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!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Oh, flowers!

How could this NOT brighten your day?

S. ionantha
With the all too vivid memory of how fast a collection of African Violets goes downhill if you don't pay attention to them - at least a little bit - every day, I'm relieved to be still enjoying their care after nearly 3 months.   
And happy to see I can still coax them into putting on a show! 

S. ionantha was a gift from Mrs. John in Montana and I'm so pleased this one forgave my rough treatment and has settled in. I've grown this before and would easily add it to my Top Ten Favorites List!  :)

Most days my second cup of coffee in the morning competes with the attention needed by a shelf of plants.
Rob's Heat Wave
Often the coffee goes cold!

I remember very well the overwhelming "I'll do it tomorrow" lack of energy that took over before, almost without realizing it was happening, until all my plants were dead or dying.  
I do not want to follow that path again. 
I keep remembering a quote from one of the vintage African violet books I own that scolds, "Don't be at it all the time." 
But it feels like so long as I'm "at it" I'll catch problems before they snowball out of my control.

Kandy Kitchen, maybe?
I'll admit there are still times when the plants might prefer a gentler, softer touch than my Rip, Repot and Ask Questions Later method!

Kandy Kitchen suffered a bit of a set back when I went to lift it back onto a higher shelf after watering and noticed some frighteningly red leaf backs.  So of course my first thought was "I've done something wrong!" - thus following the Rip & Repot routine one more time. I've been told this is likely birth marking, combined with sporting and not actually my fault. I'm not totally convinced it wasn't brought on by something I've done, but it was in pretty dreadful shape when I got it!

It was just looking as if it had turned the corner and lots of buds had begun to appear. Of course I didn't remember to go find a camera to document how the plant looked until AFTER I ripped off all its leaves.  I disbudded all but one bloomstalk. I wanted to at least see what it was going to look like in bloom.  
Turns out it's bloom is supposed to be quite different 
I like it this way, but several new plantlets have been separated off on their own to see if they might grow better under my conditions from the beginning. 
Perhaps one will bloom true. And then we'll see which is nicer. 
Unless Mother Nature has other ideas!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Making Kids Cry

That kind of week!

Lollipop Kid had a water bottle tip over onto it when I went to set it down on the wire rack shelving and crushed a leaf over the edge of its pot.  I didn't notice the damage when it happened, but the next day found this sad tear rolling out of the leaky break.

Earlier in the day Jax went after a buzzing housefly that was bouncing off one of the T-8 bulbs and knocked a tray of plants on the lower shelf sliding sideways. Not too much damage, other than a few tipped starter plants. I took Beca's Pink Crochet out of the self-watering planter and yanked a row of haloing leaves off, so it was smaller anyways. 
It has a few less leaves now.

I potted up 2 leaf pots of babies for this variety, but it's very pink (possibly unacceptable *) blossoms aren't likely to make my future Favorites List
The spooning/haloing leaves only makes it worse. 

It was not too hard to keep only 4 of the nearly 20 plantlets produced by 3 leaves. I tried to pick just a couple of the larger plantlets WITHOUT spooning leaves. I don't know if it's something I'm doing (or not doing) but Beca'a Pink Crochet is racking up a longer list of "cons" than "pros"...the word "crochet" might not save it!

* Pink has to pass the Acceptable Pink test in our household, as defined by daughter Stephani. ;) 

Later still in the day, I went to take something out of Jax's mouth, while holding a leaf pot in my other hand. She made a grab for the leaf cup of Optimara Little Moonstone and chomped a slice in one of the 2 leaves.
Luckily, not the one actually just starting to pop up babies. 

Trinket Terrific is surviving it's rough treatment for some sort of bug. it's putting on growth finally, but not sure I trust it to be pest free yet. Or ever. Yanked off all its roots (twice) and sloshed it up an down, first rubbing alcohol, then Safer Soap treatment the next week when aphid-like bug was found on the backs of several Round Robin leaves. They all got treated.
They should probably have all been pitched.
below left:
Reflections of Spring has the biggest blossoms ever! 
Rob's Heat Wave will make my Favorites List!
Rob's Heat Wave family photo
I had too many leaves set in the solo cup, so tried to move one off on its own. Broke the mother leaf right off. These very tiny babies trying to survive on their own are Exhibit-A for why "you should not be at it all the time".

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blossoms Finally!


I have blooming African Violets once again!

Luckily, I'm only growing them for my own enjoyment as the ones supposedly described with "fantasy blooms" are not very fantastic at the moment. 
One blue splotch finally showed up on the newest bud of Storybook Princess.

Reflections of Spring
Huge bloom stalk leaf!
Reflections of Spring is the plant with velvety-soft leaves I've pet every time I've come near it.  It started putting out buds first on the shelf, but they seemed to have taken forever to finally begin opening. 
Great huge cabbage-heads of green!  
I've never been a fan of green blooms, especially green edged ones, but these are curious enough make me reconsider!   

Plant ID - Double stars of gray/blue are outlined with a wide green edge that's slightly fringed. Medium green, standard foliage is tailored and slightly quilted. 

Ness' Fantasy Gold
Ness' Fantasy Gold is lovely - even without much gold!
This one is in a self-watering planter. It seems to be doing okay.  I'm wondering if the ceramic actually acts as a filter from my "hard" water?
I have leaves propagating to try the plant with my conditions from the start. This is one of the larger plants from my friend in Montana actually doing the best. Dropping a clipboard on a couple of their heads a month ago didn't help much!


I separated babies from mother leaves already of Blueberry  Kisses! August 15 - October 15.

These perfectly formed little plantlets were the only ones produced per leaf. Makes starting them off on their own easier to do because untangling them from the mother leaf was not an issue.

PLUS population is under control when only one baby is produced per leaf. Except I started about 6 leaves!
Turns out insurance leaves of this one was a good idea, since I moved my adult plant to the living room to see if less light would make the leaf stems grow longer (make the center less tight) and promptly chilled one side of the plant. Lost at least 3 leaves closest to the window and another looks suspect. 
But it started to bloom!

Do you see the face? I glued some of my "rock collection" into a sculpture! The face rock was found on a sandbar of Pleasant River while fishing along behind Tom. Lollipop Kid (another newly propagated baby - but questionable as to how it's adjusting) in a container rock found Letterboxing with Sara while she was home for a quick visit.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Self Watering Planter Update

Spooning Leaves . . . when they should NOT?

The sucker I managed to cut off the original Beca's Pink Crochet plant was placed in the Self-Watering planter. It's catching up in size, in part due to the fact that I keep pulling leaves off the older one. 
First leaves of both plants seem to be spooned shape and as they grow out they unfurl, leaving light colored stretch marks on the edges of the leaves.
I don't know if this is common. 
I don't think it's a desired trait! 

Plant ID I'm going by:
(9891) 02/04/2008 (C. Beca) Double pink frilled star. Dark green, heart-shaped, quilted/red back. Semiminiature.

I thought it might be an issue with serrated edges. 
But ID suggests otherwise as it doesn't actually say the edges are serrated. Hopefully it's not a lack of nutrient due my fertilizer choice. (?)
It doesn't seem like it's the fertilizer, as the older plant seems to be growing out of it.

BONUS: Blooms are beginning to show above the original plant!
(With a little nudge to help it between the leaves. Just to keep me humbled, the next plant I tried to "nudge" a bud for snapped completely off.  <sigh> )

Leaf Grafting Experiment Update

Babies are popping up!

Both variegated and light green leaves began showing by October 15th from the leaves I'm attempting to propagate by grafting stems. This method is mentioned in the vintage AV books but seems to be viewed more skeptically now.

But wouldn't it be cool? ;)
Update November 1, 2012
Picture shows they're growing. Variegated leaves seem more frilly than the mother leaf. Light green leaf of Lime Jewel is curly and frilled to the point of unruly. Heaven's Reflection's variegation seems different? Time will tell!

Trying very hard to keep my twitchy fingers from attempting to separate too soon. I want to grow out as many of the babies as possible to see if there are any changes.

(This post changed thanks to auto save. Tried to correct a typo and the whole thing disappeared.)

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Challenge of an African Violet Trailer

Darling Blue Trail

10)  Darling Blue Trail (6473) 02/03/1987 (C. Sotkiewicz) Single dark blue. Medium green, pointed, quilted, serrated. Semiminiature trailer.
This is the one semi that seems to like me... but I think it would love anyone... sort of like a little kitten.  It grows well and fast.  It does tend to get leggy and bare, but only after a long period of pretty blooms, and the tips root instantly and begin blooming again.  Propagation is easy and I keep a few extra babies coming along to replace the older, leggy mamas.  I haven't proved it yet, but may be very cold tolerant?
My friend sent me this cutting a few weeks ago. My first thought was: "My friend has quite a sense of humor!"  It was the shape of a curly figure "S" and I had to remove leaves just to get it to stand up in the little solo cup to root. 
It's actually straightened out quite a bit already. I'm not sure yet whether I should do something different to it. 
Lay it down in a pan pot?
Or leave it alone and see how it fills out first. I suspect leaving it alone is the better way to go. 
For a change I might follow my own advice! 
Predictably, almost as soon as I decide to leave it alone, I'll discover air-roots coming from several junctions up the stem. So I turned it out of the pot, removed a few more leaves,added a little fresh mix and reset the stem down a little lower.
Now leave me alone, Darling!

"It grows well and fast" 
"Propagation is easy"

I love a good challenge . . .
* Leaves that had to be removed were set to propagate for added insurance! 
Oh, fine: ALL 5 of them!
(Next 3 composted; I swear I'm not planting every leaf!)