Our dear friend Earl R. Felt passed away November 5, 2019. He was 88. His wife Marion died in 2017. They were married in 1962. They loved their orchids and their modest but very comfortable home and garden in Rancho Palos Verdes. We knew Earl as a gentle and cheerful man, with a kind word for everyone. He had a long career in the aerospace industry.
Earl's fascination with orchids goes back at least to 1966, when he attended the Fifth World Orchid Conference in Long Beach. SCOS, like all the other orchid clubs in the Los Angeles area, was heavily involved in organizing and running the Conference. Among the other Conference participants and attendees who are still with us, we can mention Norito Hasegawa and Harold Koopowitz. The Best-in-Show plant at the 5th WOC was Cymbidium Orchid Conference 'Green Light', a hybrid created by Mary Bea Ireland and exhibited by Andy Yamamoto. While we were researching the history of the Conference, we realized that Earl had later exhibited this plant at the Southland Orchid Society Show in Northridge, in April, 1973, where it received an award, HCC/AOS. Earl explained that he had seen the plant at the WOC — "Love a first sight!" He eventually got a division from Leo Holguin at Armacost & Royston in 1970. The plant still survives.
Earl and Marion were close friends of Fordyce "Red" and Trudi Marsh, well-known for their tireless support of the orchid hobby community. They undoubtedly knew most of the notable orchid growers in Southern California in those years. At various times, Earl and Marion were probably members of most of the local orchid clubs: besides SCOS, we know they were active in the San Gabriel Valley Orchid Hobbyists, South Bay Orchid Society, and Newport Harbor Orchid Society, and perhaps others as well. Our local network of orchid clubs has always worked that way, together forming a calendar of monthly meeting places for orchid enthusiasts. It was not about the individual society or even the individual grower; the focus has always been the orchid community.
Earl's Favorite Plants
Three of Earl's plants received AOS awards. Besides Cymbidium Orchid Conference 'Green Light' HCC/AOS pictured above (and see below!), the awards were for Cattleya Bellicent 'Red Devil' AM/AOS (December 14, 1970, at the Los Angeles judging center) and Vandacostylis Deep Blue Seas 'Earl's Choice' AM/AOS (August 22, 2016, at the Long Beach judging center during our meeting).
Earl enjoyed white orchids and especially miniature Cymbidiums. We know he was fond of Cym. Snow Court 'Altisima'. A number of cultivars of this hybrid were exhibited by the Rowland Collection and received awards 1991-1992, including a CSA Breeder's Award to Pat Rowland. Earl's plant, undoubtedly acquired at that time, is still thriving. Other favorite whites include Dendrobium delicatum and Dockrillia linguiformis (formerly Dendrobium linguiforme), and Den. Ise 'Pearl'.
Earl's executor contacted SCOS early in 2020, and we promised to do what we could to find good homes for Earl's orchids. This project is still at an early stage. More information will be available when we have inventoried and repotted them.
Cymbidium Orchid Conference
Recently a grower from South Carolina, Myrle Diefendorf, posted a picture of an old but unidentified Cymbidium in the American Orchid Society group on Facebook. Experts correctly pointed out that "there are thousands of 'old looking' cymbidiums still out there and finding the name is virtually impossible." However, we thought it looked familiar! The lip has more white than we had seen in the photo of Earl's plant, but perhaps a different cultivar of Orchid Conference?
We posted a reply: "There may be some similarity with Cym. Orchid Conference 'Green Light'... Some divisions were distributed in the 1970's." Myrle looked again at the plant. The label, which she thought was uninformative (she had inherited the plant from an elderly grower), actually said "Cymbidium Orchid Conference". She had thought that just meant her friend had acquired the plant at some unknown orchid conference, and not that "Orchid Conference" was actually its name!
At this point, the experts chimed in again, explaining how the lip might change color as the flowers age, that this hybrid had been cloned at some point in the distant past, and any number of other reasons why their previous comments might not apply. But we opted to appreciate this little miracle for what it was, orchid serendipity!
We are happy to report that Earl's plant, although it needs to be divided and repotted, is now in bloom, so we have fresh pictures to compare with the old award photo from 1973 and with Myrle's plant. Right away, we understood the cultivar name, 'Green Light'. When the flowers are fresh, the column is a nice pale green, contrasting with the darker tones of the rest of the flower. And the lip is a much deeper color than the old awards photo would suggest. (Myrle's plant has more white in the lip, so perhaps it came from a different cultivar of Orchid Conference.) The spikes are strong and arched, so that the flowers are easy to see in a table-top display. An excellent plant!