Monday, September 20, 2010

"And It's Calm Air Over Sunbeam, By a Nose"

 At least that's what I would expect the racehorse announcer to say if he were to look at my paint choices.  Or, if my paint choices were in a horse race.  Regardless, Sunbeam was much too yellow, so Trixie and I decided to go with a more muted color scheme.  Remember, this was a Labor Day project that I envisioned finishing in 48-72 hours.  I don't care that I already used the yellow - I just view it as practice.  How do you like Calm Air?

The horse race comparison is somewhat apt because I'm racing to finish this before I leave for Louisville Kentucky at the end of the week.  Louisville is home to both the Kentucky Derby and the Mid-America Orchid Congress Fall Meeting.  I'm attending the latter.

In other news, my Miltassia is starting to show off and Griffin remains a problem.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Frog Friday! Sunbeam Style

Riley reaches over the Philodendron to bat at the frogs.  I'm painting the orchid room Sunbeam yellow and taking off the popcorn ceiling.  It's a Labor Day weekend project that's stretched into the week.  As a result, we've moved the orchids to the kitchen area and the frogs in the office.  This has given the cats unprecedented access to the frog vivarium and Riley, especially, is taking advantage of it.

I don't have natural home decorating impulses, so sometimes it takes some kind of interference or change for me to realize the ideal place for everything.  The reviews are in and the new location for the frogs is a big hit.  They're staying.  Riley will keep them in line.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thursday News Watch

Here's the orchid news that caught my interest this week:

* I recently stumbled upon this fantastic orchid blog from Gothenburg Sweden.  Check out this super cool (pun unavoidable) growing set-up designed especially for cool growers.  Those look like very happy plants!

* About Orchids has a nice post about Kefersteinia.  I was just reading about this genus in Frowine's Miniature Orchids.  As always, stunning pictures from the About Orchids crew.

* Are orchids still fashionable and coveted by celbrities? "Donna [Karan] likes orchids" her associate said.  So does Beyonce, apparently. 

* Here's a disturbing post about orchid poaching in Peru.

* Here's a more upbeat piece about an orchid enthusiast in Australian who compares orchid care to healthy relationships.  It's a nice sentiment, and we'll set aside the fact that some orchids thrive on neglect.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First and Last Blooms

 The photo on the left displays the last daylily bloom of the season in the Cats and Catts house.  It's an H. fulva plant, the most common daylily in the world, but it proves its utility here by giving us some color so late in the season.  This close-up doesn't convey the loneliness of this flower.  It's time for the daylilies to close down the flower shop for the year and recharge for 2011.

Elsewhere in the plant kingdom, things are just getting started.  I took the photo on the right today, too.  My Miltassia Charles Marsden Fitch 'Izumi' -- a favorite in my collection -- is showing off its first blooms.  It looks so much more healthy and robust than it did less than a year ago

Many orchids, with their Fall/Winter bloom habit, are a perfect way to compensate for the colder weather here in Zone 5. And the daylilies will be here again before we know it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day!

Griffin, Riley, and the rest of the Cats and Catts family wish you and your loved ones a Happy Labor Day!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Case Against Buying More

The deeper I go into the orchid world, the more opportunities I have to buy orchids.  Just this week, I was hit with two amazing opportunities from my Orchid Society.  The first offer included a long list of hard-to-find species that next month's speaker will have for sale.  The other offer was for $5 near-blooming Cattleya hybrids.  How could I resist?

We had our first evenings in the low-50s this week, so I've started to bring in some of the orchids in from their summering.  Doing this has made me realize how much they've grown and how much juggling I'm going to have to do to group plants with similar watering and light needs.  The photo above doesn't include my five largest plants, and it doesn't include any of my slipper orchids, which now outnumber the Cattleyas if I'm not mistaken.  This put the orchid bargains in a new light.  It's hard to pass on $5 Cattleyas of any size, but the act of deleting the email offers led me to think harder about the economics of my orchid collection.  Here are a few concepts I've been twisting around in my head.  Economics is way out of my depth, much like Greek mythology.  But I saw "Tango and Cash" about twenty-five years ago, so I'm not completely ignorant of the world of economics.  The sound was off, but I think I got the idea.

Hidden Direct Costs 
The plant is only five dollars but if it's bare-root you need to add a dollar or two to the cost because you'll need a clay pot and potting medium.  Then we need to look at water and watts.  I never thought about watering as a cost when I only had five orchids.  Now, I realize it all adds up.  Also, light is a limited resource in my growing set-up.  I have my high-light Brassavolas and Cattleyas in the front and my Paphiopedilums behind them, under a mix of regular florescent bulbs and CFLs.  Another plant takes me closer to needing another 40W CFL bulb.

Opportunity Costs
It's easier to add to your collection when you have a greenhouse, but windowsill growers need to be a little snobbier.  With the $10 I might spend on the two catts, I have to think "what else could I spend that money on?"  If the $10 was already designated as orchid money you could think of it as 1/6th of a truly special orchid, or 1/10th of an orchid show registration fee.  I heard a judge in our Orchid Society say something to the effect of "I think it's better to learn to grow a few types of orchids well than to grow multiple types in a mediocre way."  The flip side of this, of course, is that it's hard to learn what orchids you like and what orchids work well for your growing conditions if you don't experiment with different genera and species.  The $5 Cattleya might come in handy if your collection is full of Phals, but spatial constraints have made my want list more and more specific.

Do you remember when you had two or three plants and you could do all of your watering under the sink in five or ten minutes?  I know.  It's becoming a fading memory for me, too.  Each little addition to the family is a new mouth to feed and a new set of roots to irrigate.  And they grow up so fast!  The plant will eventually need repotting.  I will eventually need to locate a good spot for it outside when spring arrives.  I love repotting as much as the next guy, but the $5 Cattleya is less of a bargain if I place a dollar amount on my time.  I would rather stare at them than fuss with them, especially since the amount of time I spend on the former leaves little time for the latter.

The next time you get that orchid-hoarder impulse, stop and think about these downstream economic consequences.  The orchids already in your collection will thank you. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The House of Orchids

I like house music and orchids, so one of my random Google searches took me to "The House of Orchids," a poem by George Sterling.  Sterling was a key figure in the early-20th century Northern California bohemian scene.  He helped develop an artist colony in Carmel and ran around with folks like Jack London and Nora May French.  San Francisco has a park named after him and Berkeley named Sterling Street in his honor.  I had never heard of him before.

Not being much of a reader of poetry, I have no profound insights into The House of Orchids.  I think he really liked orchids.  My literal-minded reading of the poem has him walking through a greenhouse and tripping out on the various flower forms and colors.  Now that I know he was based in Northern California, I can picture a lot of cool-growing Cologenes and Miltoniopsis in the collection.  I envision a harlequin Phalenopsis upon reading the line "And thou, most weird companion, thou dost seem Some mottled moth of Hell."  And I think we've all seen an orchid flower "Red as Adonis' wound it seems."

At times, the poem felt like a Rush song (compare, for instance, "A ghost of fragrance whose elusive hands Touch not the hidden harp of memory" with "As a mad and immortal man, Escape these Caves of Ice, for I have dined on honeydew and drunk the Milk of Paradise.") 

Other moments of the poem fell outside my ken.  Like, exactly how pallid was Aphrodite's cheek?   What does "Where white Astarte strays" mean?  What's "Antares' light?"  It's all Greek to me.

But "The House of Orchids" has moments that will resonate with any orchid enthusiast, like:

"For mystery hath lordship here, and ye
Seem spirit-flowers born to startle man

With imitations of eternity
And hints of what the flowers of Heaven may be."

Sterling, like Nora May French before him, committed suicide by drinking cyanide.  I think he might have found a reason to live had he surrounded himself with flowers, creating his own house of orchids.