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.   

Friday, November 12, 2010

Killing for Treats

Sabine woke up from her nap in a shower of sunlight.  So, she decided to take another nap.  When she woke up a second time it was with the cold realization of what she had to do.

“Killing for treats,” she though, “all in a day’s work.”

Bean studied the attack plan again. 

It seemed surefire.  Everyday, about three naps from sundown, they feed the frogs. Bean noted that this usually causes a brief period of chaos.  The frogs emerge from their hiding places in the vivarium to chow on the crickets, and Riley and Griffin take their places along the glass.  For Riley and Griffin, it’s a futile exercise in wishful thinking.  Bob, the most gregarious of the frogs, taunts Riley into batting at the glass.  Bean rolled her eyes nearly time she saw the charade.

Bean suspected Lan Lan felt the same way, because she took advantage of the frog feeding frenzy, too.  It was the same path past: down the stairs, past the cut flowers, into the bathroom, up on sink, and then that plaintive look.  Lan Lan’s eyes searched the room for someone, anyone, to turn on the water faucet so she could drink.  That look, Bean noted, drew her focus outward.  Based on Bean’s reading of the surveillance footage, she would never hear the sneak-up, and she would make an easy mark once she went for the water.  Bean would pounce with her claws out and catch Lan Lan unawares.  Easy treats.

Bean calculated the number of naps she needed before the big event.  While sharpening her claws one last time, Bean pondered the intangibles.  What if this is one of the rare days they don’t feed the frogs?  Speaking of rare days, what if Lan Lan isn’t thirsty for faucet water?  What if Griffin begs for treats at the last minute and throws everything off?

“Griffin!”  Bean thought, “she always messes things up.”  And that was her last thought before drifting off to sleep for the first of five naps.


Three weeks ago, Riley approached Bean with a deal.

“I want a quick hit.  Clean.  No way of tracing it back to me.”

“That’s what I do,” Bean said.  “I’m a professional.”

Riley peered at the water dish to see Bean’s claws reflect off the stainless steel bowl.

“And I expect a professional’s reward.” she added.

“Oh, I have plenty of treats,” Riley said.

Bean’s claws retracted.

“Crunchy, soft, salmon, seafood medley, turkey delight…They keep giving me treats, but you know I don’t like ‘em,” Riley assured.

“Well, this all sounds fine,” Bean asked, “but why this kitty?  The house is full of bad kitties.”

“It’s the frogs, man,” he said, “I can’t attack and harass both Bob and Lan Lan at the same time.  I need support.  There are only so many naps in a day, you know?”
Bean gave a nod of understanding.

“So, you’re outsourcing your bad behavior?”

“Basically,” he affirmed.


Bean awoke from her final nap and jumped down from the couch.  She made her way past the flower stand with the Sherry Baby and crouched.

“Any minute now,” she thought.

She heard the tell-tale sound of crickets falling into the feeding cup a few moments later, but where was Lan Lan.

Everything was moving too fast and Bean was losing her window of opportunity.  Out of nowhere, the smell of pure joy hit her nose.


Bean looked up at the red flowers of the Sherry Baby.  There was no way, she concluded.  The flower count just isn’t there and, besides, the Sherry Baby gives off more of a chocolate scent.  Bean moved toward the odor and moved away from her outpost.  Vanilla was her favorite treat, and the smell pulled her toward the kitchen in spite of herself.  By this point, Griffin and Riley were likely watching the vivarium.  But where was Lan Lan? 

Rounding the corner, Bean found the answers to all of her questions.  Lan Lan was licking her lips and glowing with satisfaction.  Bean skirted past Lan Lan and, with her cover blown and the job ruined, scrambled across the floor to the styrofoam cup.  Maybe there was some vanilla left, she thought. Her dreams crashed when she reached the cup.  A teasing amount of vanilla malt remained at the lip of the styrofoam, not enough to satisfy and just enough to make you want more.  Curses!  By trying to obtain treats in a bad and unethical way, Bean missed out on her favorite treat of all.

After she jumped up on the couch, but before she drifted off to sleep, she thought, “There has to be a lesson in here somewhere.” 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November Trio

Upstairs, Lan Lan has a better spot for sunning, but don't tell these three weirdos.  November brings us ever-shortening days, so you have to take advantage of the sunshine while you can (wrapping yourself up in the drape is purely optional).

The days are shortening, but there's a lot going on in the Cats and Catts house.  I bought a four-gallon sprayer that's made watering the plants much easier.  I saw the beginnings of a bloom spike on my Phal. Nobby's Amy, and B. Little Stars is showing signs of action. 

Outside, I'm making preparations for the big winter shutdown: tree trimming, composting leaves, and  mulching the daylily garden.  Garden work in November is a little dreary because the air is thinner and snow season feels immanent.  On the plus side, I don't have to use bug spray.

There's more to come in November, so visit us soon!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

We're Now At 22% Tsui

This photo shows Riley walking past a tray of Paphiopedilums (most are Brachys) from The Orchid Inn.  A sizable percentage of my collection is from Oak Hills Gardens, but I'm buying more and more from the Orchid Inn Ltd.  Now, Sam Tsui is behind nearly 1/4 of my orchid collection.  I'm just bananas about those Brachypetalums

Sam Tsui's visit to our orchid society was super exciting.  Basically, he's one most successful and innovative Phaphipedilum breeders in the world.  I skipped the Beginner Group so I could hover around him and pick up wisdom through osmosis.  I had the opportunity to talk to him about new trends in Brachypetalum breeding and the pursuit of a Brachy with a pure red dorsal.  Sam opened his laptop and showed me slides of his award winners while I asked him absolutely stupid questions like "What's the difference between 'Double Trix' and 'Triple Trix'"?  It was awesome.

Sam's talk -- "What's New in Multifloral Paphiopediulms" -- was fantastic.  You can find a full summary & some video here.  He showed us the new frontiers in breeding Paph. rochildianum and Paph. sanderianum, but I don't see too many of them in my future.  I like looking at the pictures of slipper orchids with the long trailing petals but, with a house of four cats, I just don't see those petals lasting very long.  Those cute Brachypetalums, however, are another story altogether.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frog Friday! San Francisco

We now have six frogs in our vivarium!  Trixie brought home our new fire-bellied toad, San Francisco, from the good people at Pet World.  We base our naming strategy on our favorite movie Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969), starring Natalie Wood and Robert Culp.  Horst, our fifth frog, is named after the German tennis instructor with whom Carol has an affair.  San Francisco is named after the woman with whom Bob has an affair when travels to the Bay Area for business. In the movie, the nameless woman is featured for only brief flash, running into the eponymous quad late in the film, and saying "hi Bob" with a flirty smile before walking past them.  Carol reads the situation with complete clarity, so when Alice asks "Who was that?" Carol answers "San Francisco" without skipping a beat.  Soon thereafter, we get the scene where Ted (played by Elliot Gould) wants to order a glass of water for Alice at the fast food drive-thru, but they keep trying to sell him bonus burgers and the like.  Riveting stuff, but I digress.

In one of the funnier lines, Bob defends San Francisco's intelligence: "she has a Master's from Berkeley." Much of the humor in Bob's line derives from its facial absurdity, the idea that possession of an advanced academic degree is proof of intelligence, even though Bob probably truly thinks that way.  Likewise, our San Francisco seems to be very thoughtful and open-minded -- an indigo frog, if you will -- but Horst will likely remain the brains behind the commune. Bob, meanwhile, will continue to gorge himself on crickets.

Have Trixie and I seen this movie too much?  Perhaps, but maybe you haven't seen it enough.  So, put it in your Netflix queue and give some thought as to what we should name our next frog. (Emilio the waiter?)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Cats and Catts!

It’s been over a year since Cats and Catts has been online.  Wow!  The blog has been rewarding in so many ways.  It started as a way to celebrate the kitties and to document my growing orchid obsession.  My two key inspirations were my brother, who was blogging before it was called that.  He repeated the wisdom “if you’re going to have a blog, you need to blog your passion.”  I was also influenced by two twin girls who made clay cat figurines in Civil War attire.  My brother the blogger sent me the article and we both enjoyed their explanation for their hobby, which was something like, “Well, we like cats, and we like learning about the Civil War, so it [making clay figurines of cats dressed like Civil War combatants] seemed like the natural thing to do.”  Indeed.

I like cats.  I like orchids.  Ergo, Cats and Catts.    

It’s safe to say that I’m still figuring things out in the brave new world of cat/orchid blogging.  I started with the “cat plus orchid” formula, but it’s grown in some unexpected directions.  We’ve had five video features, thirteen Frog Fridays, and over 100 pictures of cats and/or orchids.  Hardware difficulties have slowed down our video production, but we have a lot of new content waiting in the wings.

Every new follower (we have three now!), every comment, and every guest kitty post has made Cats and Catts a joy to produce.  Thanks!