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!