Monday, January 31, 2011

St. Louis Revelations

Paph. Maudiae 'Bankhouse' AM/AOS (Windy Hill)
The St. Louis Orchid Show had so many highlights it's hard to know where to start, but the biggest news was that three members of our Orchid Society won AOS awards. That's huge. Our Society won Best Society Exhibit and several of our members raked in ribbons. I also showed my first plant (B. Little Stars). It had obvious errors and I knew it had no hope, but it was a great experience nonetheless, and it kindled a sense of competitiveness that's made me think about my orchid collection in a different way.

C. Drumbeat 'Heritage' HCC/AOS
The Orchid Show coincided with the opening of the Missouri Botanical Garden's Orchid Exhibit, which runs through March. If you live within a 200 mile radius there's no excuse not to go. It's amazing! 

But the exhibit gave me a lot to ponder. How many Cattleyas do I really need? My mini-Catts are unassuming, but how many standard-sized Catts can I realistically grow and flower well? And if multiple exhibitors show massive specimens of Bc. Maikai 'Mayumi' HCC/AOS, perhaps that's a strong clue that my tiny version with six pseudobulbs isn't a ticket to orchid show success. 

Most of the orchids I've successfully bloomed are Paphiopedilums. I came home from St. Louis with a box of a dozen super gorgeous Paphs. from Windy Hill Gardens. They look so lush, healthy, and big. Most were blooming-size or near-blooming-size plants, but all of them take up less space than a few of my Cattleyas (Cattleyas that are years from blooming). Do you see where I'm going with this? 

I've seen the future. The future is slipper orchids. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pink Dawn

"Wolverines!!" At least that's what I think Griffin is saying in this photo right before the attack. Pinky the chihuahua parachuted into town during a December visit. Pinky pushed her pinko propaganda on the kitties but Griffin rose up, pretended to drink some deer blood (Trixie's strawberry shake leftovers), and attacked. Longtime Cats and Catts readers know about Griffin's self-designated role as defender of the Homeland and protector of the treats. The other cats hid upstairs in the metaphorical Colorado mountains, but Griffin confronted the Enemy. Did Pinky pose a threat to the Cats and Catts food supply? It's hard to say one way or another but, if there's another communist animal invasion, I always want Griffin by my side.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Abe Vigoda RIP

By Trixie

Abe Vigoda died November 12, 2010.  It is hard to explain the joy that my little betta brought to my life, but I wanted to bring some closure to the death of my beloved pet, and pay tribute to a flirty little guy who loved me.

 My childhood was filled with generic goldfish, but the relationship I developed over the 19 months with Abe Vigoda was very special.  He greeted me with "Jazz Hands" every time I walked into the office. He gave me kisses, he blew happy bubbles.  I was truly happy watching him swim around his tank.  I spent countless hours, mindlessly watching his happy laps.

I tried to replace Abe with a different betta about a month after his death, but it didn't take. She had a very different disposition, and didn't seem to or one way or the other if I was in the room.  She was a greedy girl, just like our cat, Griffin.

She soon moved to my office, and now greets people every day. Her personality is still very food driven, but she gets lots of attention from a variety of people, and I have begun to engage her in "Jazz Hands."  Her name has changed several times. First, she was Mrs. Greer.  Then she became Mrs.  T.  Right now, she is in between names, but has a full life.  She has the cool quality of chewing her food so loudly you can hear her crunch, like a dog eating a biscuit.  I pity the fool who gets between Mrs T and her food pellets.

I miss my fish every day.  I have moved his  tank from my office, and but it in a cupboard, I have looked at other fish at Pet World, but I am not sure I am ready to risk bringing another fish home that doesn’t fulfill my emotional needs. I realize Abe Vigoda was a one in a million fish, but I hoe to someday find another fish that brings me such joy.
RIP Abe Vigoda. You are missed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

White Catt Attack

Orchids inevitably create a good mood, but that doesn't mean that the orchid world isn't without its sadnesses and difficult times. A recent death in our Orchid Society was a lousy way to start the new year. Ron Daly generously bequethed to the society his entire collection of 300 orchids. We decided to hold a sale and silent auction, and Bird's Botanicals graciously offered the space. It's a bittersweet affair to sell someone's orchid collection, and the final prices never reflect the true value of plant.

I thought about all of this during my bargain hunting. Cats and Catts readers know that I sometime show a lack of restraint at plant sales and auctions. I think I held it together on Sunday. Maybe. The twenty-one plants I brought home were about eleven more than Trixie anticipated and about twenty-one more than I have room for. The plants for sale were mostly Phals and standard-sized Catts, so I focused on the Phals due to space issues. This prompted a new member of our Society to remark "You must be a Phal guy," and then I told her about my high kill ratio. But, if I want to grow orchids successfully as a general goal, I need to know how to grow a Phaleonopsis. The orchid sale was a perfect chance to pick up some Phals in different stages of growth to find out what makes them happy. Following my original plan, I assiduously avoided the large-flowered Cattleyas.

C. Bob Betts (C. Bow Bells x C. mossiae var. wagneri)
And then I saw the C. Bob Betts, one of the most famous white Cattleyas, and I threw my plan out the window. You can read all about C. Bob Betts in a post I wrote about a year ago and you can get a sense of why I was so thrilled to get it. C. Artic Star 'Snow Queen' came home with me as well. Bob needed a friend, right? Now I just have to find a place for them. Wish me luck.       

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bean the Hunter

Today, the window shook and a strange noise came from the orchid room.  What did Griffin knock over this time?  I went inside and found Bean stalking a massive flock of birds.  Hoards of birds filled out the trees in our backyard, creating an eerie scene reminiscent of late October or November.  A dozen at a time, they dove in front of the orchid room window to feed.

Bean and I discussed it and neither of us had any doubt that -- were it not for the pane of glass -- Bean would have slaughtered and eaten countless birds.  I read on the Internet that cats kill trillions upon billions of song birds every year.  But with this kind of audacious avian display, can you really blame the cats?   

Friday, January 14, 2011

Orchid Sale and Auction!

Live in the Kansas City area?  If so, don't miss the sale of the year at Bird's Botanicals.  This Sunday, we'll be selling and auctioning from an impressive list of Cattleyas and Phals.  A collection of over 200 orchids was bequeathed to the Orchid Society of Greater Kansas City from a long-time member who sadly passed away last month.  The plants are listed here, and you can read about my last orchid auction adventure here.  I hope to show a little more restraint this Sunday, but I'm not making any promises.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Very Cold Frame

Our weather forecast for tomorrow calls for a high temperature of about 12 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind-chill factor dipping down to -20 F.  With the cold frame (right) and the rest of the outside under a foot or more of snow, it's time to review some cold weather safety precautions.

We recommend that you leverage the heat of your kitties and sprinkle them liberally around your sleeping area.  Take care to make sure your feet get extra coverage, and don't forget your hat and scarf.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lan Lan's Hard Knock Life

Lan Lan with bouquets of assorted cut flowers
December was a great month for cut flowers in the Cats and Catts house because Trixie was starring in a community theater production of "Annie."  I say "starring" not because she played a lead role but because she played several roles and was integral to the overall success of the musical.  She did awesome!  A star is born!

In turn, Lan Lan and I got to enjoy the flowers she received on opening night.  I saw the production on three occasions and -- as the consummate Stage Door Johnny -- brought flowers each time.  Were the flowers really for Trixie?  Yes, but in terms of the time spent staring at them and fussing over them, I think Lan Lan and I enjoyed the flowers more than anyone else.  Bean only cares about orchids.  Riley tried to eat the raffia and greenery.  Flowers don't dispense treats, so Griffin was completely disinterested.

"Annie" has given the house more than an excuse to have buckets of flowers.  The songs are easily adaptable to cute cat songs ("NYC" as "Little Bean," just think about it....) and, when the cats misbehave, I threaten to send them to Miss Hannigan's orphanage. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Brachypetalum Hybrids

Brachypetalum -- Church of the Subgenus 
parts 6 & 7—Brachypetalum Hybrids

by Selena Sabine 

Bean sniffs Paph. Triple Bella
 Brian, the Cats and Catts patriarch, is ill and lying down on the couch, so I’ve instructed Riley, Griffin, and Lan Lan to position themselves on his body so he can’t get up.  Lan Lan has his ankles pinned, Griffin is resting her full weight on his lower back, and Riley has the head and neck region covered.  Now, with this temporary peace, I can finish the Brachypetalum Report.  First, let’s have a quick review:
Brachy Species

Nomenclature Notes
Flower Notes


Paph. bellatulum

Beautiful, enchanting; The enchanting slipper orchid

White with burgundy spotting; round flower, weak stem

Paph. concolor

Uniformed color, of one color; The one-colored slipper orchid

Yellow with maroon spotting
Paph. godefroyae

Named after Mme. Godefroy, orchid enthusiast; Also listed and sold as Paph. leucochilum

White with burgundy blotches, strong stem
Paph. niveum
White; The snow-white slipper orchid
Entirely white with minute purple stippling near the staminode


Again, Paph. thaianum is not on this list because it’s too new and we don’t know much about it.  Also, the award number listed includes cultural awards and British orchid awards, so it’s a bigger number than the AOS flower award totals listed in earlier reports on the individual species (because I assume everyone is fact-checking these reports with the proverbial fine-toothed cat brush).

Now, what happens when we mix these species together or with other, non-Brachy, species?  Hopefully, we get a better looking and better growing orchid.  The concept of hybrid vigor explains how the best qualities of the parents manifest themselves in the offspring.  Award data – as an imperfect index of plant importance and quality – can help narrow the bedazzling number of Brachypetalum hybrids.  There are ten primary hybrids that have earned more than thirty-five awards (listed below). 

Top Ten Brachypetalum Primary Hybrids

Parent Species
Hybrid Name
Awards listed in OrchidWiz

Paph. bellatulum x Paph. ferrieanum

Paph. bellatulum x Paph. delenatii

Vanda M. Pearman
Paph. bellatulum x Paph. niveum

Paph. bellatulum x Paph. ciliolare

Paph. bellatulum x Paph. glaucophyllum

Charles Sladden
Paph. concolor x Paph. bellatulum

Paph. bellatulum x Paph. godefroyae

S. Gratrix
Paph. concolor x Paph. godefroyae

Paph. godefroyae x Paph. niveum
Paph. niveum x Paph. ferrieanum


Some Cats and Catts readers know that these are “primary hybrids” because they involve two species plants; we can only trace the lineage back to two plants.  When we involve a third ancestor in our plant breeding we suddenly walk into the world of “complex hybrids.”  For instance, Paph. S. Gratrix is a primary hybrid involving two species: Paph. bellatulum and Paph. godefroyaePaph. Conco-bellatulum is a primary hybrid involving – you guessed it – Paph. concolor and Paph. bellatulum.  But Paph. Matrix (Paph. S. Gratrix x Paph Conco-bellatulum), introduced by Nick Tannaci in 2001, is a complex hybrid.  The breeding options expand with every generation of new hybrid.  There are hundreds of Brachy complex hybrids, and many have neat-sounding names that could substitute for race horses.  I’ve created a handy chart so you can get a sense of the relational naming strategy and how these plants fit together as a group.  To keep it very simple, let’s focus on ten that are either in the Cats and Catts collection or on Lan Lan’s Paphiopedilum wish list.

Complex Hybrid

Plant Parents

Paph. godefroyae and Paph. Psyche
Bella Lucia

Paph. bellatulum and Paph. Wellesleyanum
Double Shot

Paph. Virgo and Paph. Psyche
Double Trix

Paph. S. Gratrix and Paph. Double Shot
Double Grey

Paph. Double Shot and Paph. Greyi
Lucky Bells

Paph. Bella Lucia and Paph. bellatulum
Hiro Luna

Paph. Bella Lucia and Paph. S. Gratrix
Triple Trix

Paph. Double Trix and Paph. Psyche
Triple Bella

Paph. Bella Lucia and Paph. Triple Trix
Muriel Constance
Paph. Greyi and Paph. bellatulum
Sierra Lace
Paph. Virgo and Paph. Psyche

I’m going to beg for vanilla-flavored treats in just a moment, but I want to tell you where you can buy these things before I close up my report.  Looking at our “Kitties Approved!” list, we can vouch for three vendors for high-quality Brachy species and hybrids: The Orchid Inn Ltd., Windy Hill Gardens, and enLightened Orchids.

That’s it!  Thanks for reading our too-brief tour of the Brachypetalum subgenus.  Now, onto those treats….