Saturday, July 3, 2010


I contemplated having "blossoms" or "buds" as one of my B's because I love flowers and I love to grow things. The last couple of summers I have been a little saddened to not be able to have a container-garden on the deck because my son just can't leave dirt alone. Someday I hope to have a lovely garden and a yard where I can plant many bulbs.
A friend recently blogged about some of her favorite "old things" and it made me think about things I treasure that remind me of either childhood or people I love who have passed on. I really don't have many things that have been passed down to me that I value highly. I'm not really a nik-nak person or a jewelry person and most of what I have been given falls in one of those two camps. I'm not a very sentimental person about things, I guess.
Anyway, I realized that the thing that came to mind is probably more of a memory than a thing. I love african violets and I currently have seven. The reason I love them is that they remind me of my great-grandma (who I have mentioned previously). She had african violets. I remember being completely intrigued with hers as a child because she had one that was actually not planted in a pot but into the pores of a large pumice stone. Did you know that african violets don't actually need to live in soil?
It wasn't something I thought a lot about until I received one as a gift sometime in the year 2000. That was around the time that she was in a nursing home suffering from severe dementia and Alzheimer's. Watching her fade away slowly and not know who any of us were was very difficult, and truly I did not enjoy the few visits I made with my parents. The violet reminded me of that one that she had back when she was more herself. I felt a strange connection to it. Not only did it remind me of the violet that sat on her dining room table, but it reminds me of her love of growing things - she was a farmer, after all. I have taken very good care of it, and it is now 10 years old. Yes, I've had the same african violet for 10 years - it's actually blooming right now. Here it is:Through the years since then, I've done lots of research on them, bought several more of different varieties, given a couple away as gifts (to my husband's great delight - he does not understand my fascination with them, only knows that I have LOTS). I've even taken shoots and made new violet plants (and felt really cool when it worked).
All seven of my violets currently reside on a shelf in front of our bedroom window. I have found that violets do best when sitting in an east-facing window. They are very delicate little plants that have lots of little quirks. I think that's why I like them. I actually tend to kill lower-maintenance houseplants. I couldn't keep a cactus alive to save myself. In fact, I was given a Christmas cactus this past holiday season and it already died a month or two ago.
Here are some tips in case you receive an african violet (or want to go out and buy one) and panic that you might kill it:
~~They do not like water to touch their leaves. They do best when watered from beneath through the roots, so don't let them get wet.
~~I keep my violets in self-watering pots where the water reaches them by soaking through the bottom of a terracotta pot. However, temperamental beings that they are, it's not really even that simple. I only keep about an inch-and-a-half of water in the bottom of the pot and let it dry out before filling it up again. They sort of go through a wilt/perk cycle this way, but they stay fairly healthy if you are paying attention.
~~They must be potted in special african violet soil that is lighter and less-dense than typical potting soil.
~~ Similar to goldfish, they will grow to the size of the pot they are in. The one pictured above is actually fairly large.
~~My violets have been sitting in this window for almost 4 years now, and they are happy enough that most bloom naturally without fertilizer. I learned, though, that to get them to bloom, it's best to buy fertilizer that has a very high middle-number such as 15-60-15. I know nothing about what this means, only that it works.
~~Violets need to be repotted every couple of years since they tend to "climb" out of their pots.
~~As mentioned, they prefer east-facing light. They will actually get sunburns if they are exposed to direct sun that is too intense. Their soft little leaves turn a sort of reddish-brown color.
~~During colder months, they still prefer east-facing light, but if the window is drafty, they do a little better if their pots are wrapped in a towel for warmth. I know it sounds funny, but they really are that sensitive.
Aside from the above tips, they really are fairly low-maintenance plants as long as you get to know their quirks and take care of them properly. They are very beautiful and delicate. I hope to always have at least a few around.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Danielle. I think I will need to get some of these :)

    What a fun and beautiful little reminder of your grandmother.