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?