MY AIMS . . .
For a long time now, I have been thinking that a couple of decades of D. speciosum breeding has resulted in some incredible looking plants. Big heavy flowers and good arrangements, often with some great shapes. In the hands of really top-flight growers, these man made plants using selective parents have been nothing short of astonishing. This selective breeding is still really in its infancy.
As an ANOS native orchid judge with 25 years experience, I feel I can make certain observations with at least some degree of authority. Many things being produced now cannot be faulted on a Judges Score Sheet, no arguments there, I agree with that.
But is there anyone else out there who feels, like I do, that we are now ending up with a bunch of similar looking ho hum, boring plants on the show benches? My feeling is that, while we are getting good-looking D. speciosums, we have sacrificed the individuality of many of its varieties. We are loosing the interesting facets of those varieties. All the traits that, when considered individually, contribute to this wonderful D. speciosum species, are disappearing.
I would guess that 80% of all the young seedlings and young plants, born in the past decade, would have a gene pool that only represents a hand full of well-known named cultivars. Chief among these are a half dozen forms of var. curvicaule, and Daylight Moon is of course leading the way. Look up the catalogue of most nurseries dealing with D. speciosum and you will see it listed as a parent. Breeders use it because they can hang the FCC award on their lists. They should not be condemned for that.
I have a nice piece of Daylight Moon. I consider it to be one of the finest D. speciosums I have ever seen and very deserving of its FCC award. I would never have a bush house without a piece of Daylight in it. My issue is that an excessive number of sibling crosses have been made with it as one parent. Huge numbers of hybrids have it in their background. From the hybrid perspective this is understandable. But I wonder if we have gone over board with the use of var. curvicaule in D. speciosum breeding? By this I mean the creation of intervarietal speciosums.
Variety curvicaule lends itself superbly to the show bench. The flowers are not dainty; they are tough and heavy textured. No long thin petals and sepals here. Not often does it cross its lateral sepals either. A shorter, broader labellum nearly always displays itself to best advantage as well. And the arrangement? Mostly just beautiful rows of lined up blooms staring out at you, saying look at me.
You can stuff a specimen plant in the back of your horseless carriage, you can then bounce up and down over the bumps, and you can toss it on the show bench without damage and anther caps still in place. No wonder it is so popular! Now consider this. Have you ever tried to get a specimen plant of var. grandiflorum, or var. hillii, or even var. speciosum to a show in good condition? What a nightmare that can be. Var. curvicaule is without these issues in the main.
However, I believe the show bench is indeed suffering from an over abundance of var. curvicaule look-a-likes. Mostly in shades of off white to cream and the occasional light yellow but mostly var. curvicaule shaped. Many have var. pedunculatum mixed up with them; similar colouration mostly, and contributing not much more then raising the flowers above the leaves which top the shorter bulbs introduced by that dwarf variety. But detracting from the var. curvicaule shape in many, many cases.
NEW BLOOD NEEDED
The aim of my breeding is to stick much more within the bounds of each variety of D. speciosum. Please do not think I am against intervarietals, as they are known, when it comes to breeding. I have made them myself and my catalogue certainly reflects this. I have stuck with just two of my own curvicaules. Both of these have traits not possessed by the better-known ones. I have used Misty Mountain as well, which is a very well known cultivar, because it has some real good points I like.
I could have used Daylight Moon. It was flowering on each occasion when I was crossing plants. I could have hung the FCC tag on my catalogue list. I could have used two AM curvicaules in my collection also. But many nurserymen have done all that . . . the market is indeed flooded. Chase these intervarietals if you like them, they are pretty damn good. Me? I am all about bringing some other kinds of straight curvicaules into the native orchid world, something a bit different.
My big passion is for the deep yellows and golds of var. grandiflorum. The only other type I bring to the mix is a few of the fantastic stumpy types from the Blackdown Tableland. Some of these are as good in colour as any grandiflorum and have a lot to offer. Not a lot of growers know much about this var. blackdownense. I will be attempting to teach such growers about them in the years ahead. Keep watching the catalogue as grandfather time marches along.
Var. speciosum has been watered down a little by the genes brought into them by mixing curvicaule with them. Again, we are getting show winners with them, but you have a mighty job trying to pick what might be in a plant on the bench. You might not worry about this but I certainly do. My theory is that var. speciosum is best kept within itself.
Poor old Windermere has been done to death in the past decade. I have used it myself once or twice. It might have been crossed with a gum tree for all I know, such is its popularity. We must inject new blood into the prevailing thinking or we will soon succumb to the they all look alike syndrome. I would much prefer that we concentrate on var. speciosum crossed just with var. speciosum for a decade or so. Leave curvicaule genes out of var. speciosum breeding for the same time span. Breed var. curvicaule within itself by all means.
My catalogue reflects this thinking I believe, mostly by trying to produce the best whites. But there are some great yellows in var. speciosum you realise, and these must not be neglected either. Var. speciosum is a beautiful thing to behold. I for one am going to try and keep it a little bit more on the exclusive side.
A look at my catalogue will reveal a lot of new parents that very few of you have heard of. They are the result of 35 years of hard slog. So many long trips to every part of the range of D. speciosum. Tens of thousands of flowering plants have received the hard gaze. Just a handful have made the hyper jump to the bush house. Many that have made it were later culled out when they just failed to meet the standard I am setting. Of the remainder, just a few have made it to the breeding stage. Other growers have used a few of my plants and the clonal names you associate with those growers have been some of my own finds. I am proud to say that, it means someone with knowledge has backed up my choices.
To finish up these ramblings, we are already seeing that the intervarietal section at a lot of shows is the biggest section under the D. speciosum flag. Its time we level things up a bit. There will always be a special place for Intervarietals but I fear it will be at the expense of pure varieties themselves. This should not happen. Holly hell, am I starting to sound like Mrs Hitlers young boy, what was his name?