Sunday, September 20, 2009

Plants - Part VI

It's been awhile since I posted about the African violets. Since May! Yikes! Well, they have been growing all this time, but my summer was busy so I haven't had a chance to keep up this plant series very well - however, it will continue at various times in the weeks and months to come, because African violets are so beautiful and they are EASY to grow!!

Perhaps next I'll choose a plant to grow in natural light (no light cart!) and show you just how simple it can really be :-)

I do want to write this update, now, though, because yesterday was the Illinois State African Violet Society annual show - and as circumstances would have it, I was not able to enter because there were no Saturday morning entries this year and the logistics of a 2-hour round trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe three days in a row was more than I could deal with.

I knew this early enough that I did not focus hard on a pre-show schedule this year. So, the plants did not get increasing hours of light nor any bloom boosting fertilizer, but I did let them come into bloom in their own time, because - hello - they are beautiful, and even a show grower needs to have some beautiful blooms in the house from time to time :-) They are not really show quality because they needed additional grooming and, in addition to the steps mentioned above, I would have also disbudded longer to have better heads of bloom for show - however, I think it's well worth a look at what can be accomplished when a plant that was seriously struggling gets the care it really needs :-)

So - let's start with Gail. Here she was, back in April 2009 . . . leaves drooping and a bad case of powdery mildew.

And here is Gail now, in September 2009.

First, the symmetry on this plant is not as good as it can be - there are some wonky/twisty leaves, and certainly at least one row that had I gone to show, would have come off 12 weeks ago. Also, not a lot of bloom on her right now. BUT - please note the color of the leaves and that this color is consistent throughout the entire plant. I think the difference it quite plain. :-)

Now - here's Melodie Kimi back in April 2009. You might recall the discussion back then about the obvious culture break. I also talked about her open growth habit. In the photo above of Gail, and in the following photos of Mid-America, you can see the standard rosette pattern in which most violets grow.

Here's Kimi now, in September 2009. Again, not too many of her beautiful blue and white blossoms (for all the reasons already noted), but look again at the foliage - healthy, darker, consistent throughout. She's got a couple of twisty leaves, which I will need to work on, and her open growth habit is still quite visible. Although you can't really see it in this photo, I should have turned her more regularly on the cart because she's listing a bit to the right :-) Again, had I gone to show with this plant, the entire bottom row of leaves (maybe two rows) would have come off 12 weeks ago.

Why 12 weeks? Well, I would have repotted one more time then, and done some final cleanup on the leaves and set the plants on a strict, 12-week, pre-show schedule. I will have opportunities to show in 2010, so I'll do some documentation on that process at that time.

And finally - here's Mid-America, back in April 2009. You'll recall I said that she grew pretty well, even with abject neglect. But here she has a bad case of powdery mildew and you can see the rows of leaves that came off - I kept only that nice-looking center crown - about 3 rows of leaves.

Here she is now, in September 2009. Again - at least a row (maybe more) of leaves would have come off 12 weeks ago, but Mid-America continues to pretty much grow herself :-) Beautiful, consistent foliage, great variegation, and a good head of bloom even without the normal pre-show schedule. To give you a good idea - she's about 12" in diameter. Both Gail and Melodie Kimi are around 10" in diameter. All three are in 4" pots. Kimi won't get much larger, but Gail can grow to be a huge plant - at least in Southern California she did - I have high hopes for her here, now that she's getting good care.

I might have told you this already, but when when I first started to grow African violets, I had no real interest in showing, and I didn't know that varieties were named - or that you couldn't show a violet that was what we call a "no-name" (what you usually get at the store - they don't usually come with their names attached unless you get them from a specialty grower).

Anyway - I saw a photo of this particular variety - Mid-America. I thought it was the most beautiful plant I had ever seen and I searched high and low to find it. It was my first named variety, and it continues to be a favorite and is an amazing grower for me. I'm partial to standards and large standards, and I love plants with variegated foliage. I've found that although I can usually grow a semi-miniature, I usually always struggle with minis. Not sure why that is, but it has held true for me for pretty much all my growing history - standards seem to be my forte.

So - my little experiment was successful, and I'm happy I documented it here for you. Something that I have learned over time, is to find the varieties that do well for me. Of course it's always a challenge to grow something that you have to fuss over, but really, in the grand scheme of things, I look for plants that like my growing conditions and want to grow here - there's only one plant that I keep for sentimental reasons, but it's never been as happy here as it was in Southern California. I keep hoping it will be - one day :-)

Here is one more plant that I think is going to be a great show plant for me. It's called Sahara. It was hybridized by Kent Stork. I love his plants, and they are hybridized here in the Midwest. I think it's one of the reasons they do so well for me - I grow at least five or six of his plants at any given time. This one's currently still in a Solo cup and is about 7" in diameter (really ready to be repotted!). I let it come into bloom because I wanted to be sure it was blooming true (it is :-) ). I'm very hopeful for this one as a show plant for next year when it has a little more growth.

I hope you've enjoyed these plants as much as I do. I think my next series is going to be on one of the cousins of the African violet - the Streptocarpus. I have a bunch of them in terrible shape in the basement :-D We'll see if they do as well as the violets did.

If it's not one thing, it's another!


candy t said...

I love your violet care series! Your plants are gorgeous and Mid America looks like it can win you some ribbons next year. Where are you planning to show? I miss showing. It's a lot of fun!

Paula said...

How interesting about African Violets! Yours are beautiful! I have had some success with them, but just the ones purchased at random places. I found your blog through the Domestic Witch Blog Award from Knitted Squirrel, although I haven't displayed it yet. And guess what? I'm a piper, too! Were you at the Chicago Games?