Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What Was I Thinking . . .

Limit Your Collection.

When my podcast was still in production, it was something I said over and over and over again. 

I didn't originate it - the late Pauline Bartholomew, author of Growing to Show, did.  I became the standard bearer for it on my former podcast because it's such a critical part of becoming a good grower.  I can tell you from personal experience that there is an extremely fine line between an OK number of plants, and an OhMyGodThereAreTooManyPlantsAndIHateThis number of plants.  I spoke about it many, many times on my podcast.

"Limit your collection" are words to live by if you are a serious grower.  They came up for me again yesterday in one of the large African violet groups on Facebook. I know better than to wade into it on FB.  I really do . . .  but I must be getting my spirit back, because I didn't wade, I cannon balled, in one of the hottest button topics in the African violet world: throwing plants away to limit one's collection. 

A group member posted a photo of all the plants she had decided to downsize - which, given the group in which she posted probably wasn't the best idea - but I'm guessing she's a relatively new grower whose collection had gotten overwhelming.  She needed more shelf space, but instead of getting more shelves, she was limiting her collection.  "Annie would be proud," she said.  And yes - yes, I was!!  I am!!  She GOT it!!!

From the photo she posted it was at least 75-90 plants in various stages of growth that she was singing the Frozen song over.  And I'm thinking, Well Done!!!  Way to GO!!!  She had herself all set to downsize and had made her decision that, although she used to use duplicate plants like these to trade for others she didn't have, it was time to downsize and make her collection more manageable.

And there was that photo.  Of all those plants.  Perfectly good plants that she was getting rid of.  And - as I knew it would - the rumbling of the herd started . . .
Send them to me!!
I'll pay postage!!
You can get free boxes from the Post Office!!
I certainly hope you are giving those to someone!!
Take them to a nursing home!!
Send them to school with your kids for their teachers!!
I hope you're not throwing those away!!
And she tried to justify her choice to toss them . . . yes, they're lovely, but I don't want so many.  YES!!!!!  She GETS it!!!  She's making her collection - and her life - manageable!!  Hot Dog!!!  Because here's the thing:  If you have a busy life and all of a sudden your plants are overwhelming you, not only do you not have time for the plants, you don't have time for any of those other ideas up there.  The entire point of limiting one's collection is to keep it fun, and maintain some semblance of a life in the process - because boy howdy let me tell you that African violets can very easily - and very quickly - take over every bit of your time (and your life) if you let them.

So, I step up (oh boy . . . ) and validate her choice to let those plants go to their Great Reward.  But the herd rides on (seriously, it was a fricking stampede) . . .
Sell them at a Farmers' Market this spring!!
Take them to your club's opportunity table!!
See if there's a plant trade!!
I hope you're sharing with people nearby!!
Mother's Day is coming soon - give them to kids who don't have much money so they have something to give their mom!!
And I step up again and comment that she's getting a lot of pushback on her (really great) plan - and I say that I know that I will get pushback on my continued support of what's best for her, along with a reminder that it's OK to toss the plants.  Yup - toss 'em.  When it hits you that you have way too many, it's time to let them go.  That's what limiting your collection is all about.   

And then I'm chastised, because, you know, aren't we supposed to be generous and share with others who want what we no longer need?  Whoa - wait a minute.

Back it up, sister.  

I'm going to address some of those comments/ideas.  First, however, let me say that they are all valid - except they weren't the original poster's choice.  Her choice was letting those plants go to their Great Reward.  My guess is that she made that choice because she probably has a very busy life (like I do). In any case, that was her choice - completely valid and one that I support wholeheartedly, but one that many people feel is unacceptable.  

So let's look some of those comments in the context of a crazy busy life:
  • Of course everyone wants something for free, even though they offer to "pay postage."  You still have to spend the time.
  • Free boxes entails making the time to take a trip to the post office - more time.
  • The commenters likely have no earthly idea how much time it takes to properly prep, wrap, and package 75+ plants for shipping and then make ANOTHER trip to the post office to ship them - buttloads of time.
  • Nursing homes and schools very often don't want another thing that they have to take care of.  They have enough on their plates taking care of the elderly and teaching the young .  They have limited staff and not enough time in their days as it is.
  • Wait until spring to sell them at a farmers' market?  Um . . . yeah no - probably doesn't have time to wait that long, she needs the space NOW.
  • Take them to your club.  What if the original poster doesn't have a local affiliate??  I don't. And, um . . . she still needs the space NOW.
  • A plant trade?  That's pretty much code for shipping = time (need I say more?)
  • Sharing with people nearby?  Really?  Who do you know in your neighborhood who wants 75+ African violets? Anyone?  Bueller?
  • Mother's Day . . . Does your mom grow African violets?  Do you know any moms with small children who want to take on a plant that, although easy to grow requires specific growing conditions when they already have young kids to corral?
You're sensing the theme here, aren't you?  I know you are  :-)  It's all about time.

We spend money.  We spend time.

We make money.  We make time.

Time is money.

We have a specific amount of time in our days, and it's up to us to figure out how best to spend it.  We budget it just like we budget our funds.

I posted the following in response to the sanctimonious "shouldn't we share beauty" commenter. . .
 " . . . I don't normally wade in to this hot button issue because my stance on it is public and very well known from years of my former podcast, but I did this time because it's unfair to assume that, because someone chooses to limit their collection by tossing plants they aren't interested in generosity and sharing beauty. Do you know how long it takes to properly pack and ship what appear to be well over 75 plants? If it's best for you to send 75+ plants from your collection to everyone who offers to pay postage, then rock on! That's great. For you. But maybe not for [x]. The whole point of limiting one's collection is to make the collection - and one's life - manageable again. No one should be made to feel that their personal choice is unacceptable. The immediate removal of all the plants in that photo is going to not only create shelf space, but it will return a HUGE amount of time back into [x's] days. I'm going to quote [an expert grower's] earlier comment again: "It's nice if you can share, but knowing your limit and maintaining that is a huge step toward becoming an excellent grower."
The same commenter came back with a little snark about how I should reread her post. I apparently got my wits back about me because I commented briefly that I didn't need to go any further, and walked away from the second round.  She, on the other hand, came back with a lengthy post backpedaling on how she wasn't being condemning, etc., etc.  Uh Huh . . . 

And sure enough - the original poster came back to the thread and proceeded to list out a daily schedule that would curl your hair.  She doesn't have enough time (or space) to care for that many plants.  She asked that the conversation cease, which I honored - but others didn't.  They're still asking for plants and offering to pay postage.

So, I duked it out on FB.  I think that makes me kind of a dork, but truth be told, I'm kinda happy that I seem to be recovering a little bit of my edge.  It's been sorely missing in recent weeks. My mom taught me to have the courage of my convictions and I'm not afraid to speak up for them - but there are reasons I don't hang out in the large FB groups, the main one being that I am a show grower.  The vast majority of people in the large social media groups are not show growers, and many engage in stuff that drives me wild.  Like:

  1. Constant attempts to identify violets bought at a store.  This is virtually impossible to do accurately, and is frowned upon by the AVSA.
  2. Regular requests for a plant's description because they say they can't afford to buy the latest AVML or  First Class 2.  They are asking for something for free that the rest of us have paid for.  This irks me.
  3. Bragging about growing hundreds of plants that are jammed up together in limited space and posting photos of same.  Every time I see one of these photos it gives me the heebie jeebies.  Jamming plants cheek by jowl into trays and leaving them there is truly poor practice.  It fosters pests and disease, not to mention that the plants will never be able to grow to their full potential.  I don't get this - I mean, why bother having plants if you're not going to actually grow them?
  4. Exchanges such as the one I just described to you in this blog post.
You Kids!!!  Get Off My Lawn!!!!    :-D   :-D

Clearly, I don't have the patience of my friend, Joyce - Champion Grower, Master Judge, Teacher, Past President of the AVSA, current Chair of the AVSA's national Membership & Promotions Committee, co-author of You CAN Grow African Violets, master designer, petrocosmea hybridizer, and one of my besties  :-)  She regularly is able to comment in the large groups.  Me, not so much.

In the grand scheme of things, "limit your collection" is not earth shattering stuff and it probably wasn't worth this lengthy blog post.  It's not going to cure cancer or create world peace - but if you're serious about growing plants, it will give you the opportunity to bring your A game.  Who knows, you might be a show grower after all  :-)

Time to sing the Frozen song and Let it Go . . .  :-)


Michelle said...

This post has so much wisdom in it for LIFE. Choices; time; priorities; standing up for yourself in spite of pressure to do otherwise. Lots to ponder on and grow from here! Thank-you, friend. Off to (carefully) run the vacuum, because the debris on the floor is driving me CRAZY. ;-)

A :-) said...

Thank you, my friend. That is very kind of you to say :-) And for Heaven's sake, please take it easy

Ely said...

People can really get offended about things that have nothing directly to do with their lives. I'm sure that grower would have put out a call if she were interested in taking the plants any further than the trash.

Your experience is why I don't participate in the open forums on Rav- I ventured a comment about MT yarn after a woman was complaining that a large online store sent her mismatched skeins, while acknowledging that they state in their shipping notes to state if you want matching skeins. She was upset that they didn't do this for her anyways... Meanwhile MT yarn is notorious for taking great license in interpreting their own color ways from batch to batch, but the point is why would this person assume that this large company should take the time to look for matching skeins if not requested? Should they assume that you are working on a project, or that you are gifting the skeins to different people? There could have been a variety of reasons why she got those skeins- those could have been the last two or all the skeins looked wildly different- but to take the matter to an online forum in an attempt to say, "look what they did to me," and then the number of people who jumped on the bandwagon, was mind boggling. No one was interested in hearing a dissident opinion.The number of disagrees I got to my rational comment made me get rid of that button AND to not venture in there again... I only comment if people have stitch or pattern questions...

Glad to see there's pep in your step again!!

candy said...

Very enjoyable read tonight, and my first time hearing the Frozen Song...yeah, I live in a cave with no TV lol !!

Cindy said...

That was one of the best things I learned from your podcasts! I always felt like I HAD to find homes for extra plants. You helped me give myself permission to toss them. I grow for my own enjoyment, but there is no joy in having twice as many plants as I want to care for. I would rather look at ten beautiful well cared for plants than feel overwhelmed looking at 100 ratty ones.

A :-) said...

Ely - I think that there are a lot of bullies in the cybersphere because it's inherently faceless - I've curated my FB feed massively, and I am choosy about which Ravelry groups I post in, too :-)

A :-) said...

Thanks Candy! :-)

A :-) said...

Cindy - Yay!!! Thank you!! I'm really glad to hear you say that. I agree - since I've massively downsized, it's so much easier to enjoy and work with with the plants that made the cut :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm still of the opinion that if you can't say anything nice [or helpful], don't say anything at all. To be perfectly honest, I find it surprising that I post comments on your blog. I don't do facebook, twitter or any of the other social media because I don't want to read other people's opinions as they don't GET what I am trying to say. I used to post to an on-line forum about African violets. I had to step away because the information posted was useless when a person had a valid problem. It was more about "can we trade?" or "I want what you have". I made the mistake of posting a picture of my plant area and I was bullied into sending cuttings of some of the plants [not violets] to an obnoxious member. I was looking for people to share my love of violets with, but they didn't come to table with the same attitude. I feel sorry for the poor woman who posted what she was planning on doing with her violet collection. To have such backlash is not kind or helpful. I feel that the point of social media has been lost. It was meant for us to connect; not to be bullied or harassed. And YAY!! to you for feeling good enough to stand up for your convictions on FB. Where angels fear to tread . . . . . :)

Janice H.

Suzie said...

Ah, but it's all "growing pains". Two years ago, i had eight of the same NOID and a dozen of another.... and was scared to throw even one out. then i started acquiring new varieties indiscriminately until i had to cut back. I tried to re-home everything. Turns out, even giving them away for free takes TIME to set up appointments etc. After a while you wise up to the fact you just can't keep going the way you started out. Give it another year and i'll have space between my plants :)
People online lack manners (in real life too) - they wouldn't beg at a street corner, but demand cuttings and plants... Instead of acknowledging what it takes for someone to decide to cut back on a number of plants (there's a reason they have too many), they make it harder...

A :-) said...

Janice - yes, I find there's a LOT of that. When the podcast was active, I had a standing rule about not sending anything to anyone. Certainly some friends got things from me, but if I had sent leaves to everyone who messaged me about it, that's all I would have done.

A :-) said...

Suzie - certainly it's a learning process, and the majority of people ramp up very quickly because African violets are so beautiful. It can very quickly get out of hand. And if you need someone to give you permission to toss a plant, consider it given ;-)

Suzie said...

yeah, and a leaf doesn't take much space. until a tray of them grow up to need a dozen trays' space. oops. :P
time to decide which ones one actually likes :)

A :-) said...

And only pot up the strongest baby - unless you have a ready home qwaiting for plantlets, you only need ONE :-)