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APHID IN MY EYE, adventures in the orchid trade, by Tom Powell
Illustrator Betsy West
Publisher B.B. Mackey Books

Anne K Moore

You don’t have to love orchids to love this little book. Tom Powell’s remembrances are not your usual Orchid Society fare. The book is populated by people with names like Mrs. Humbleton, Mrs. Birdee, Lord Herringbit, President P., and the three orchid artistry judges the Misses Burleigh, Shipstone and Doreitus. Powell says, “One exhibitor was heard to refer to these ladies as ‘the three ugly witches’-(actually ‘witches’ was not the word used.)”

Tom Powell, probably best known for his newsletter, The Avant Gardener, chronicles his and his wife Betty’s early passion for growing orchids back when orchids didn’t sprout in every supermarket. They were pioneers in the “grow orchids at home” movement. In their early orchid obsession days, they accepted an offer to run an orchid growing operation. “The modern greenhouse has electric carts and conveyor belts. We had only liniment and support hose.” Along with the orchids came the employees. Patsy, the male in charge, called waiting on customers “pest control.”

Aphid in My Eye will have you grinning and turning pages from the first to the last. Every once in a while there is a jolt that stops you reading to wipe tears of laughter from your eyes. Speaking of their days as tour guides, “They say that success breeds success, but we found it much more likely to breed twitches and incoherent speech.”

You don’t need to love orchids to love this book. Heck, you don’t even need to be a gardener. The humans that populate the orchid scenes take center stage. In addition, Betsy West’s illustrations are loads of fun. As to why the book is called Aphid in my Eye, well, you will have to read the book.

I received my copy of Aphid in My Eye: Adventures in the Orchid Trade from B.B. Mackey Books, (PO Box 475, Wayne, PA 19087) for review. You can purchase a copy from or at


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