Friday, June 14, 2013

Changes Can Cause Problems


For a couple of months I watched as things did not quite look right with some of my plants. 
About a 3rd of the plants were in bloom and seemed fine.  By the time blooms started to fade though, centers started looking like crap.
Other, smaller recently divided plants developed a second crown or looked stunted. 

Centers that don't look "right"
makes me worry. 
I've been through this before!
BUT some things had gradually changed:
  • For most of the winter cold months I had rolled the shelving unit to the hallway off the kitchen so we could close off the area they normally grew. They went back once it got "warmer". Too soon?
  • I had started wick-watering more, with some bottom watering in individual saucers. That meant less leaching from top watering.
  • Domes were removed. 
  • Usual soil mix ingredients were out of stock all winter. I experimented! ONE WAS HIGH IN CLAY AND SAND texture. The other got horrible reviews. Were those people right?
Over Memorial Day Weekend I repotted EVERYTHING. Lots of duplicates got chucked into the trash if they looked too bad.   Nothing was really overdue for repotting but when I started turning out the plants it was clear the soil mix since December was too sandy. It was drying out way too soon. Some of the plants were still in Solo Cups. If what was happening was something toxic in the mix or a lack of nutrients, the small containers were perhaps bringing it on faster?

(It's only been 2 weeks but I am an optimist!)
  • I bought Miracle Grow potting soil and just added a little perlite. 
  • I potted a lot of things UP to a size larger than I had been doing, especially standards. (Future topic: SOLO CUPS...Solution or Part of the Problem?)
  • I put TALL domes back over everything on 2 of 3 shelves. THOSE look the most improved!
(At my request!) A local nursery started stocking TALLER DOMES when they opened for the spring. They're pricier than they should be! But the larger micro-climate seems easier to control for my conditions than the short domes. I'm going to go back to more of my tried & true top-watering method. Domes mean less watering, although over-watering is more obvious when I get it wrong!

On a positive note:
Violet Voice has it's latest Virtual Show online right now.
 (Go vote!)

I managed to get a few things entered before they started failing miserably. Some were sacrificed willingly for practicing more Design efforts. 
More about those efforts later! 


I'll do the best I can NOT to kill my African Violets on purpose
But crap happens sometimes! I'll see soon enough if I'm dealing with this right...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Fairy Tree House

One thing leads to another...

I bought a drill bit thing-a-ma-jig to cut circle shaped holes out of wood.  

Probably has more comprehensible (shorter!) name?

I wanted to cut pieces of birch different lengths and then drill plant-pot holes in the top. (I saw a centerpiece holding candles somewhere for inspiration.) Unusual Container ideas were floating around in my head for the coming Virtual AV Show! :)

So I played with polymer clay, baked, drilled, chiseled, whittled, cussed, applied band-aid, wood-glued.   
And produced this crafty piece of art. shush now!

Not exactly how I first envisioned it, but working fairy doors are going to take a little more planning.  Plus, round logs are harder to glue flat things to than I thought <grins>.
Plant is my sporty version of  
Ness' Fantasy Gold. 

Not much fantasy, but I finally got some "gold" - except every bloomstalk puts out a different colored flower on all 4 or 5 plants I've grown so far. And then very quickly the yellow turns into a ghastly orange/dead brown blossom?

This imitation palm-tree had it's rootball severely trimmed in order to play doll house fit.    May not be long for this world.   

BUT there's a couple more just like it on the plant shelf.  I'm hoping the next round of blooms on one of them will improve: pick a nice version and stick to it!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I Hunted; I Gathered.

Shake off the April snow...

I've been watching for the ingredients to use in a dish garden on my daily nature walks with the dog since last fall. Dropped acorns and moss that fell from the trees during all the high winds we've had this winter were gathered into mittened fingers, as I tried to juggle my collectibles with Jax's leash plus treats needed to convince her leashes are part of the routine at the end of our walk. (NO, you may NOT top off your 20 minutes of freedom in the field and woods by running across the road to the neighbors!)

I've had this piece of driftwood for a very long time, intended for my attempt at a natural dish garden someday. (It has a few teeth marks at the top as I've removed it from Jax's mouth at least twice.)
Yesterday I finally felt up to the project - with both spare time and the extra energy - so went off to gather moss, fungi and rocks I had "bookmarked" along our path.

EXCEPT it snowed a little the night before.
Gathering took more hunting than I thought it would!

This week Violet Voice members are putting together a mini-virtual African Violet show practice run ahead of the show planned for later. 
I've been DISBUDDING most of my plants for later.
Not many of them are in full bloom right now!

The plant used in this dish was supposed to be Optimara Little Moonstone.
I grew out 6 or 8 babies from the 2 leaves that survived the Round Robin exchange last fall. ONLY 1 from all I grew out bloomed true.
(A now proven argument for keeping more than one or two baby plants! The one blooming correctly was the only one with lighter colored leaves. I might have mistaken it for the "runt" and discarded it had I tried to decide which to cull sooner.) 

Most of them bloomed double solid purple.
A few have just a hint of the Cruella DeVille streak of white. ;)

Sunday, February 17, 2013



A method of repotting with the least amount of disturbance to the root system never fails to give me a little satisfaction with that final plop into place. You create the perfect size hole "molded" into the center of the pot with a (CLEAN!) pot the size the plant was just in.

The first step I've taken is to drop some of the largest sized pieces of perlite in the bottom for extra drainage. Then a thin layer of potting mix is added  - enough to level the height to make up for any root ball that has been trimmed from the bottom of the plant. If the old pot was quite root bound I usually remove an inch or so, plus snip the sides in several places.

I like to do a combination of top watering and saucer watering. 
Having a saucer beneath catches drips from top watering, plus feeds more slowly from the bottom if the water seems to be running right out. If the soil has dried out a little too much, it drains before the soil has a chance to absorb fresh water.

Place the temporary mold - in this case a spare solo cup similar to the one the plant had been growing in - into the center, on top of the already prepared layer and fill the space around the cup with potting mix.

Keeping your thumb in the solo cup, both holding it firmly to the bottom and pressing slightly against the sides as you fill, allows the dampened mix to form the size "molded" hole the root ball needs to fit perfectly into.

By filling in around the cup higher than it seems you would need, you are then able to smooth the soil mix into the crease.
(A little thump against the table might help it settle into place.)
The goal is to have the crown of the plant at just the right level above the rim of the pot when you're done. 
This plant is a young Blue Dragon, one of my Grow to Show hopefuls. It may too young as it's only just produced it's 1st three buds. They were removed.
Blue Dragon (9516) 12/17/2005 (Lyndon Lyon Greenhouses/P. Sorano) Double light blue large frilled star/raspberry edge. Dark green, plain/red back. Large.
It's week 12 already!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Potting Soil (with turkey poop?)

Troll in Bottle?

CHAPTER 6 Revisited

African Violets: A Gift from Nature 
by Melvin Robey. (1988) 

Understanding your Potting Mixture
Excerpt from previous blog entry on the topic of soil mix recipes:

"Why does someone suddenly switch from one potting mix to another? There are 5 basic reasons I can think of for this odd behavior in African Violet enthusiasts." 

~Melvin Robey:

1. Change for change's sake. (Possibly worriers, looking for solutions?)
2. Trying a friend's mixture. (It worked for them, so why not try it too?)
3. Trying out new ideas. (The experimenters!)
4. New products introduced. (A new marketing fad?)
5. New Cultural Practices. (Change to wick or matting, for examples.)

I will add:
6. Usual products unavailable because of seasonal retail marketing decisions.

There's no freaking peat moss or potting soil to be found this time of year NOT LACED WITH MIRACLE-GRO. I thought I found a couple of organic potting mix alternatives to peat moss:
Scott's Brand Earthgro Potting Mix was basically clay and sand. Read some really bad reviews after I got it home of course! I think it might make a good ingredient in a final recipe once it's been sifted. And pasteurized. I'm making this a habit now, no matter what source it comes from. 
Mickey Mouse Jar with 1st bloom!
Vigoro 8 qt. Organic Potting Mix has a much more organic texture. Says there's perlite added but damn little. I can deal with that. Of course, I didn't notice the bottom sentence on the bag says "no need to feed for 3 months"...WHEN will I learn to read ALL of the label? Went on an internet search to try and find out just what this product was "amended with". Found a Home Depot video
It's Turkey Litter?

Both had lots of rocks and bark... because if they use the word "organic" that must make it okay?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Virtual African Violet Show!

Countdown begins...

Violet Voice is once again planning an online African Violet Show. Members who wish to participate will spend the next 14 weeks "growing to show" and then will enter the results for display, in categories just as an actual show would be set up.

Instead of delivering our plants to the show location, we try to take the very best photo we can and submit our entries. 

New members are sure to be welcomed, so drop by soon and see what's happening! 

You might find you're in the mood to Grow To Show, too :)

Week 14:
What to do this week - Lesson One online.

Meanwhile, on my shelves . . .  
Things are growing!
Not sure if it's just my imagination or what, but perhaps they know spring is around the corner as I swear things are taking a growth spurt this week.  
I finally found the Jack's Classic 20-20-20 blend of fertilizer and will gladly set aside the Shultz brand so I can see how the plants respond to this more balanced diet.

Darling Blue Trail on the right is the cutting that arrived in September from Montana. The one on the left was started from a leaf from that cutting. 
The littler one that's blooming past it's mother is being allowed do grow pretty much however it chooses.  CUTE!

The larger plant is not being allowed to bloom. Leaves have been removed from the bottom rows and the plant has been lowered into the pot. Repeatedly.
(Leaves are bigger? And I've removed about 3 bloom stalks a week since it arrived!)
It has 2 well formed crowns and tiny little leaves that I'm hoping will become the next crown. (We need 3 Darling if you want to go to the show!)

A few of the plants started from leaves from the Round Robin have started to bloom. Von's Baby Jay, Optimara Little Crystal and Teen Bride are just beginning to brighten my stand with their blooms.
(In order from top, clockwise.)
Teen Bride was the only plant from the wick experiment to thrive. The others are barely surviving and I am about ready to call it quits on the constant wick-watering method.

I've spent two days rearranging my shelving unit so I could add an extra shelf of lights. I've had to give up some storage room but I've gotten my sewing table back! (It had become an overflow shelf, but 3 trays of plants in the middle of my cutting table makes quilting a little difficult.)

I have a quilt project that went on hold while I did some knitting. At the risk of blocking air movement, I found a place to display wall-hangings. 
As seen from the doorway.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

When the obvious stares back at you...

Temperature control and a bit of humidity can't hurt! 

In the past, growing plants under domes hasn't worked that well for me. 
The climate inside tends to be too moist.  
Self-confessed hoverers tend to over-water?
Condensation is generally excessive. 

I looked at 2 trays side-by-side on the shelf the other day and realized Tiger Trail babies under a vented dome were growing faster than than those in open air.  

Well, what do you know?! 

I went and found an extra dome for the tray without one. I do have the ends propped open with clothespins for maximum venting. 
And I'm trying hard to resist watering too much!

Temperatures are below seasonably cold right now and the wood stove gives the thermostat a false sense of what's "warm enough" for the rest of the house. 

I'm stubbornly nurturing ALL of these as treasured prizes and ignoring the "limit your collection" resolution for this variety. 
Never mind pointing out how big they'll get! 

The cream colored variegation seems to holding well for the ones that started that way. The pink tinged ones seem to be consistent as well. 
I like them all! 

I think I put one in a box I was packing to send home with Sara after Christmas.
And then I took it back.  How stingy?!

Nobody asked me, but ...

The latest issue of AVSA's magazine is out.
People are putting it down asking for hugs it's that depressing.
It was probably not by design that so many of the articles are about dead plants or terminal AV diseases that there's no cure for.
It's the dead of winter for many of us.
A little Hope & Hurry up Spring would have gone a long way to lift the spirits!

Even the lady who took over the Miniature column showcased what she called "mistakes".

I'm sorry... those are some seriously neglected plants.

The Thinking Small column was always my favorite of the magazine when written by Pat Richards.

Small Talk seems to suffer from "it's all been said before" syndrome.
Or "confession is good for the soul"?   (For goodness sake... snap out of it!)

A mistake is accidentally  ruining the center of the little plant in a thumb pot just as it's about to bloom. 

Over fertilized, over watered or over zealous repotting. OR all 3!

I'm letting it bloom and trying to ignore how I crapped it up so fast.

A mistake MIGHT be planting a "strawberry" Mickey Mouse Jar full of plantlets you could not bring yourself to throw into the compost bin.

Mickey Mouse (H. Inpijn) Double dark blue. Dark green, pointed/red back. Miniature.

I might have gotten carried away with deciding which Mickey Mouse plantlets to keep. 
So I kept all of them! Shut up.

A few "Mickey Mouse" extras went into the terrarium that's been coasting along since it was blogged about here a very long time ago. (2009?) These were the "too little to bother with" plantlets that totally should have been discarded. And I would have too. Except the terrarium was nearly empty.
And they're living... for now!

One of my terrarium's biggest mistakes was using perlite in the soil and not getting around to fixing that after killing the moss that was going to hide it originally. All of the other plants have come and gone, too. Except the possible "Ming (false?) Arailia" growing in back.
It fills the jar now, but I still don't know what it is!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Progress Takes Its Own Time

Two weeks of growth in my  pasteurized "earth mix" at right.  Center plant is peat comparison. 
No swarm of creepy crawlies have shown themselves to suggest this was a very bad idea.  Yet.
I've pulled 4 or 5 tiny weeds. 
Hoping that's not an omen of other things able to survive 225 degrees in an oven.
Ma's Second Thoughts is giving me a second chance.  It was down to about 3 leaves. I walked it out to the window ledge for a few weeks of east facing sunshine. Except it's a bit cold and drafty. And I tend to forget to water things on that shelf often enough. Most of them are cactus plants so that works for them.  AVs not so much! 
It's back under lights.

Tiger Trail (PINK vs CREAM) have been divided. 
PINK seems less pink? 
CREAM is holding its color! 
One has been added to a MODIFIED 2-piece planter. 

All planters failed their former experiments and the plants in them removed and re-potted in an attempt to save them. 

Ness' Fantasy Gold and Sky n' Snow are doing much better. If you consider being once again back down to just 3 or 4 leaves better?   They both seem to prefer it OUT of those damn pots!  Hats off to those can make them work.  I fixed them . . .
(Well, time will tell if that's true or not!!)

MODIFIED 2-Piece Planters:
I took a power drill with a masonry bit and drilled a quarter-inch hole right through the middle of the inner pots. It took a really long time to drill through with a regular bit. 
Mason's bit (for cement) ...worked just like butter!

Not convinced plants fare well without drainage/leaching option.
Now there's space in the outer pot to catch drips if watered from top and can act as a saucer to water from bottom. Maybe. 
(Time will tell!)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"6 of one...half dozen of another"

"Graft" Babies on their own.

I separated the graft experiment offspring a couple of weeks ago and saved nearly all of the plantlets, no matter the size. There were slightly more variegated leaves than plain.
The plain leaves seem less unruly?

The odds any of them are actually a cross of Heaven's Reflection & Lime Jewel are probably slim. But what the heck!

The variegated leaf kept growing and the 2 parent leaves didn't seem to be "stitched together" at any place along the stems, although babies & roots were certainly mixed.   
The 2 types of leaves grew mixed around both stems.   
Probably to be expected!

Below the egg container is an actual plantlet of Lime Jewel and also Heaven's Reflections for comparison.

As sold by Ebay seller in August
Lime Jewel - December 2012

The original Lime Jewel received in August is proving difficult to grow! 
Leaves were removed. 
At first simply in an attempt to give the center leaves room to grow. And then just because I HATED the way they looked. 
It was Live or Die.

All new growth has developed but it's not what I'd call a well behaved plant in the least!

I'm determined to see this one through to blooming stage.  
The almost leafless plant photo below shows my Golden Rule:  
"Be Ye not afraid to yank the freaking leaves off!"
They grow back. Most of the time ;)

All the way down to this!
It looks as if it's "hungry" but I'm terrified of feeding it too much. I've started reducing number of hours lights are left on from 12 to 10. Mostly because it "feels" like stems are never really long enough and I'm wondering if length of hours lights are left on has something to do with this, rather than water pH or fertilizer. I continue to feed only twice a month - 15th(ish) and 30th(ish)
Ish equals a day or so later, but not earlier usually(ish).

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Wicked Experiment!

To Wick or Not to Wick?

(That's the experiment!)

Rebel's Sugar Pie - 1 wick, (through center hole of bottom and hanging slightly over edge)
1 modified Texas Style.
(Wick coiled in "C" on top 1/2" layer of Miracle-Gro Perlite,)

Katy Did - 1 wick, 1 not, 1 modified Texas Style. (Wicks added as above.)

Sassy Sister - 1 wick, 1 not.
(These all used my "earth mix")
Teen Bride - 1 wick, 1 not.
Potted up Nov 19 with peat mix.

(Wick added with darning needle up through center hole on bottom to hang a little over the side.)
Wick material 3/4" strips of pantyhose stretched thin.

This experiment in response to All About African Violets Podcast
Podcast 23 mentions using wicks VS not...
A listener comment posed a Wick Experiment Challenge for podcasts to come.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Absence of Earth?

I went to the forest in search of dirt.

Test subjects in takeout pie keeper!

I took a small hand-shovel and went mining for rich earth beneath an old pine, a grove of cedar trees, a decomposed moss-covered stump, the final remains of a fallen log and years of leaf decay beneath piles of rocks. "Real Dirt!"

An experiment.
A substitute for Canadian Peat Moss.
Would my African Violets benefit from a little bit of earth?

When I first came to the internet to explore the  mystery of "What keeps an African Violet alive & blooming?" I embraced the "soil-less mix" concept and practiced the art of 1:1:1 potting mix recipes.
Equal parts of Peat Moss, Perlite and Vermiculite. 
Forest Compost/dish has test mixture.

Except, I generally settled on a 2:1½:1 mixture. 
I'm a determined, if careful water-from-the-top grower. 
1:1:1 seemed meant for growers who wick-water and my plants always seemed to need watering.  

So, it's after the fact once again. 
Plantlets above have been separated from their mama, only to be experimented upon.  In container ~ planted in my "earth-mix":
(3) Mickey Mouse (Center pot has peat moss-mix, separated a week earlier; largest plantlet.)
(1) Darling Blue Trail
(2) Storybook Princess 
(2 in pot*) Grandmother's Halo
(3 in pot*) Maverick's Faded Jeans
* Very small - will separate if they live! 
I asked a friend for advice. More to come on her blog I'm sure, as we have things up our collective sleeves for the coming months!!

I dug a book out to do a little more research. 
African Violets: A Gift from Nature by Melvin Robey. (1988)

I searched & searched for this book soon after discovering African Violets have names (the first time I grew them) and finally found a reasonably priced copy. It's a very interesting resource.
"CHAPTER 6 - Understanding your Potting Mixture."
Mr. Robey explores the ongoing quest for the "perfect potting mixture" recipe and then concludes there is NO ONE PERFECT MIX. If 100 people in a room were asked for their "perfect" mix, he surmised there would be 129 recipes!

(Someone in the room clearly was not following instructions.  
Hey. Don't look at me!)

He does however suggest "earth" is obsolete in light of the "new soil-less way of doing things" and does NOT recommend using "dirt". But if you must he explains the method for pasteurizing it. 
NOT sterilizing it, as that kills everything good. 
(I did find this info online, although the temperature for the oven and length of cooking times varied a bit.) 

My favorite section of this chapter was his theory on WHY we experiment with different mixes:
"Why does someone suddenly switch from one potting mix to another? There are 5 basic reasons I can think of  for this odd behavior in African Violet enthusiasts." Melvin Robey 
1. Change for change's sake. (Possibly worriers, looking for solutions?)
2. Trying a friend's mixture. (It worked for them, so why not try it too?)
3. Trying out new ideas. (The experimenters!)
4. New products introduced. (A new marketing fad?)
5. New Cultural Practices. (Change to wick or matting, for examples.) 
(His list is actually quite a bit wordier...)
So, disregarding an expert, I went for a walk to the back corner of our property and returned with bags of "dirt".  
(And cooked it a little while, like the internet said.)

This is an experiment
Do NOT try this at home . . .
Well, unless you like to experiment too!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Growth of an African Violet Trailer

Darling, don't be Blue (yet)!

Darling Blue Trail
This tiny, little plant has been trying to bloom since the first week I planted it. 

We've come a long way already, huh? 
Okay. So, it grows itself...just as advertised
All I have to do is pluck a leaf now and then or nudge out the tiniest little buds you ever saw! 

Have faith in the forgiving ease of growing a trailer!
We went from this (on the left) to this (on the right) in just 2 months! Once the center grew out I removed the longest, lanky leaves and set it lower in the pot. Since, I've only taken one leaf off directly over the new crown. 

It has 2 crowns and several more sprouts I'm watching. Hoping they're not blossoms?
It's true.  Read this somewhere: Get the leaves the way you want them BEFORE it blossoms. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Curiosity of Variegation

Multiplying African Violets 

Tiger Trail (6897) 07/13/1988 (P. Harris) Double bright fuchsia/pale pink back. Variegated, quilted, glossy. Standard trailer.  

I received 4 leaves of this plant in September and need to check with my friend in Montana to see if they came off the same plant? It's a curious thing! 
I'm watching the differences of variegation in leaves growing out right before my eyes. One solo cup of leaves has pink variegation and one has white? 
Same variety . . .
Is it something I've done? :)

Their tray has them both together, just off center from the middle of the shelf, fairly direct beneath the tubes.
My thinking was that I might have put 2 with more variegation in one pot and 2 greener ones in the other.  From the picture I cropped taken at the time, this doesn't really seem to be so. I remember trimming just a snip from the side of one; one leaf was mushy on the edge so it got trimmed heavily,  trying to be sure a few plantlets grew. 
I trimmed the others only after babies appeared and the mother leaf was awkward in the tray.

Leaves have been set on my shelves to produce new plantlets in 3 waves of time - which only seemed farther spaced apart than I remembered, once I checked the dates on the cups.
So it shouldn't have come to much surprise to find all the babies are at about the same stage.  
August 20 - Ebay batch of misfit clearance sale plants. 
September 14 - Montana to Maine box of joy, towards replacing some old favorites and new. 
And the Round Robin leaves arrived September 19.

In answer to my questions, Tiger Trail's history has been detailed here!

Snip of tray photo - Sept 17th arrival - tag not showing but I can tell!