When five American Orchid Society judges went to judge the South Taiwan Show in April, 1996, little did they suspect what was in store for them. After a marathon judging session that lasted well over 15 hours, they had awarded 51 plants at this one show, including one First Class Certificate and eight (8) Certificates of Cultural Merit.
Of the 50 plants plants awarded, a total of 46 were Phalaenopsis. The Phalaenopsis of Taiwan were developed from plants that came mainly from the United States. Over the years, the Taiwanese purchased Phalaenopsis from many and diverse sources, some of the most important being (in alphabetical order) Charles Beard, Irene Dobkin, John Ewing, Hugo Freed, Redlinger Orchids and Shaffer’s Tropical Gardens. Plants from these sources formed the basis of most of the Taiwanese breeding stock with a few recent infusions from Carmela Orchids, Hausermann’s and the Orchid Zone.
One of the most striking differences between awards granted at the South Taiwan Show and those given at most domestic shows is the number of awards that were given to non-standard Phalaenopsis. As a rule, large whites, pinks, candy stripes and French spots are considered standards. Most people would now probably include multi/miniflora Phals (or at least the smaller flowered versions of the previously enumerated standards) as standards as well. Non-standard, or novelty, Phalaenopsis accounted for almost half the awards at this show.
Although the ’80s and ’90s have seen vast improvements in novelty Phalaenopsis breeding in North America, there appears to have been at least as much (and arguably more) of an advance in Taiwan. Even though the foundation for current Taiwanese Phalaenopsis breeding comes from America, much of the Taiwanese breeding has been insular and relatively few plants have trickled out, at least until recently. Those that have made their way to North America have often been sold at astronomical prices and often revealed serious mutations when flowered. These articles are an attempt to help those unfamiliar with Taiwanese breeding understand some of the breeding lines as well as to become familiar with some of the key stud plants used. These articles are in no way intended to be a definitive authority but rather an introduction to these lines of breeding.
Before beginning a discussion of novelty Phalaenopsis hybridizing, we should examine one major influence in hybridizing that is often overlooked: culture. To the Taiwanese, the colour white is a symbol for death and white Phalaenopsis are, therefore, not particularly popular. However, the colour red stands for good fortune and success and yellow stands for wealth making the interest in novelty breeding comprehensible. If a breeder can sell flowers of a particular colour, he will concentrate his breeding program in that direction. In Taiwan, a great deal of time, thought and energy has gone into red and yellow breeding. Size and flower count, while important, take second place to colour.