Orchid Gems



Clifton Dietz - Unstoppable Passion

By Pamela Jean Horter-Moore

One thing a person quickly learns about Clifton Dietz is that he never stops. Whether it’s dentistry, glass, orchiding, or participation in his church, his creative energy is always present.

Like his grandfather and his father, Clif has made dentistry his career. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, he has a practice in Beaver, where he specializes in general, family, and cosmetic dentistry. His affiliations with professional organizations provide him with opportunities to contribute to the procedural and technical advances made in his field.

A community leader, Clif is active in the Park Presbyterian Church in Beaver, where he has served as a deacon and elder.

His particular passion has been the glass industry of southwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, where he has made many contributions to the museums and societies dedicated to the history of this industry that has been a very important part of the culture of this region since the nineteenth century.

He has served on the board of the Fry Glass Society, and is a spokesperson on the history of the H. C. Fry Glass Company of Rochester, which produced fine glassware and innovative heat-resistant glass at the turn of the twentieth century. A member of the Glass Society of Pittsburgh, he is active at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, and at the West Virginia Museum of Glass. He has been buying and selling glassware for 25 years, and has contributed many pieces for historic preservation.

His passion for glass came upon him naturally. As a boy, he grew up in a large home in Brighton Township that had been owned by the Meier family. William Meier was the founder of the Meier Glass Company, another manufacturer whose fine glassware continues to attract the interest of historians and collectors.

If his childhood home and its history incited his passion for fine glassware, it was likewise instrumental in developing his love of gardening. At the center of the home was an atrium that included a greenhouse and a two-story fountain, inspiring young Clif to grow and sell his plants at the Tusca Drive-In Flea Market every Sunday. He then used the proceeds to fund his passion for Fry Glass.

A gardener since his youth, Clif has always had an interest in orchids, but the interest became a passion in March when he was diagnosed with cancer of the vocal cords at just about the same time that he was forced to close his dentistry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fatigued by the radiation treatments for his cancer and sidelined by the pandemic, Clif turned his attention to YouTube and the instructive videos of MissOrchidGirl, where he learned the fundamentals of repotting, maintaining a clean environment, and avoiding the spread of disease. “I have spent a great deal of time learning how to care for my orchids, so I am not intimidated by them,” he remarks.

Clif was a member of OSWP briefly some years ago, but now he has returned as a much more educated and self-confident grower.

“One of the things that impresses me about OSWP is the candidness of its members,” says Clif. “People are frank in admitting their mistakes and failures, and this forthrightness is very beneficial to novice members who might otherwise be discouraged.”

Clif has lived in a condo at Seven Oaks off Tuscarawas Road in Brighton Township for twenty years. More recently, he added a large kitchen to his unit, which includes a two-story window overlooking the golf course and lake. The natural light was a perfect inducement to pursue his old interest in gardening, and in orchid-growing in particular.

He has around 14 plants that are thriving, and growing in the natural light of his large kitchen window. He has Phalaenopsis, Cattleyas, and Brassias, and plans to slowly branch out in time. He is most interested in what will work well in his current environment, and has no plans to use artificial light.

He appreciates that not all Society members have greenhouses, and that some members use the space at hand to grow orchids. “I have room to expand, but I have no interest in orchids that won’t do well in the environment I have,” he remarks. “Orchids require a commitment, and I want to make sure that I have the time to give each of them the attention it deserves.” He is particularly drawn to green orchids, and to orchids with large, shapely, and colorful blooms.

In time, he expects to cull the collection of the Home Depot orchids that people usually acquire when they first become passionate about the hobby.

Clif is delighted with the “Show-and-Tell” photographs that Jim Yamber has been distributing through email to Society members. He himself has shared images – most recently, of an orchid with a spike growing out of a root that is now getting ready to bloom. “When it blooms, I’ll share that image with the members. I love to meet people, and I can’t wait for us to get together again.

“I’ll try something new, but I want to take the time to do it right. I want to be sure my orchids will grow successfully instead of experimenting and having many failures with orchids that aren’t right for my environment.

“My advice to orchid novices is to invest time in learning orchid care so that your losses are few.”

Frank and Taylor Slaughter

By: Norma Raiff

Long-time AOS judges Frank and Taylor Slaughter joined the OSWP in 1973, dating back to a time that they resided in Pittsburgh. Frank was on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh and Taylor, among her many other interests, was an art docent at The Frick and Carnegie for a period totaling about 30 years. Today’s column introduces Frank and Taylor by focusing on their roles as AOS judges, where they feel the OSWP is going, and how both they and the AOS are coping with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now living in Taylor’s hometown of Philadelphia, both are still active with us. For many long-term members, Taylor’s role in chairing our show’s AOS judging sessions and their joint involvement as ribbon judging leaders were pivotal to our continuing education about orchid quality.

How did you become interested in orchids? “Oh Lord, I got dragged screaming and kicking into it. Frank and I went on a trip with his parents who were interested in showing our kids Florida. So we took a car trip and his mom suggested that we stop and buy an orchid. Frank was enthusiastic and wanted to buy some, but I said ‘over my dead body.’ Well Frank bought two orchids that turned out to be inappropriate choices for our northern climate and limited growing conditions. One of his mom’s friends, however, gave us a couple of plants and one of them, a Bc. Richard Mueller, bloomed and I was hooked! The original purchases eventually died, but we joined the OSWP and ‘my over my dead body moment’ didn’t last long.”

When did you get involved in AOS judging? “We joined the judging program in 1981 and became accredited judges in spring of 1987. We started to learn in a small group of OSWP members that we called the Awards Study Group. It was composed of Demetria and Bud (Demetria’s late husband), Barbara Tisherman, the Crawfords, Jim Yamber and several others. We would study together and each one of us would select a slide and prepare a talk on it. It was a powerful learning experience.”

From your perspective, how has COVID affected your orchid-related experiences? “There are many things that this pandemic has taught us about how we do things and what might be changed.” “Last Spring’s OSWP show was the last before all AOS judging was shut down because of the pandemic. A few societies have experimented with outdoor judging.”

“Under today’s lockdown, judging has changed dramatically. The Judging Centers are meeting virtually and the AOS is focusing its energy on on-line webinars and planning for the future. There are many webinars on culture, habitats, and judging topics. We recommend that you check out the AOS website (aos.org). Both new and experienced growers might especially enjoy the monthly “Greenhouse Chat” webinars presented by Ron McHatton, AOS Chief Science Officer. These popular programs include both a planned topic and responses to viewer questions.”

“As for AOS judging, no one so far has figured out how to do virtual judging. However, we judges still get together on Zoom and continue to learn. And once we get back to live judging, any AOS member or orchid grower is welcome to attend our Judging Center sessions on the first Saturday of every month at the National Arboretum in Washington DC. Bring your plants to be judged!”

In the meantime, you are invited to attend AOS’s first online Orchid Speakers Day, All About Orchid Culture (February 6th, $30 online registration fee plus a chance to win raffles on the “Orchid Wheel of Chance”.)

While Taylor is busy being the chair of the AOS Judging Committee (which runs the national judging program), Frank continues to work on his orchid judging support program, Orchid Explorer, which prototypes ideas on judging support. Frank hopes his program will eventually be incorporated into the AOS judging and information program OrchidPro that is included in your AOS membership.

Final words? “Keep on growing orchids. Keep talking about it to people anyway that you can…and become an AOS member. You’ll get a lot out of it!”


© 2023 Orchid Society of Western Pennsylvania

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