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!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The ROUND ROBIN experience

"African Violets Are Good Travelers" *

They change their clime, not their disposition, who run beyond the sea.


The NEW Complete Book of African Violets by Helen Van Pelt Wilson @1951, 1963.
* (Title and quote from Chapter 15 Heading) 
Chapter 15 is a step-by-step sketched guide for packing plants and leaves for mailing.
Carolyn K. Rector, author of how to grow African Violets  mentions running a Round Robin. @1951.

Sometimes things don't go as planned. They don't even go anything like you imagine.
So you need to regroup and change course. It's helpful if there are friendly Voices to lift your resolve [and your mindset] when it's needed most.
My name was 3rd in a recent Violet Voice Round Robin. I anxiously awaited delivery for days and days. Our mail service has been sketchy for the last year, with mail going to all the wrong boxes - off by one or two addresses, either side of us. We usually sort it out amongst ourselves. But you just never know where your mail might land or be certain every person who gets wrong mail will value its safe return into the system.
And delays are not good when it comes to plant material inside hot boxes!
When the Round Robin delivery time went into week 2, there was cause for concern. It had to cross through US/Canadian customs before getting to me and was taking its own, sweet time. And appears to have been frisked at the border, if lack of tape was any indication!
The smell of rotting leaves, once the box arrived September 20th at nearly 4 pm, was horrific. Most of the starting packets were baggies of brown-goo mush. A few wedges were cut from leaves with any sign of green life. A long shot with nothing to lose! 
(The remaining wedge of "International" was doing the best of these attempts, but I fear it's starting to fail. Really wanted that one to have a happily ever-after [ironic name] outcome!)
I was in denial for over an hour. THIS Round Robin was STILL going to go exactly as planned and I would get it back into the mail stream for the next person in line. Except, in my heart and in my head I felt nothing was ready to go back into the box and not be turned to goo if it meant four or five more days with USPS.
My anxiety was through the roof. (What if everyone thought I was one of "those kind of people?")
As a "starting over" grower I didn't have replacement leaves for a new box. Thankfully, PLAN B went into effect and the next person in line FIXED EVERYTHING by starting a new box. 
Plants and leaves in my care were "planted" to stay a while. Time to recover.
I hesitated naming what came out of the box until they proved to be survivors. JINX?

UPDATE Nov. 2nd: A few weeks in I noticed Petite Blarney Plantlet was actually 2 so decided to separate. DISCOVERED WHITE FUZZ & BUG. Panic subsided and treated rather than tossing the lot. Playing with fire? I hope not! 
Plantlets have been tipped out and checked weekly. 

{Roots removed and reset like sucker.}

* Babies beginning to appear marked.
Lost marked with strike line... or deleted.

Ness' Crinkle Blue - Baby Plantlet  - {treated twice}
Ness' Satin Rose - Baby Plantlet  - 1 leaf saved, plantlet tossed
* Persian Prince - 3 leaves - {1 leaf tossed/treatment caused to fail}
Little Bo Peep - Baby Plantlet - 3 leaves saved, plantlet tossed
Petite Blarney - Baby Plantlet + 2 leaves {TREATED MULTIPLE TIMES}
Trinket Terrific - Baby Plantlet - {treated 3 times}
* Mickey Mouse - 2 leaves
Mikinda Girl - 6 leaves
* Frosted Whisper - 2 leaves
* Teen Bride - 4 leaves
Pacific Pearl - 3 leaves ? do I still have this one - need to check!
* Foster Trail - 3 leaves (+ 2 half leaves)
Sassy Sister - Partial leaf - nearly whole
Rob's Squeeze Toy - 1/2 leaf
* Rob's oolong - 2 leaves
* Blue Dragon - 2 leaves
* Opt. Little Moonstone - 2 leaves
Futuriste - 1 3/4 leaves
S. ionantha 1/2 leaf
* Von's Baby Jay - 2 leaves
Opt. Little Crystal - 3 leaves
1 stem of Strep. "White Butterfly"

♥ Wishes Fulfilled - Some of these (Plantlets & Persian Prince) are the ones I dared mention I would really like most, when asked if we had any wishlists. I have risked treating rather than tossing at discovery of aphid-like bugs on backs of some leaves and base of most of the plantlets. Hope I don't regret this choice!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Self-Watering Glazed Ceramic Plant Pots

Experimenting (again) with cute planters

. . . carefully!
Several years ago I bought 3 of the really big 2-piece blue planters and they worked for a while. They're really too big for what I wanted them for so they went into storage. 
The no-names I tested them out with kind of wilted and looked like they needed a rescue. I called it quits on that experiment. You really do need to add more Perlite than you might think. At least more than I thought!
I found these cute, smaller planters at GreenCare.  
Time to experiment again!

At left is the sucker I removed from Beca's Pink Crochet on August 15th. At the time it was 2 tiny leaves with just a hint of the center leaf forming in the middle.  Doing pretty well, so far! 
I kept it in a dome until the 2 biggest leaves were shoving against the sides. It probably needs more Perlite. For now I'm not really keeping the reservoir filled more than a quarter of an inch.

Middle plant is Ness' Fantasy Gold. It seemed like a good candidate for this style of planter's top surface as it seems to want to stand tall and drape over as it grows. It was rubbing against the isolation dome and wanted out. AND I love the shape of the leaves and wanted it out where I can endlessly pick it up, twirl it for sucker or bud inspection & check water level enjoy it!

At right is another new arrival named (excuse me while I go pick it up, twirl it for inspection to see how she's doing and check her name tag) . . . (again - because by the time I wrote that last section I forgot what it said!) Sky n Snow!   

<sigh> What was I going to do while I was in there?  ;)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"What did you do to my Ma?" ;)

Ma's Second Thoughts
I started updating my newest African Violet arrivals in the tab section at the top, rather than individually. While I was editing the pictures I took to tell part of the story, it became clear I may be a little too rough with my handling of new arrivals. 
I once proclaimed this to be @LaurieCare - a risk factor all plants coming into contact with me faced. 

 Perhaps I need to refine my er... technique...quite a bit!

Ma's Second Thoughts (before)
Ma's Second Thoughts (after)

Time will tell how well their recovery goes. But the enjoyment of the moment did my inner well-being a world of good.
My recovery is well under way! ;)
(Perhaps a  patch of light hanging over a few plants on the kitchen counter should be prescribed instead of so many anti-depressant pills?)

I picked up a new shop light & package of T8 tubes at Home Depot a week or two ago. 

So, when HD sent me an email with a $10 off coupon I decided to replace the other one as well.  Mine were all from about 2003, I suspect.

Headed to the garden center checkout. She declined the coupon! The lights weren't technically found in the garden center. The fine print I neglected to read apparently would have pointed out the coupon came with strings. I asked for someone higher-up to plead my case to. (I tried the nice "Customer is always right" approach" of pleading, with some begging thrown in for good measure.)

Invoked "I'm a valued says so right on that coupon!"
Okay, she was pretty insistent it wouldn't do any good: I may have said "I should just walk away and go to Lowe's." oops!
Turns out whomever she finally spoke with once she picked up the phone to give it shot asked if the "Customer was being Nice About It?"  She said yes... ?

I got the discount.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"It takes a long time to grow an old friend."

Happily, an old friend and AV Mentor accepted my long overdue note in the spirit it was intended. What began to feel like an unforgivable absence was gracefully forgiven.

AND African Violets filled my mailbox!

Actually, the mail lady arrived finally at 4:52 p.m. and delivered the box straight into my waiting arms. The box had been on the floor next to her feet and the bottom was red hot. I feared the worst as I raced to the house with my precious cargo. So much so that blog photos I imagined of the new arrivals were forgotten.

Plants needed to get out!

Affectionately referred to as Area 51. 
9/14/12 total leaf count came to fifty-one.
Anyone care to refresh our memory about the Golden Rule? :)
I challenge you to reach out to someone you owe a note or a phone call and renew your spirit. Don't take friends for granted.

And don't be afraid a friendship can't be mended, so you don't try. 
It may be just the boost you both need. 
I feel blessed! ♥

Friday, September 7, 2012

The 14th Post


Maybe!  Didn't seem right leaving the post count on 13 for long :)


We're grafting here.
* Proving it can't be done.  
But WHAT IF something really cool happened?
Stems were sliced, with some of the tissue removed so that the two stems could nest together. Stems are taped together with quarter of an inch left uncovered below the soil mix.
* The fact that the leaves are okay so far amazes me a little bit.

Idea found in vintage AV books, thought to be a plausible method to propagate at one time.
Additional resource:
How to Graft Leaves ("Myth vs. Reality")

Some Improvement, right?

24 days of Change

   (Arrival date -August 14)                                                                                   (September 7, 2012)


Heaven's Reflections

Blueberry Kisses
(Accidentally broke off a leaf right in the center. You can hardly tell? Will probably crowd itself like most girl-leaf AVs. )


Rob's Combustible Pigeon
(Wished for some variegation. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR! Culture change, you think?!)

Beca's Pink Crochet
(Trouble free - shapes on it's own it seems. Starting to put out buds.)

Storybook Princess
(Fast grower! Still a little twisty and leaves are sand-paper rough.)

Reflections of Spring
(Feels like VELVET!  Yes, I've petted & caressed the leaves every time I've picked it up. Daily. At least. Poor little thing! ;)

Cupid's Jewel
(Still a little twisted .. . . center not so tight.)

Rob's Heat Wave
(2 more leaves to take off from culture break.)

Lollipop Kid
(Have taken sucker leaves off every other day. Slower grower but new leaves seem softer, nicer.)

Kandy Kitchen
(Ummm . . . ?)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Well, That Ship Has Sailed!

From the Cooperative Extension

So the same day I jotted off a note to the Schultz Plant Food people I also clicked the local Cooperative Extension website and wrote a note to them about the possibility of looking at my Lime Jewel plant under a microscope or something.
I'm wondering if there are any experts in the office that take a look at houseplants to see what ails them? ;)
I bought some starter African violets on ebay...risky business I know.            (But was lured in by 100% positive rating and a bargain discount!)
The plant in question is Lime Jewel.
It has a very twisted growth of leaves and I'm not so certain the center growth is improving much. I have removed many leaves thinking maybe the new growth just can't get around itself.
I tried one lady's advice to put a bit of tissue over the center to see if too much light was the culprit. It just got a bit bleached out...
I suspect a combo of high temps and too much light/fert from the grower where it came - TEXAS! Perhaps... it was pretty hot there this summer from what I can tell?
Most of the other 10 plants are showing improvement. It may be this one with light green "quilted leaves" is not a keeper. Before I wash my hands of it ....I just wondered what was available to local want-to-be gardeners at the extension.
...just signed up for the newsletter and thought what the heck - I'll send a note. Totally understand if this is not something the extension deals with :)
A reply! 
The following advice will no doubt explain the title of this entry.
Hi Laurie, 
Thanks so much for your excellent questions.  It's really tough to make a diagnosis without seeing the actual plant.  It sounds like you haven't had the plant in your care for very long.  If so, I would take the wait and see approach for at least another few weeks.  If plants have been stressed, it can take a while for them to recover.  You'll want to avoid removing any more leaves.  It's best to not remove any leaves unless you think they may have a fungal problem because any photosynthetic tissue can help with your plant's recovery from stress.  
I'm sure you know this already, but African violets preform best in diffuse, indirect light. They are sensitive to over fertilization, so be sure to follow the directions for use on any fertilizers that are appropriate to use on African violets (more is not better).  Twisted growth does sound like a fertility issue, but (again) it's tough to say without seeing the plant and knowing more about how the plant was treated before it reached you (which may be impossible to find out).  Usually commercial growers are set up to provide the appropriate conditions for the crops they are growing.  Therefore, I doubt that it would be a sunlight or heat issue even if they did come from Texas.  Sometimes, fertility issues can happen because of inconsistencies with automated irrigation.  
I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck with your lovely African violets!  Let me know if you have any more questions.
Best wishes, 
I know crowns are sometimes removed to force suckering - that could then develop into new plants when removed from the mother. If the center of this plant improves it will probably be a miracle! As it was, the twisted mess was making ME stressed. So leaves got yanked in my usual ruthless gentle, loving manner. 
It will be what it will.
This was an impulse purchase variety and I have no ownership/loss anxiety! 
I plan to only keep plants that make me happy.

I figure the propagating leaves of Lime Jewel are the ones surely to produce "mouse ears" first and most prolifically! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Experiment #1

Forsyth Pot Propagation

In the AVSA African Violet Magazine from July/August 2010 Sue Haffner's QUESTION BOX answers a reader's question about "Forsyth Pots" (or "Forsyth Gardens"). She had never heard of it and had to do a little research, describing it as "an old fashioned method of rooting cuttings of all sorts of plants" using a clay pot (with the hole plugged) filled with water and placed in the center of a larger pot filled with vermiculite. 
The leaf or other plant cuttings are placed around the rim.
The outer pot could be plastic, but the center pot must be clay so that the water soaks through to the rooting leaves. I had to make plant stake markers to identify my leaves as nothing would stick to the damp clay pot. 
Rob's Combustible Pigeon, Storybook Princess and Kandy Kitchen.

This PDF file from the University of Minnesota Extension Service describes the process more fully.
They note: * Plants that are somewhat difficult to root also have a better chance in a forsythe pot. 
For African Violet leaves they suggest you:
"...poke the petiole into the vermiculite so there is contact between the underside of the leaf blade and the moist vermiculite.  New plantlets will form at the base of the leaf blade."
It is not necessary that you "poke" the leaf all the way down so the the bottom touches the vermiculite as pictured on page 18 of the file. IMHO.
*Nobody seems to know who Forsythe was . . . ?

Update* This method may have been invented by a Mr. Forsyth as described in The Book of the Garden from 1853. That would make it an idea that's been around a while!

UPDATE September 17, 2012
Fuzzy mold growing on the outer clay pot drove home why clay pot use is widely discontinued! 
Wiped it down with handi-wipe. ASAP! Will consider moving it farther away from plants if mold returns too soon. 
Leaves are surprisingly still firm, although one seems to be "birth marking". I thought it was going mushy, but the discolored sections on the leaf seem firm. 
  • I wonder if straight vermiculite causes it?
  • Constant moist conditions of the method?

    UPDATE October 15, 2012: ENDED EXPERIMENT.
Mold on outside of pot and rims not acceptable risk for contaminating surroundings. Green algae build up inside smaller pot a cesspool of primordial goo! I quit this one. 100% vermiculite will NOT be my choice for propagating leaves. Roots went straight down but no sign of babies in this time frame. Normal soil less mix seems to have a faster success rate.

African Violet Plant Food

Schultz 8-14-9 African Violet Plus Micro-nutrients
I filled out the contact form at with questions about the percentage of Nitrogen in their product made up from urea. It seems to be widely believed urea is bad for African Violets. An entire new industry seems to have grown up promoting the fact that they DON'T use it in their products and nearly everything written will scream not to use it.
I did find one article written by Joyce Stork in an old AVSA magazine from Nov/Dec 2009 titled, "Urea-Based Fertilizers" on page 51. She suggests many articles written have condemned urea based fertilizers because "it is the safest course of action." She seemed to feel some of the cases being blamed on this ingredient had other issues associated with the problems.
Of course, I bought some :) 
It was the AV plant food with the least percentage of Urea I could find locally out of 4 stores I checked with.
So I wondered why a well established company would continue to include it?
When you wonder something, you should go looking for answers! 

This was their very swift company reply:
Thank you for contacting United Industries.

Nitrogen can come in many different forms, each of which has different qualities. Some, like nitrate nitrogen, are immediately available to the plant and others, like ammoniacal nitrogen and urea nitrogen, become available over time. That is why, as you see, our Nitrogen consists of three different types, which ensures that the plants will get some nitrogen immediately, and some later.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at 1-800-332-5553.

Product Specialist
United Industries
A subsidiary of Spectrum Brands
I will add the usual cautions:
"If what you're using works, don't change what you're doing!"

Time will tell how my plants do. 
Perhaps an excellent experiment once I have an over abundance of offspring to play with. Which of their directions should you follow? Half strength every watering? Once a month at the full dose?
For now I'm leaning towards a happy medium - half strength middle and end of month.
(Will entertain any and all advice!)