The first commonly available multiflora hybrids were usually smaller versions of the standards: especially small pinks, small candystripes and small whites. After a time, we began to see small whites with red lips, small French spots and even the odd small “novelty” (usually yellow). The quality was reasonable at first and has improved to the point that, in these colors, we are at a very high standard. We now expect a multiflora, at least the standards, to show form similar to their large-flowered counterparts.
However, some multiflora hybrids are rather star-shaped. Two such hybrids are Phal. Veitchiana and Phal. Cassandra. Phal. Veitchiana, a cross of Phal. equestris x Phal. schilleriana, was first noted in 1872 as a natural hybrid. To date, there are less than 40 first-generation hybrids registered with it as a parent.
The hybrid between Phal. equestris and Phal. stuartiana was registered as Phal. Cassandra by Veitch in 1896. However, nothing further happened until the 1960s. Despite this fact, it is without doubt the first major cornerstone of multifloral breeding. Considering the similarities between Phal. schilleriana and Phal. stuartiana (general form, size and branching habit), it is surprising to see that there are about 6 times the number of first-generation hybrids with Phal. Cassandra as with Phal. Veitchiana.
The hybrid has now been remade on many occasions. In addition to an alba form, which was made on at least two occasions, a presumed tetraploid cross was made as well at least once using P. equestris ‘Riverbend’, AM/AOS and P. stuartiana ‘Larkin Valley’, AM/AOS. As a rule, the offspring of this cross were quite pale but a few did exhibit good colour.
We have to remember that, for the most part, in the first half of this century hybridizing was not done in labs using sterile protocols but instead seed was scattered around the base of an existing adult plant. Whatever grew, grew. But, as sterile techniques were discovered, tried and used on a regular basis
Hybrids of both P. equestris and P. stuartiana were made one or two per year every third or fourth year on average from the turn of the century until about 1960. Then, with the discovery of sterile techniques, breeding began in earnest.
As stated above, Phal. Cassandra had no offspring until the mid-1960s but, even then, people wanted large flowers and it wasn’t until 1992 when 11 offspring were registered that the one-year registration of P. Cassandra hybrids went above 9 in one year. Since then, this magic number was reached in all but one year. However, there are now just slightly more than 150 first-generation hybrids, with more being made and registered every day.
Phal. Cassandra has mainly been used to make “standard” multifloral crosses. At one point, it was used to reduce the size of standards and the names of the hybrids showed that fact: P. Little Pink Doris (x P. Doris), and P. Little Netsuke (x P. Snow Leopard). There were other “small” hybrids which were named as such: P. Little Hal (x P. Peppermint) and P. Little Kris (x P. Pink Minuet). A few other multifloras are being regularly used in hybridizing: P. Mama Cass (x P. Ida Fukumura) and P. Sogo Lit-Angel (x P. Su’s Red Lip).
P. Cassandra has been bred back to its species parents and these hybrids are well known: P. Rainbow Chip (x P. equestris) and P. Petite Snow (x P. stuartiana). In addition, the hybrid with P. amabilis, P. Timothy Christopher has produced some incredible offspring and is being used extensively in hybridizing. It has been used to make P. Rong Guan Amah (x P. amabilis) and P. Sogo Lit-Sunny (x P. Sogo Lit-Angel).
There are the occasional, albeit rare, forays into novelty breeding with P. Cassandra. Possibly the most famous example is P. Brother Sandra (x P. Brother Yew), which has several awarded cultivars. Recently, it was crossed to P. Star of Dixie in an attempt at red breeding.
There are two hybrids of Phal. Cassandra that deserve individual mention: Phal. Carmela’s Pixie (x P. Terilyn Fujitake) and Phal. Be Glad (x P. Swiss Miss).
Carmela Orchids registered Phal. Carmela’s Pixie in 1990. Not only is P. Cassandra a parent but it is also several generations back in the pedigree. Many people consider it to be the first “super” multiflora to be bred. There are several reasons for this. First of all, the hybrid was made and sold by Carmela and they sold, literally, hundreds of thousands of plants. The original cross was made both ways (Terilyn Fujitake x Cassandra and Cassandra x Terilyn Fujitake). Secondly, the cross is extremely fertile. Thirdly, the overall quality of the cross was quite high and many people have used different clones as a parent. Fourthly, the first plant to win the highly-coveted Herb Hager Award was a Phal. Carmela’s Pixie. About 20 clones have received AOS awards.
The first hybrid with P. Carmela’s Pixie was registered in 1992. First-generation breeding with Phal. Carmela’s Pixie continues and there is now significant second- and third-generation breeding taking place as well. Some of the well known hybrids are P. Zuma’s Pixie (x P. equestris), P. Brother Oconee (x P. Brother Purple) and Dtps. Brother Julius (x Dtps. Okay Seven). Each of these hybrids has produced awarded progeny and has or will soon be used in further breeding.
Several other hybrids are noteworthy, particularly for their brilliant color. Many of them have been awarded and/or been used in further breeding: Dtps. Elmore’s Sweetheart (x Dtps. Taisuco Candystripe), Phal. Brother Liata (x P. Brother Glamour), P. Ho’s Little Caroline (x P. Be Glad), P. Super Pixie (x P. Zuma’s Pixie), P. I-Hsin Dancer (x P. Taida Cassanstripes) and P. Brother Lovesong (x P. Super Stupid).
Phal. Be Glad is the other P. Cassandra offspring that merits individual attention. Statistically, this grex is over 50% P. equestris. In view of the fact that this hybrid was registered in 1978 by Hager Orchids, it has a longer track record. With almost 20 awarded clones to date, there have been a few that have been used on a regular basis. Phal. Be Glad ‘Classic’, AM/AOS has been stemmed as have several others. The original cross was made with colored clones, producing small white flowers blushed pink centrally with a deep red lip. About 10 years ago, a white cross of Phal. Be Glad was made and these were widely distributed as well.
The two most well known P. Be Glad hybrids are hybrids with species: P. Ho’s Amaglad (x P. amabilis) and P. Be Tris (x P. equestris). Both of these hybrids are only about 10 years old, which means that their lives as “important breeding parents” have only just begun. Several hybrids including P. Brother Amar, AQ/AOS (Ho’s Amaglad x amabilis), P. Bedford Innocence (Ho’s Amaglad x Timothy Christopher), both have produced outstanding flowers. Watch for them and their offspring.