Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Pretty picture: Phalaenopsis [probably not] Minho Princess

Of all the reasons not to go to the orchid show this year, I think the one closest to my heart is that it will prevent me from seeing a new batch of incorrectly-spelled orchid ID tags.

It's not that misspellings are traumatic in themselves. This one isn't even that bad, all things considered: a simple transposition of two vowels from a combination which doesn't appear that often in modern English (AE) to a combination that does (EA). Totally understandable. What really gets to me, though, is the lack of proofreading. You've already made the sign, it's sitting there right in front of you, you're looking at it -- how do you not pause for a fraction of a second to ask yourself, does this look right?

Or maybe it did look right. Which is perhaps even more upsetting.

Anyway. Thank you for indulging me in one more grumpy orchid-proofreading ramble before I stop doing the orchid posts. To reward you, I will tell you that the letters of the word "Phalaenopsis" can be rearranged in 59,875,200 distinguishable permutations,1 including "a snail shoppe," "a posh spaniel," "hapless piano," and "polishes a pan."

So this is the plant in question. I think there's a pretty good chance that it isn't Minho Princess. Why? I couldn't find any photos of Minho Princess on-line that looked like this. I mean, I suppose it could just be a really variable grex, but the photos I found all showed a mostly white flower, with a little pink-purple along the largest veins, and some more pink-purple at the margins. (Example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4, example 5, example 62) The online photos for a highly-variable grex shouldn't be this uniform. So I conclude that somewhere along the line, the wrong ID became associated with the plant, probably at the original seller. Sellers don't think their customers give a crap about IDs, so they don't feel like they have to give a crap about IDs either.

I like the plant. The blooms are obviously pretty striking close-up, but the contrast was visible from surprisingly far away, too. I wish there was some way of, you know, learning the name of this plant that I like.

[Phalaenopsis Minho Princess = Phalaenopsis Sun Prince x Phalaenopsis Ta Lin Freeds (Ref.), though that doesn't matter because this isn't Minho Princess.]

In (now somewhat-old) Anthurium news, I purged the Anthuriums in the living room, the ancestral varieties that produced all the original seedlings. 'Pandola' is gone. The NOID red is gone. The NOID dark red that never bloomed is gone. 'Gemini' is gone. 'White Gemini' is gone. 'Peppermint Gemini' is gone. 'Orange Hot' is gone. All three copies of the NOID pink are gone. 'Krypton' is gone. The NOID red-violet that might or might not have also been 'Krypton' is gone. All four of the 'Florida's are gone (though I'm pretty sure they never contributed anything genetically. Moral support, perhaps.).

There were also a couple ancestral plants in the basement, pre-purge. The NOID pink-green is gone. 'Joli' is gone. The small pot of salvaged cuttings from the NOID purple, which had only just gotten old enough to bloom, is gone.

My goodness. So what isn't gone, Mr. S.?

The NOID purple, and two backup copies of 'Red Hot.' And one 'Red Hot' is looking a little shaky, to be honest.

I'm not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, in theory, the genes from the founding generation are present in the surviving seedlings; the founders had already made themselves redundant. Not to mention that there were ghost mites, Xanthomonas, or both, on all the plants I threw out, and it's good to get rid of pest/disease reservoirs. On the other hand, this means that if I were to decide to start over with the seedlings, I'd have to buy new Anthuriums to start over with. And, as it happens, the ex-job is now even more of an ex-job than it used to be, because they're no longer in business, so I'm not even sure where I'd get the replacement Anthuriums from.3

In any case. The founding-Anthuriums purge is upsetting, and also it's not.4 Just like the ex-job closing is both upsetting and not. Ditto the really big plant-related thing I've alluded to a few times now but haven't been able to bring myself to name and describe yet, which was both devastating and an enormous relief. The last three months have been fucking weird.


1 Assuming that my math is correct. A twelve-letter word in which no letters are duplicated should have 12! (= 479,001,600) different permutations; since "phalaenopsis" has three letters duplicated (a, p, and s), I think the number of combinations should be 12!/(2^3) = 59,875,200.
2 In March or April last year, I found two more sites which showed Minho Princess with the same coloration as the others; those links have since 404ed. But six examples should be enough to get the idea.
3 They announced this in mid-November. I think this was a deliberate decision to retire, rather than the owners finding themselves forced out by the economic climate or whatever. But they'd been talking about closing or relocating since at least 2008, and since I didn't go back to chat with them or anyone else who worked there, I'm not sure that it wasn't motivated by declining sales.
I never understood how they could price plants at triple the big-box and grocery-store prices and stay in business in the first place. But then, I don't have a keen business mind.
Should note that I don't feel particularly upset about the ex-job being gone. I rarely visited anymore; when I did, I didn't generally buy anything. There are also some not-great memories associated with the place, which time has faded but not eliminated entirely: although things weren't super-ugly when I left, the bad was outweighing the good by that point. (Some of this was my fault, some of it wasn't. Somewhere in my various files is a draft for a blog post titled "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Garden Center Workers." Which is still good advice. Eight years since I left, and I still can't look at poinsettias without a small jolt of dread.)
Still. End of an era, and all that. I don't entirely understand why I didn't go back to see the place one last time, or talk to the people who still worked there. Had I visited early enough, I could even have picked up some new houseplants for a mere 2.25 times the big-box price. It wasn't that I didn't care, but -- the idea of going back to see the store gradually clear out made me uneasy in some difficult-to-explain way, so I never did. And now it's gone. Or gone-ish, anyway.
Also: if a family-owned garden center in the area had to close down, why couldn't it have been Pierson's?
4 Watering the living room for the first time, post-purge, took me 3.7 hours. That no doubt sounds like a lot of time to spend watering, but the most recent five pre-purge waterings took 4.3, 5.1, 5.4, 5.5, and 6.4 hours. Not only do I save time watering, but I no longer have those periodic pangs of should I throw this one out? Is that Xanthomonas? Are those ghost mites? to deal with. It's definitely not all bad.


Jeane said...

I will miss the orchid pictures- they are so beautiful. Perhaps you will still post pics of your own? I just can't keep orchids alive in my house- don't know enough specifics of what they need I suppose. I understand your frustration- I have a plant in my aquarium that I can't identify. The store had it labeled as an 'asian crypt' but that's not specific- all the 64+ cryptocoryne species come from Asia! I would really like to know what it is because when it gets bigger and throws runners and takes up too much room in the aquarium it would be nice to trade or sell its offspring to other aquatic gardeners. Hard to do if I can't tell anyone exactly what it is. I've even posted pics of it on the planted tank forum I frequent, and still don't have a positive ID. I wonder if it's a hybrid... Really annoying sometimes that the growers and shops just can't put a proper label on things.

mr_subjunctive said...


I suppose in theory if either of my two personal orchids ever bloom again, I might post photos of them, but the Phalaenopsis is unlikely to rebloom (it just doesn't like it here that well; it's bloomed once in eight years) and the Neofinetia is more interesting to smell than to look at.

Jeane said...

what does it smell like?
My favorite flower scent is of a pink cyclamen I once had- it smelled like nutmeg.

mr_subjunctive said...


It's pretty similar to Gardenia, I think. Sometimes a little more vanilla-y than Gardenia, but definitely in that ballpark. And so much easier to grow.

Virginia Burton said...

As a small business owner, I have a lot of sympathy for your former employers. It was probably a combination of a lot of things; it's very hard to shut down a business in an orderly manner. I think it's good that you didn't go back; it would have depressed you even further, and you've had a lot of things to be depressed about this year. I assume WCW (wasn't that what you called her?) had already left. The nursery business must be rough since most of your stock is perishable.

mr_subjunctive said...

Virginia Burton:

At least part of the officially-stated reason is that the city had been hinting for years that they wanted to expand the intersection the garden center is on, and I get the impression that they figured it was only a matter of time before the city just took the land. (Not necessarily all of it, but enough to cause expensive adjustments and drive customers away.)

Last I knew, WCW was only barely employed there; she would have been happy to work more, but was only getting scheduled like one day or half-day every week or two. Her primary job was more stable, and I sort of had the impression that the only reason she didn't quit, and the only reason the owners didn't lay her off, was that both sides benefited from her having the employee discount. (No one ever said that to me, so it's possibly all in my imagination. But still, you'd have to be pretty stupid to toss an employee who will reliably give you back some or all of their wages, in exchange for merchandise priced at 260% of cost. You'd also have to be pretty stupid to deliberately drop a job that lets you buy more of the stuff you know you'll be buying anyway, in exchange for an occasional half-day of work.)

Unknown said...

Do you think the staff at Pierson's would recognise you after 5 years? It would be interesting to see if anything else had changed too.

mr_subjunctive said...


Interesting question. I imagine there's been some turnover in personnel, so maybe not, if I went on the right day. Unless there's an artist's sketch in the break room or something.

We'll never know. They don't want me there, I don't want me there. Should they go out of business, I won't rule out a quick trip up to Cedar Rapids to fart in the general direction of the closed store, but I'm not interested in going there for any other reason, and anyway Frontier is better. (If Frontier is still open. Haven't checked in a long time.)

Also: holy crap, that was five years ago.

As to whether things have changed, hard to say, though I note that their facebook reviews include:

"Worst service ever. Thank you kind sir for suggesting that we take our business elsewhere. We will be doing just that. And hanging up on us was so professional." (from May 10, 2016)

"We ordered an arrangement of flowers for Mother's Day and the arrangement we received was NOTHING LIKE WHAT WE PAID FOR. The customer service of this company is terrible. I wish I could upload a photo of what we got and what we should have gotten." (also May 10, 2016)

Every business will attract reviews like this to some degree or another, so it doesn't necessarily mean a lot. And flower arrangements differing from the website photos is a pretty common problem too, for reasons which aren't necessarily the fault of the flower shops that put them together.

Also May 10 would have been a couple days after Mothers' Day, the busiest and most stressful time of the year for garden centers around here (both a lot of flower shop business going to mothers and the historic last-frost date, so it's the kickoff of the official summer gardening season), and one of two times of year when flower shops and garden centers are most likely to be short-tempered, the other being Valentine's Day. So although you still shouldn't be telling callers to take their business elsewhere and then hanging up on them, if there was ever a season in which to expect that, mid-May would be the season.

It would also not surprise me at all to learn that the owner was the one who hung up on the potential customers; I don't think I ever spoke to him directly, but I've been in the greenhouse when he was yelling at employees (once in person to a greenhouse worker, something about bugs and fungus and how something needed to be done about them; once yelling over the phone at someone I took to be a lost flower shop delivery person), and telling customers to go somewhere else and then hanging up on them sure seems in character. Should my guess be correct, then no, not much has changed.

(Every Pierson's employee I've ever talked to was very nice, including the ones who kicked me out.)

Unknown said...

My mother loves orchids. Their petals are so attractive. She loves lavender color orchid.