Orchid News # 34

The road less traveled!
 by Milton O. Carpenter

Giants of the orchid world were plentiful in the South Florida of the mid 1960’s. Orchid hybridizers like Louis Vaughn with his pioneer work on Phalaenopsis, Gene and Norman Merkel of the firm Alberts and Merkel, and Bob Scully of Jones and Scully were at the top of a rather large group of experienced growers who were changing the orchid world. It was into this arena that I started my hybridizing trek and fortunately free from commercial restraint was able to choose “The Road Less Traveled”: or in my case, creating Cymbidium and Odontoglossum type hybrids which would grow and bloom well in tropical as well as temperate climates.
After forty years, I can assure you that there were many mistakes along the way. In fact, I once authored an article entitled “How to Kill Your Orchids”, which is still an Internet favorite. I have often thought I should do a program on “Frankensteins of the Orchid World” – otherwise known as “Milton’s Monsters! But after more than ten thousand hybrid attempts I am pleased to say that providence has granted me a few successes and those will be the subject of this paper.
It has been said that “no man is an island” and that is never more true than in my case. Starting first with Cymbidiums I made several visits to California to visit with and learn from notable growers there -- people like, Earnest Heatherington, Paul Gripp, Paul Miller, Lloyd DeGarmo, Mary Beau Ireland, Emma Menninger, and Andy Easton. Everyone there was eager to encourage me but had little or no true experience in growing or hybridizing Cymbidiums for a semi-tropical area like South Florida. My special thanks go to Andy Easton who was especially helpful with information regarding the various Cymbidium species, their places of origin and native climates.
At one time I had approximately thirty different Cymbidium species which came from warm or intermediate climates throughout the world. Of these, one species, Cymbidum ensifolium proved to be the most successful in producing progeny with the desired temperature tolerance. This species wants to bloom perfectly for us in the middle of the summer when our daytime temperatures are almost 100° Fahrenheit and night temperatures are approaching 80° Fahrenheit. Other desirable traits of this species are a delightful fragrance, erect inflorescence and particularly modest plant size. Flowers of ensifolium are small (approximately 1”) but those of its progeny can be substantially larger into the second generation as we shall see.
The first ensifolium hybrid we obtained (from Lloyd DeGarmo, I believe) was Cym. Peter Pan ‘Greensleeves’ (ensifolium x Miretta) and while it was sterile as a diploid (2n), [having the normal two sets of chromosomes], the tetraploid (4n) form which was created by Don Wimber was found to be fertile.
Most hybrids with Peter Pan were however, subject to producing “muddy” flower colors, a trait probably coming from using the “standard” form of ensifolium in making the hybrid. It is interesting to note that we have had a large plant of Cym. Peter Pan ‘Greensleeves’(2n), which stayed in bloom for more than 18 months, with new spikes continuously replacing those that were fading. The tetraploid form of this plant however, has never bloomed more than twice a year, regardless of plant size. We have found that many progeny of the crossing of Cym. ensifolium with a ‘standard’ winter blooming Cymbidium will produce progeny which lack an inheritance for specific “dating” as to flower initiation and thus can bloom at any time of the year!
The above stated blooming characteristic of the diploid and tetraploid forms, is true also of the second ensifolium hybrid we wish to discuss: Cymbidium Golden Elf ‘Sundust’. The difference here is that the diploid Golden Elf does produce progeny and being a “pure color” (no noticeable anthrocyanin in the flowers) opens the door for better colored hybrids. As in the Peter Pan hybrid, converting the Golden Elf ‘Sundust’ into a tetraploid produces a somewhat fuller flower with heavier substance and better lasting qualities, the latter of which is one of the shortcomings of these hybrids.
Cymbidium Florida Cracker ‘Topaz’ (Wild Colonial Boy x Golden Elf ‘Sundust’ 4n) is a new hybrid made by Andy Easton which is appropriately named. It loves our Florida climate, exhibits high color, is about 7.5 cm in flower size and has good erect spikes. The pod parent is itself 25% ensifolium.
Cymbidium Carpenter’s Golden Anniversary ‘Green Pastures’ HCC/AOS (Golden Elf ‘Sundust’ x Nellie Preston) is a fine example of “pure color” progeny from Golden Elf ‘Sundust’. Eighteen flowers per spike is quite an improvement from the five to seven flowers normally found on the species ensifolium grandparent.
Cymbidium Octoberfest (4n) (Golden Elf ‘Sundust’ (4n) x Red Beauty ‘Carmen’ (4n)) is a nice example of a high colored hybrid. It was originally made by the late Bartley Schwarz of Half Moon Bay, California and registered by him in 1991. This picture is from our re-make in 1997 using the tetraploid Golden Elf.
Several years ago Bartley sent me pollen of his FCC/AOS awarded standard Cymbidium Via Ambarino ‘Highland’ which had huge 15 cm. flowers and I immediately placed it on the diploid form of Golden Elf ‘Sundust’. I had about 300 plants of this about a year from blooming when I received an envelope in the mail from Bartley in which he enclosed a picture of this cross, which he had made a year before me, and without my knowledge he had named the cross for me! Neither of us knew the other had made this cross and a year later when my plants started to bloom, this one clone ‘Everglades Gold’ stood out above all the others. It likes to bloom in October and again in April for us, but can bloom any time during those months. With a natural spread of 10.7 cm., it is the largest flowered and the most beautiful second generation ensifolium hybrid we have seen. Cymbidium Milton Carpenter ‘Everglades Gold’ AM/AOS has been mericloned, is popular in Europe as well as the USA, and it is the only plant we have ever patented.
One of our early hybrids was Cym. Tender Love (parishii ‘Sanderae’ x ensifolium ‘album’) and it exhibited quite a variety of color in its various clones. Because parishii is considered one of the warmer growing, “standard” cymbidium species its combination with ensifolium has produced an extremely heat tolerant hybrid which can bloom at any time of the year and frequently three or four times a year on a single plant. Plant stature is small to medium in this cross and it has been an excellent parent.
Cymbidium Reverend Miriam Dulany ‘Prayer Warrior’ is a spectacular and unusually marked clone from the crossing of Tender Love ‘Aunt Miriam’ x Candy Floss ‘Spring Show’. Pollen from the latter parent was given to me by Andy Easton some years ago when he was still in New Zealand.
One of our best reds to date is Cym. Jungle King ‘Everglades’ AM/AOS which was made using the same Tender Love ‘Aunt Miriam’ with Dream Girl ‘Royale’ AM/AOS, made possible again because of pollen from a friend in California.
A few years ago I asked my friend Don Wimber how we could create a tetraploid plant of Cymbidium ensifolium. He suggested that I make a selfing of a good clone of the species, send him the pod, he would colchicine treat it, start the plants and send to me when ready to remove from the flask. We did this with a fine alba clone and a few years later received the flask with about 25 plants in it. We grew these up and found one which was obviously a tetraploid, which we named ‘Belle Glade’ This is a real step forward as we are now able to use a tetraploid ensifolium for the next generation of breeding, as we have done with these two crosses:
Cymbidium Chian-tzy Mascot (4n) (Golden Elf ‘Sundust’ (4n) x ensifolium ‘Belle Glade’ (4n)). This hybrid, originally made by Chian-tzy with a diploid, is predictably a “pure color” light yellow in our tetraploid cross and this should be a very important parent to build upon for the future. Quite small plant stature from the 75% ensifolium is a definite plus.
Cymbidium Memoria Lillian Padgett (4n) [Kusuda Shining ‘Brick’ (4n) x ensifolium ‘Belle Glade’ (4n)] is another new and exciting high color tetraploid, which we feel has tremendous potential as a parent of the future.
Some thirty or so years ago when planning a visit to Hawaii, I was told by a friend that I should visit U and learn about his work in breeding temperature tolerance into various intergeneric combinations within the Oncidiinae. Upon visiting him, he quickly convinced me that this was another area with tremendous potential and he promised to become my mentor. Goodale was an excellent correspondent, answering my every communication within the week and over a period of several years I amassed two large files of letters from him.
Hybridizing within the Oncidiinae was much more complex, with a variety of genera from which to choose but also with increased sterility dangers due to the different chromosome counts which could be encountered. I was especially pleased when, in 1982, at the urging of his wife Mae and myself, Goodale agreed to pen the book on “Creating Oncidiinae Intergenerics” This book, while now somewhat dated is the only complete tome on the subject, and the author is still the most experienced Oncidiinae hybridizer the world has known.
The goal here is to combine the beauty of the cool growing Odontoglossums (and Odontiodas) with various others within the Oncidiinae to improve their hardiness and temperature tolerance. Only very occasionally this was accomplished in the first generation as it usually took two or three generations to arrive at a satisfactory combination -- with many a poor cross along the way!
The Brazilian Miltonias were a subject of much hybridization and the most successful species, in spite of its single flowered inflorescence, proved to be Miltonia spectabilis. Quite variable, with many varieties from which to choose, ‘Moreliana’ was most often used. Goodale made this cross for us, sending us the seed pod, and the best one we bloomed was named Miltonia Seminole Blood ‘Everglades Chief’.
Made by Bob Hamilton of San Francisco California and registered by Everglades Orchids, Miltonia Darth Vader was a well designed cross of two very dark Brazilian Miltonias. The clone ‘Dark Pool’ is thought to be a tetraploid. The pod parent, made some years ago by Milton Warne of Hawaii, is still being grown in quantities in Europe for pot plant sales.
Bob, a microbiologist with a sterling reputation as a hybridizer within the Odontoglossum alliance, used the tetraploid Miltonia Bluntii ‘Stormy Weather’ with Miltonia clowesii ‘Rodco’ (4n) to create Miltonia Xenia (4n) and large strikingly marked flowers resulted. These tetraploid Miltonias exhibit much longer lasting qualities and heavier flower substance.
Combining Brassia with Miltonia produces easy growing flowers of large size and open shape. Miltassia Erachne, a Miltassia which I had obtained from The Beall Company in Seattle Washington showed great promise for color and its combination with Miltonia Seminole Blood was a real eye-catcher. Miltassia Royal Robe ‘Jerry’s Pick’ HCC/AOS became an easy to grow favorite and due to cloning was available to all. A “sport” or anomaly from the cloning resulted in the peloric Royal Robe ‘Milt’s Pick’ HCC/AOS showing much fuller petals.
Miltassia Tranquility, a cross of Miltassia Aztec ‘Everglades Green’ and Miltonia Golden Fleece ‘Asheville’ was a fairly successful attempt to produce a variety of large pastel flowered progeny with strong plant vigour.
Miltassia Andy Easton is a brand new hybrid involving the Miltassia Royal Robe ‘Jerry’s Pick’ and Miltonia Darth Vader ‘Dark Force’, the latter is one of the darkest Miltonias we have bloomed. The color saturation in this hybrid is outstanding and beyond what the computer can reproduce.
In October of 1975 Nancy and I spent a month in Brazil with Dr. Anton Ghillany to observe, photograph, and collect a few plants within the Oncidiinae. It was a wonderful experience, if at times harrowing (hacking through jungles, climbing over and under fallen trees and witnessing nature at its best). The number one goal was to observe and perhaps collect a few plants of the true, large flowered Oncidium crispum (also known at that time as ‘Grandiflorum’). Oncidium crispum ‘Everglades’ AM/AOS is one of the clones we collected and when combined with Miltassia Star Fighter, produced the excellent Aliceara Mervyn Grant ‘Talisman Cove’. This cross is named for our now deceased friend of Durban, South Africa, Mr. Mervyn Grant. It produces 10 cm. flowers on long arching spikes and while no Odontoglossum is present it is still a striking plant which can be grown warm or cool. Talisman Cove is the clonal epithet of Mr. Charles Marden Fitch of New York who is one of the world’s finest orchid photographers.
The cross of Miltassia Green Goddess ‘Everglades’ with Odontoglossum Somelle is an excellent example of how the Odont pollen parent can fill out the segments and produce a large 10 cm. flower with beauty and character. This combination is named Degarmoara Everglades Sunshine ‘Pure Gold’ and the intergeneric hybrid was named for Mr. Lloyd DeGarmo of California.
With the same Odontoglossum pollen parent, Degarmoara Everglades Jubilee ‘Snow Prints’ AM/AOS has more flowers per spike than Everglades Sunshine, equally large (10+cm) flowers and has inherited the white color from Mtssa. Cartagena. The dark spotting against the white background creates a striking contrast.
Beallara, named for Ferguson Beall of the Beall Company of Seattle, Washington is a combination of Brassia, Miltonia, Odontoglossum and Cochlioda. Goodale made Beallara Tahoma Glacier and our clone ‘Sugar Sweet’ AM/AOS produced as many as 16 flowers on a five foot, branched inflorescence with the flowers attaining a natural spread of 12.5 cm -- when grown by the late Ben Berliner! We were never able to duplicate those lofty figures but its combination with the rather ordinary Miltonia Purple Queen produced one of the finest Oncidiine intergenerics to date: Beallara Peggy Ruth Carpenter ‘Morning Joy’. This clone has become one of the favorites of commercial growers all over the world due to its commanding beauty, large flowers, and especially its early blooming qualities. At the time of our visit to Wichmann Orchideen in Celle Germany (September, 2007) we were shown a plant in flower taken from a plug tray by Johan and Christian Wichmann. Some variation is observable in the thousands of plants of this clone with a few showing possible ploidy doubling.
Vuylstekeara is an intergeneric combination of Miltonia, Odontoglossum and Cochlioda and while the first ones were made using the cooler growing Miltoniopsis, more recent hybrids have been made using the Brazilian Miltonias especially the species spectabilis ‘Moreliana’. Andy Easton and Tom Perlite of San Francisco collaborated to make Vuyl. Memoria Mary Kavanaugh using a tetraploid Miltonia spectabilis. Andy then created the lovely Vuyl. Marion Sheehan ‘Matriarch’ by combining Mary Kavanaugh with Odontioda Shelley ‘Spring Dress’ and even though this hybrid contains just 25% Brazilian Miltonia, it is still intermediate to cool in its climate preferance.
An extremely rare occurrence was observed when we crossed the vigorous and warm growing Oncidium sphacelatum with Odontioda Flaming Planet for it produced, as a first generation combination, excellent red and white flowers reminiscent of the Odontioda, but with great warmth tolerance. A strong, compact plant with beautiful arching spikes, this one begs to be cloned and shared with the world. Wilsonara Flaming Space ‘Flash Gordon’ is but one of the better clones but they were all of an excellent quality.
Odontocidium Memoria Vance Denton ‘Dottie’s Love’ is the choice result of pairing Odcdm. Eric Kuhn ‘Malvern’ with Oncidium maculatum. Extra dose of heat tolerance here from the 50% Oncidium maculatum involved. Care must be taken that one does not assume that all Oncidiums will impart warmth tolerance! Many Odontocidium and Wilsonaras have been made in recent years using Oncidium tigrinum for example, and while a high degree of beautifully shaped and colored flowers of large size have generally resulted, most of the progeny require intermediate to cool conditions. Why? Because Oncidium tigrinum occurs at five to six thousand feet in the mountains of Mexico and thus do not have a high tolerance of low land tropical conditions
Wilsonaras are among our favorite Oncidiinae intergenerics when a warm Oncidium species is featured in the mix as is the case with Wilsonara Chocolate Decadence. As a cross it has produced vigorous plants with many flowered, branched inflorescences and flowers of 7.5 cm. in size. Its rich chocolate color is inherited from species we collected many years ago - Oncidium powellii (from Panama) and Oncidium crispum (from Brazil).
One of the most striking Wilsonaras is Wils. Jerry Stephens ‘Everglades Dazzler’ with 15 to 20 flowers on strong spikes. Inheriting plenty of temperature tolerance from the Oncidium sphacelatum and powellii, this hybrid will perform warm or cool as will pratically all of the hybrids we are outlining herein.
Some years ago we created the hybrid Wilsonara Bubba Mock. This hybrid had long spikes with rather ordinary Oncidium type flowers toward the terminus. It was a cross of Oncidium Camino Dorado (panamense x stenotis) with Odontioda Moseman ‘Fall Colors’. Our later pairing of Wils. Bubba Mock and Odontioda Florence Stirling ‘Perfection’ resulted in some of the most beautiful “temperature tolerant” Wilsonaras we have seen – Wils. My Quest ‘Solar Fire’ and its sibling Wils. My Quest ‘Impossible Dream’. These 7 to 8 cm. flowers have all the beauty of modern Odontoglossums and are on compact plants with nice arching spikes.
Should there be any success in what I have attempted, all credit should be given to the creator of our universe, as well as to those orchidists on whose shoulders I have stood for a short time, and who have proferred wisdom, encouragement, plants and pollen. For the many failures along the way (past and future), I take full credit!

Milton O. Carpenter
A native of the Florida Everglades, Milton has been growing orchids for 46 years and is the owner of Everglades Orchids, Inc. in Belle Glade, Florida.He is a past president and life member of the Orchid Society of the Palm Beaches. He is also President, Trustee, life member, and accredited judge for the American Orchid Society.
Milton is a world-renowned speaker, author, hybridizer, grower, photographer and explorer, having made numerous trips to different countries of the world to study and photograph orchids in their habitat. His quest in hybridizing has been to “take the road less traveled” and develop new hybrids within the Oncidiinae and Cymbidiinae, which will thrive in warm as well as cool climates.

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