Inge and Peter Poot's History with Orchids and SOOS,
by Peter and Inge Poot , presented Jan. 2022
Thank you to Eric Tai for restoring some of the photos that had faded and or discoloured badly.
Some of the data in the original presentation turned out to be incorrect when we checked more records. Hopefully no further errors will turn up!
- Both Peter and Inge come from families whose major hobby was growing flowers.
- So we were predisposed and exposed to orchids since childhood.
- Peter because of orchid nurseries operating in the area in which he went to school in The Netherlands.
- And Inge because the Austrian Alps she spent her childhood at were brimming with wild orchids that her mother taught all of her children to revere and recognize.
- Peter and Inge met at the University of Toronto Outing Club, when we were appointed co-leaders of a winter mountaineering trip into the Adirondak Mountains scheduled for the week between Christmas and New Years, 1962.
- Oh Gee, no orchids yet!
- A year later we got married. Inge had never seen the tropics so when a friend offered them a villa in Jamaica owned by some family members at a “friend rate” for our honeymoon, we happily accepted.
- The villa had a large tree in its backyard that was full of orchids that the owners had added to the tree whenever a storm tossed one in their path.
- Our picture of it is too faded, but we saw many naturally orchid and bromeliad encrusted trees and the picture above shows one of those.
- On one of our exploring trips by rented car around the island Inge spotted what we would later identify as Brassavola cordata (now subulifolia) in full bloom on a tree a bit back from the road.
- Peter very gallantly got out and picked the flower for his newly minted wife!
- It perfumed our bedroom for the remaining nights of the honeymoon.
Back in Toronto:
- Inge was now hooked on tropical orchids and was very determined to find a place to buy such orchids. Florists only had cut flowers.
- Eventually someone mentioned that the Calvert- Dale estate i Brampton has an orchid cut flower range and we made an appointment with Mr Lamb to see it.
- We left triumphantly with several orchids!!!
- We had rented an apartment in “hog’s hollow” with a huge east facing window.
- There we flowered our first orchid, a phalaenopsis in 1964.
- Mr Lamb had told us sadly that Calvert-Dale’s were going to dump their orchids because they were not economical.
- Before that evil day, we bought as many orchids as we could and Inge’s father surprised us with some more that he had rescued from the future compost heap death.
- It did not take long for the green plants to be relegated into dark corners to make room on that window-sill for orchids.
- Mr Lamb, the Orchid house manager of Calvert-Dales suggested we get in touch with Walter Norman who was part of a small group of people trying to start an orchid Society in Toronto.
- Walter became our generous and informative mentor and our first orchid friend.
- The first meetings of SOOS were at the then so called Civic Garden Center.
- Above is a picture of the Civic Garden Centre Moryama wing at Edward’s Gardens now a wing of the Toronto Botanical Gardens.
- We met in what is now the Garden Room of the Toronto Botanical Garden.
What drew us into SOOS:
- We felt very young at these meetings, but it turned out that the recently deceased Dr Frank Maine, a founding member and the then SOOS auctioneer, was just a month younger than Peter! That helped a lot!
- We were given jobs almost immediately. It made us feel part of the team. Inge was made librarian and Peter assisted by carting the books from our house to the meetings and back as well as building a display stand to encourage borrowing.
- We read the books too and purchased our own copies of the ones that were the most useful to us. It was the start of our own extensive orchid library.
What kept us as members:
- Cultural information for a plant family we gradually realized was extremely diverse.
- Plant sources were shared with us.
- Social Connection to people with similar interests to ours –not just orchids, but also travel and classical music and eventually deeper knowledge via judging.
- The Fennell Orchid Company was our first mail order source. (Found in one of the SOOS books)
- Tom Fennell Jr. drew the most compelling pictures of his plants that were for sale and Inge wanted them all!
- He drew Encyclias really well and the plant named for him, Encyclia Thomas Fennell, is apt.
- We purchased some Encyclias and Epidendrums from Fennell. Those were the days of effortless importations: no CITES and no Phytos required for orchids, because they carried no diseases that could harm Canadian agriculture……
- We met Tom many years later during our second trip to Jamaica. He was pleased to hear how influential his drawings had been!
SOOS’ first few Shows:
- On Sunday November 3, 1968 SOOS had its first Orchid Show.
- SOOS had its second show on Saturday and Sunday, November 1& 2, 1969. The show chair was Glen Jeffrey and Vic Sato was staging chair.
- Lesson learned: involve more members.
- We had no show in 1970.
- Our third show was on April 24 and 25th, 1971 and Peter was appointed as chair. He felt that he needed help!
- Walter Norman suggested we visit some Michigan shows to find out how to do it, (without losing members or workers!)
- A whole new world!
- Below is a photo of a fairly recent Michigan Orchid Society display found on their web-site. See how tidy it is? Green labels –should maybe be darker-, live moss to hide the pots, yellow cymbidium makes a nice strong focal point, good height, subdued grey statue……The orchids and nothing else jumps out at you.
- In December 1971, Inge and Peter decided to start a Study Group to learn more about judging, but meet separately in each other’s houses.
- Mimi SOOS show October 5, 1975:
- We were so pleased with our display……messy beige cloth, bone-dry peat-moss, raft just plunked on a tree stump, messy white labels……
- Inge likes to look at that picture to remind herself that it takes time to become an expert arranger.
- One thing Inge found frustrating was that it was almost impossible to get AOS judges to critique a display and that way allow her to learn how to do it better. The judges were probably afraid to hurt her feelings. Inge resolved she would always be ready to as tactfully as possible to critique a display, when asked for such help by an exhibitor – once she learned how to do it the slow way herself……
- October 16, 1977 we had a mini show sponsored by the Study Group and judged by 3 members of the study group.
- On October 22, 1978 we had another mini Show chaired by Peter Poot.
The show chair was Carrie Caswell and Glen Jeffrey was staging chair, while Peter and Inge were pleased as punch to get the title and job of “Plant Entry Chairmen”
Peter and Inge got together with Bill Winter to put in a display.
We were pleased as punch with our “wild coloured cloth” display……
We all had a lot to learn!
The theme was “Orchids around the World” and we put in a display featuring Australia and Africa using cut flowers sent in by Margaret Ilgenfritz and Zuma Canyon Orchids.
You could not miss it because Inge’s grey Koala bear plus all the orchids were quite overpowered by the huge brick-red Kangaroo supplied by a helper – who could not get grey paint……
Walter Norman had the same problem and ended up with a brick-red donkey in his display!
Staging Chair Vic Sato did most of the design and physical work and was so overburdened and stressed out, that he quit the society as soon as the show was over……
For that third show Peter and Inge decided to donate an engraved silver goblet that would go to the best display. Since we had no trained judges, we decided that the winner would be chosen by popular vote of the visiting public on the Saturday, the first day of the show. It was won by Bob Clarke and his wife’s glittering display of Cattleyas whose pots had been concealed by wrapping them in colourful foil paper.
Another member who had put in a display of well-grown White Phalaenopsis arranged in three tiered rows, in evergreen bough festooned planter boxes, felt very strongly that he would have won the cup if we had used competent judges to judge the displays – and he quit the society……
Also known as the Poot Pot.
Lesson learned: choose your judges carefully and maybe have more than a single award!
- The travel bug did not take long to take hold after experiencing a few external but fairly nearby shows.
- We first went to nearby USA shows, then to Mid-American Orchid Congresses and even the odd Eastern Orchid Congress. When possible we took SOOS plants as well as our own and displayed them in hopefully ever more expert displays.
- Eventually we visited both Spring and Fall AOS trustees meetings and both yearly Mid-American Orchid Congresses.
- Taking on jobs in each of these organizations, kept us coming back.
- Eventually we even attended World Orchid Conferences whenever that was feasible.(Columbia, Florida, South Africa, Vancouver, France) In the Florida World Orchid Conference Terry Kennedy was in charge of the display that SOOS entered and earned lots of medals for and we helped by bringing along a van-full of orchids.
- Ah, those were the days!
An Example: Eastern Orchid Congress, Washington, DC, 17.10.1970:
Yes that was the one where our VW van broke down in the middle of the night on the way back somewhere in the USA. We took the bus home the next day and came back for the repaired van.
- It took a while for Peter and Inge to grasp the idea that an orchid display has to draw the eye to orchids and not to anything else.
- We remember the first white, and at a later reiteration, beige, towers display……
- A later try, with the towers painted black, worked! Phew!!!!
Milestone SOOS Shows:
- Brian Rowe felt that SOOS was not doing enough for conservation.
- Another first was having an AOS judged show in Toronto on May 12 & 13, 1979.
- The May 1980 show chaired by Peter was done without any government help!!!
- Another First for SOOS occurred in May 1998 when we hosted a combined AOS Trustees Meeting, Mid-America Congress and Eastern Orchid congress, etc, co-chaired by Peter and Inge and assisted by a very capable and enthusiastic crew.
He took on the chairmanship of a 1980’s show and organised everything around the goal to make a profit of $5000 to be used for Conservation and SOOS education.
He succeeded !
Peter took on the chairman’s job and led us into our first AOS judged show.
We procured a WinOntario Grant for the show and at the end resolved never to do so again because the paperwork was horrendous and had to be put together a second time because the Ontario Government had lost the first copy.
Ellen and Murray Blankstein arranged for this show to be opened by the Lieutenant Governor for Ontario – a nice touch of pomp!
Ellen designed a beautiful stylized purple Cattleya flower to use as an identifying decal for all our publicity. We used it for a few subsequent shows as well. Inge was sad when it was eventually abandoned……
This show brought SOOS to the attention of the North American orchid world and they started urging us to host an AOS Trustees Meeting, a Mid-America Congress or an Eastern Orchid Congress
We were each awarded a silver medal by the Eastern Orchid Congress. It was nice to be appreciated.
The participating organisations all shared in the surplus.
- Peter and Inge were often invited to clerk at the shows we went to and later to act as lay judges.
- Ray McCullough encouraged us to apply to be student judges.
- We were rejected in 1975 because the AOS was not ready to accept non-USA judges.
- So we decided to shift the focus of the Study Group to train our own Canadian Judges to mirror the AOS system. We continued to observe USA judging and do group orders of orchid plants and books.
- We learned surprisingly much!!!( And most members of that Study Group eventually became AOS orchid judges.)
- And that kept us interested.
- Bob Turner one of the study group members, was moved for training by his company to Georgia for a while and while there he applied to be a student judge.
- He was accepted!
- That broke the glass ceiling and when Gerda and Colin Ferrington, two other Study group members applied from Canada they were accepted too.
- Peter and Inge, by then were too busy with a second child to apply just yet.
- We applied again in 1985 and were accepted and became accredited in 1991.
- The learning of new things has not stopped since then!
- Moral of the Story:
- To get the most out of an organization, you have to get involved.
- Volunteer for a job!
- Ahem, the vice-president’s job is open……