail-order orchids will have to wait for warmer months.  Until then, we will be pouring over the pages and circling the ones we want.

Over at Oak Hills Gardens, then have an economy  special where you pay a flat fee ($30 for Catt hybrids and $50 for Paphs) for ten seedlings that they select.  It's a great price if you don't mind giving up control.  I love the ten Catts they sent me in August, and a couple are only a year or so away from blooming.  Lan Lan thinks we should consider the 10-pack of Paphs.  The mounted B. nodosa looks really appealing, too.

Carter and Holmes has a similar deal with large-sized plants.  The prices are higher (five adult Cattleyas in 5-6" pots for $135), but the buyer will see blooms within a year.  They also have a "Too Big for Their Britches" deal that Lan Lan seemed excited about (discounted orchids that need repotting), but I'm steering her toward the Mini-Compact Cattleya Collection and the rare award-winners in the AOS Special Collection.

Of course, there's plenty of orchid shopping to conduct through eBay or other online vendors, but there's something about leisurely reading through a color catalog that affords a higher-quality shopping experience.  In any case, Lan Lan and I have a lot to talk about before April.   

Thursday, January 28, 2010

World's Smallest Kitty

In 2004, Peebles from Illinois was recognized as the smallest cat in the world.  Two years later, Heed unseated Peebles to grab the crown of "World's Smallest Cat."  Now, Bitsy holds the crown.  Bean?  Well, I just put her picture in there to balance things out.  I was thinking about small cats after I read about the discovery of the world's smallest orchid flower in December 2009.  It measures about 2 millimeters across.

The flower was discovered by Dr. Lou Jost, a biologist and mathematical ecologist who has published extensively on orchids, birds, rain forests, and mathematical biology.  Dr. Jost has discovered sixty new orchid species in his career, including a number of Lepanthes and Teagueia species.

Like rules, records are meant to be broken.  With that in mind, I'm hoping in 2010 Dr. Jost discovers his sixty-first orchid (preferably with a flower under 2 mm) and some kitty knocks Bitsy off his pedestal.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My First Orchid

May 2008. This is a photo of photos used in filming “Catervention.” The image is prescient insofar as it foreshadows the whole Cats and Catts experience. On the right, you can see my very first orchid, a mottled purple Phalaenopsis. It had already begun its death spiral and you can see the ugly leaf damage. It was a kind gift from a friend, but I had no idea how to take care of it and the air roots freaked me out. I can’t remember if I overwatered it or underwatered it, but it went to an early grave. I waited over a year before trying my luck again.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bean and the Big Catt

Here, Bean poses with a Blc. Mem-Al-Na, a large Cattleya hybrid that I purchased from Birds Botanicals.  The light yellow petals and the purple lip are magnificent, but I really bought this one for its heavenly scent.  "Tropical perfume" is the closest descriptor I can use to describe it.  

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fish Friday!

Abe fAbe is the resident fish.  Named after Abe Vigoda, Abe has a prime place in the kitty's house.  He receives an enthusiastic greeting from Trixie every morning ("jazz hands!").  One could argue that he's one of the most spoiled betas in town. Even the kitties show him respect.

About a month ago, he had a case of tail rot that we quickly spotted and treated.  We used water that we had left out for a day or so, thinking that airing it out would allow the chlorine to dissipate.  A friendly worker at Pet World explained that water in our region is infused with chloramine, which can't be aired out.  Abe hasn't had any trouble since we switched to reverse-osmosis water.

Jazz hands!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dancing to the Drumbeat

Riley was acting like an especially freaky freak, so Trixie took a few photos of him moving around the Lc. Drumbeat 'Heritage' I purchased from Oak Hills Gardens.  Trixie took this photo only a few days after I repotted the plant in a 6" clear pot.  The medium in its prior pot had broken down and started to resemble mush.  It loves the new arrangement and has thrown down dozens of new roots in its new container.  Maybe Riley anticipated the plant's excitement?

Or maybe Riley was celebrating its lustrous pedigree?  Lc. Drumbeat was officially registered in 1969, and Fred Stewart's 'Drumbeat' received HCC recognition (77 points) at the Mid-America Regional Judging in St. Louis in 1970.  Stewart's lesser-known Lc. Drumbeat 'Triumph' also received HCC status with 75 points the same year.  I don't know much about Fred Stewart except that a 1966 (Apr. 17) Los Angeles Times article noted that he was one of the leaders in creating miniature cybidiums.  Most recently, a 'Heritage' plant owned by Eden Hill Greenhouses and Timothy M. Volas received 90 points and a Certificate of Cultural Excellence (CCE) award from the AOS at the 2004 Greater Lansing Orchid Society Show.  It's worth owning AQ+ simply so you can see a picture of this beauty -- thirty-four flowers, 27 buds, and you can almost smell the perfume from the computer screen.

Lc. Drumbeat is bred from no fewer than nine Cattleya species (C. dowiana, C. mossiae, C. warscewiczii, C. trianaei, C. gaskelliana, C. luddemanniana, C. labiata, C. mendelii, C. warneri) over a period of six breeding generations.  Of these species, C. dowiana stands out as perhaps the most important, giving yellow and red veining to the lip.  The yellow petals and sepals of dowiana are extremely recessive, so the lavender in Drumbeat is amply covered by L. purpurata (its sole Laelia influence), C. trianaei, and C. labiata.

Riley made a handy chart so you can keep it all straight:

Relationship to Lc. Drumbeat
Plants in Lc. Drumbeat


Lc. Drumbeat
Lc. Bonanza x C. Horace

Lc. Bonanza
Lc. Cavalese x C. Prospector

C. Horace
C. trianaei x C. Woltersiana

Lc. Cavalese
Lc. Lustre x C. Fabia

C. Prospector
C. Remy Chollet x C. Santa Monica

C. Woltersiana
C. Queen Mary x C. Rajah

Lc. Lustre
Lc. Callistoglossa x C. luddemanniana


C. Fabia
C. dowiana x C. labiata


C. Remy Chollet
C. Monarch x C. trianaei


C. Santa Monica
C. Lord Rothschild x C. mendelii


C. Queen Mary
C. mendelii x C. warneri


C. Rajah
C. Empress Frederick x C. Enid


Lc. Callistoglossa
C. warscewiczii x L. purpurata


C. Monarch
C. Empress Frederick x C. trianaei


C. Lord Rothschild
C. dowiana x C. gaskelliana

Great-Great- Grandparent

C. Empress Frederick
C. dowiana x C. mossiae

Great-Great- Grandparent

C. Enid
C. mossiae x C. warscewiczii



Saturday, January 16, 2010

False Phalaenopsis Accusations

Everyone knows by now that Griffin is a little untrustworthy. Naturally, when I saw the first bloom fall off of this Phal. 'Homedepot' I blamed Griffin.  She was probably looking for goodies, perhaps crying to the Phalaenopsis in her constant quest for treats.  When more blooms fell, we increased our questioning of relevant witness and, while Griffin was still the primary suspect, Trixie and I had no definitive proof Griffin was the culprit. 

I blamed Griffin, in part, because Phals were supposedly one of the easiest orchids to grow.  If my other orchids were thriving, how could this basic orchid, sold to masses, suffer blasted blooms?  It must be Griffin.

Then, I saw signs of crown rot and I discovered that the roots were packed in sphagnum moss.  There was no other growing medium except sad soggy moss that was undoubtedly drowning the plant and cutting its oxygen.  I do not doubt that one can grow phals successfully in sphagnum, but it definitely wasn't working for me or the kitties.  What to do?

I read this helpful entry in from an orchid owner (Vivian) struggling with a similar situation.  The resident expert (Wayne) encouraged Vivian by noting, "You were right to get the plant out of the sphagnum and into a fir-based orchid potting mix."  I wanted to do the right thing, too, so I bought special phal. bark at Sunrise Gardens and repotted it.  A week later, it still looked miserable.  Thinking back to it, I probably didn't let it dry out enough for it to stage a full recovery.

After the final leaf dropped, I cursed the Phalaenopsis genus, threw the plant in the backyard to decompose, and gave Griffin a sincere apology. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How Cute is Too Cute?

Bumped in the head at four in the morning.  Waking up to Riley licking your ear an hour later.  Unable to type at the computer without him jumping onto your lap.  Following you into the bathroom, into the kitchen, and everywhere else.  Giving pose after adorable pose.  Trying to steal the show at every turn.  These are conditions that lead one to ask "How cute is too cute?"  There are websites devoted to this issue, but Riley forces us to live with it on a daily basis.

Here he is on a late summer day, posing between the blooms of two oncidium hybrids: Colmonara Wildcat 'Green Valley' and C.M. Fitch Izumi.  Too cute?  It's possible.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Joys of Grocery Shopping

Selena Sabine stands next to a white Dendrobium we purchased from HyVee.   She's impressed with the sparkling shine on the white petals and sepals, the long lasting flowers, and the fact that it was $14.95 from a grocery store.  As Queen of the orchid room, Bean happily posed next to one of her favorites.  Can she get it to rebloom?  Time will tell.

Orchids from grocery stores can be an inexpensive way to expand a collection, and you can also feel good about saving an orchid from a probable death.  The downside is that many of these plants are NOIDs or under-labeled.  So, I was happy to see that Bean's favorite white Dendrobium was labeled as Den. Woo Leng x Den. Burana White.  Woo Leng is a cross between Den. Loan Sudharta x Den. Yong Kok Wah registered in July 1989.  I found only a smattering of information about Burana White.  It doesn't make the flowers look any prettier, but Bean appreciates that this one wasn't labeled "White Dendrobium" as it so easily could have been.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Frog Friday!

Alice crawls past the Certostylis, away from the Onc. velutinum.  This photo was taken during September shortly after my purchase, back when it was looking hale.  Now, the Oncidium is on my RIP list after a tough few months.  It was difficult to figure out what it liked.  It needed consistent watering because it's mounted, but it was in a high humidity environment so maybe it didn't need as much watering as I thought.  Complicating matters, crickets ate chunks from the main leaves, hasting its death.  We experienced a short period where we had too many large crickets in with the frogs and they went after that plant in particular.  

In any case, I certainly couldn't trust Alice to watch over it.  She's only interested in crickets and the scenic view.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Importance of Labels

I have a few plants in my outdoor garden that I can't completely identify because I lost the garden markers.  Is that peach-colored daylily 'Morning Sunrise?'  'Peach Surprise?' 'Peachy Delight?'

Embarking on the orchid journey, I vowed not to repeat my mistakes.  Frowine's Orchids for Dummies devotes three pages (37-39) to the advantages and disadvantages of various label markers.  I'm following his advice to have a separate list of my collection.  I'm using that document to create typed labels that I'm taping to pots.  A few have smudged with watering, but it's been easy enough to replace the labels.

This got me thinking -- maybe I should I should label the kitties so I don't lose track of them.  Here's what I came up with:


Monday, January 4, 2010

Who is C.M. Fitch?

The orchid that commands the center spot on the table is my Miltassia C.M. Fitch ‘Izumi’ AM/AOS. It’s a cross between a Miltonia spectabilis and a Brassia verrucosa. The Miltonia gives it the purple and the Brassia gives it the long narrow tepals. I wonder, who is C.M. Fitch? When did he create this hybrid? When did it win an AOS award?  What’s Fitch’s story?

Charles Marden Fitch is the author of several books about plants and orchids. He is a recipient of the Gold Medal of Achievement award from the AOS.  Fitch's CM Fitch 'Izumi' received 80 points at the Annual Hilo Orchid Society Show in July 1997.  He’s been an orchid judge since the 1970’s and he’s renowned for his orchid photography. Fitch has been speaking publically about the joy of orchids since at least the early 1960’s. C.M. Fitch is impressive because his botanical knowledge extends far beyond orchids. He tackled lilies, azaleas, bamboo, and aloe in articles he wrote for Flower Grower, Horticulture, and Flower and Garden during the 60’s and 70’s. In 1977, he published a book about terrariums and, a few years later, a book about miniature roses.

The earliest article I found was a piece on the spider orchid in the January 1961 issue of Flower Grower. The earliest public speaking reference I found was an announcement for a talk titled “Orchid Culture at Talisman Cove” he gave to the Greater New York Orchid Society (NYT, Aug. 19, 1962, pg. 112). (I expected to find a Talisman Cove in New York but, instead, I think it refers to his orchid shop or lab.) In the latter part of the 1960’s, Fitch regularly gave talks and classes about orchid culture. The most recent reference I found took me to Fitch’s report from the 2009 Taiwan International Orchid Show. He’s had a long and productive career, combining a love of photography and plants, and he’s still going strong.

Fitch talked specifically about Cattleyas in an article he wrote for the New York Times in 1984. He said that compact plants in the Cattleya alliance maximize the color a grower can achieve with minimal space. In particular, he recommended Hazel Boyd, Madge Fordyce ‘Red Orb,’ and Jewel Box Sheherazade. (“An Orchid Expert Makes it Sound Easy,” Nov., 25, 1984, H31.)

But I have many more questions, not the least of which is: was Charles M. Fitch a cat person or a dog person?