Thursday, February 4, 2010

Who is Bob Betts?

This photo of Bob Betts was taken at the 1953 Culver City "La Ballona Valley Days" festival about a week before his 27th birthday.  Bob Betts (1926-1984) was born in Los Angeles California to Dorothy and Warren Betts.  Warren managed a lumber company.

Bob Betts was an orchid grower for Clint McDade, the owner of Rivermont Orchids.  McDade's fame in the orchid world primarily came from his white Cattleya hybrids, particularly crosses of Cattleya Bow Bells.  According to Chadwick and Chadwick's The Classic Cattleyas (2006, Timber Press, pgs. 164-168), the most important C. Bow Bells cross was C. Bob Betts (C. Bow Bells x C. mossiae var. wagneri).  C. Bob Betts, registered by McDade in 1950, was the first Bow Bells cross to flower in the United States.  According to Chadwick and Chadwick (pg. 167), C. Bob Betts "became the most awarded white cattleya in the history of the [American Orchid] Society's judging with over 66 quality awards."  The Chadwicks explain that, despite tremendous effort to improve white cattleyas, the standard set by C. Bow Bells and C. Bob Betts has rarely been surpassed.  
The booming market for corsages between 1930-1960 generated a lot of interest in our beloved cattleyas.  Sandwiched in time between Knudson's seed growing technique (1922) and the development of meristem cloning (1964), the creation of white hybrids like C. Bob Betts mark an exciting moment in cattleya history. Hybridizers have also used C. Bow Bells to create scrumptiously colorful catts.  You can buy a piece of orchid history at a reasonable price from Orchids by Hausermann (but it looks as if it's going to take up much more space on your growing table than your average grocery store catt).  Sadly, I didn't find much information about Bob Betts, but the flower after which he is named stands as an undeniable image of beauty.   


BoMomma said...

Where did you get your info on Bob Betts? I think you have it wrong. I worked for Bob Betts in Houston from when I was about 7 or 8 until mid-teens. He was from England. He had the largest orchid farm in North America back then. He had a smaller greenhouse that he had flasks on the wall where he would mix different types of orchids and create his own. My job was cleaning pots...the old coot was always swapping out pots on them and he had several large greenhouses. His wife was named Davey. Bob died when I was around 19 or 20 (about 34 years ago). Davey died sometime after that. They had no children.

BoMomma said...

Here's a link I found to him in a newspaper back then.,5742189

Also, that picture doesn't look like Mr. Betts. Of course, I knew him when he was really old. Mr. Betts was probably about 5'0" or maybe even less, believe it or not. Davey was taller. They were both very hard for me to understand because they had a thick English accent. He picked Houston he told me because of the humidity. I hate to see someone else getting credit for Mr. Betts' work. I really don't like it. Those folks treated me like I was their kid and I have nothing but fond memories of them.

BoMomma said...

His is the last one on this list - Born on November 16, 1905 and died March 8, 1981

I'm positive you've got some bad information on this.

Jacqui Knighton said...

Bob Betts was my great uncle - his brother Reg was my grandfather. He was from Sussex in England and did have a daughter Judy who now lives in California. I never met him as he left England even before my mother was born. I understand he came home when my mother was a baby (she was born in 1931) but as far as I know he never came back to the UK again.
I don't know very much about him but as far back as I remember I knew this great uncle lived in Houston and was something big in orchids. I also know his wife's name was Davey. My grandfather did go to visit him in Houston not long before he died. I am in touch with his daughter Judy.
As I said, I don't know very much about him, but he was definitely from England and went to Houston as a young man. Jacqui Knighton, Gravesend, Kent, England

Hobbit House said...

I knew Bob Betts and his wife growing up in Houston. They lived in the Spring Branch area and he had greenhouses of orchids. I bought my first Cattleya orchids from him when I was a teenager. His wife did the propagation of seeds in flasks and Petri dishes. I'm retired now and just recently purchased the C. Bob Betts 'White Lightning' (Bow Bells x mossiae) from Hausermann Orchids.