October 25, 2016

If you are looking for posts about canaries:

If you are looking for posts about my canaries, I have moved the posts from the past over to my new Canary Blog:

I will be adding new posts on that site.
So, check there for updates, new photos, and interesting 'canary talk'!
Thanks for your interest.

February 7, 2015

February Blossoms!

Just had to share the BEAUTY that sits at my elbow while I am on the computer!
Most of these are plants I ordered from Violet Barn last October,
and they are still in the little pot they sent them in!!!!
These are a few young plantlets just coming into their first bloom!
I have about 200 of these - in 121 varieties!  Yikes
I AM trying to 'limit my collection'!

February 5, 2015

To view ALL POSTS of 'Building Our New House':

Blogger lists the most recent posts at the top of the page.

If you want to view all posts of Building Our New House
from the beginning to the end,

so you get to a list of only the posts about the how the house was built, which begins with a page with this post at the bottom.

 You will have TO READ FROM THE BOTTOM TO TOP and click 'Newer Posts' at the bottom left of the page!  

You will begin with the first post and work forward to the last 'new house' post.

June 14, 2013

Excellence in African Violets

I LOVED this article! There were many things mentioned in the article that I do as part of 'Trusted Routine', and that I think are very important! :)

"In Search of Excellence" by Betty Tapping. Betty has been a long-time member and friend of Lakeshore African Violet Society. Although she has retired from growing African violets she still keeps up her connections with our society and still lives in our community. This article will help growers achieve excellence in their plants with tips from Betty, an excellent grower and exhibitor of African violets.

This article has all the basics, although they aren't laid out as 1, 2, and 3.
Do what Betty says, and you will have nice show-quality plants AND also be organized and neat!!!

The article is deceptively simple, and you might overlook these important things!  So, allow me to give you a guided tour of the article!

First paragraph:  Betty learn from others' wisdom, but allow yourself to experiment and learn from your mistakes!  I would put this first in my article also:  Learning, the easy way from someone else, or the hard way by trial and error, is the FUN of this African violet hobby!

Next in the article, Betty explains she always has plants at various stages of growth:  from leaf pots with babies, young starters, mid sized pots, and larger show plants.  This lets her use her space better.  I agree!!!!  This is one way I can list 149 varieties I have in my house, and have at least three plants of each variety!  I do this!!!!

Betty says pot size is important.  To me, pot size used is VERY important.  Some varieties have smaller root systems, and thrive better in smaller pots.  And pot size is most important in very small babies as you transplant from the mama leaf and again when the plant is mature such as more than 18 months old.  I have certain pots that are shaped and sized just right, and if I have a small baby of a tempermental variety, I always put them in my 'good pots'!

"Some plants do perform better than others."  NOTE THIS!  Many people say:  my violet isn't blooming.  The first thing I want to know is the variety name. Sometimes it is a plant that takes longer to rebloom, or doesn't do as well in windowlight, or high temperatures.  Some hybrids will do better than others.  Read Betty's paragraph in the article.

I could go on and on.... each point in the article is a good one.  Each sentence had something that I found made African violet growing easier, better, or more fun!

All Early 2013 Experiments End-- JUNE CONCLUSION

Updating Experiment #4 Comparing Soil Mix Additions

I didn't see much difference in these plants.  The two pots with additions to my basic recipe did MAYBE hold water a bit longer than the slightly looser 1/3 peat 1/3 vermiculite 1/3 perlite.  However, in March, all three plants were budded and blooming so I sold them at the Harlem Seed Show.  If I had to choose one that did better, it would have been the plant in my basic soil mix without any additions.

I did not take a photo of them before I sold them!  Sorry! 
This photo was taken February 2.

Updating Experiment #3 Grow to Show Comparisons

I also sold several of these plants in March.
These photos were taken February 2nd.
Plants on the left of each photo was disbudded and the plant on the right was left bloom as it wanted.
All three of the disbudded plants were beginning to open buds and looked nice enough they were among the first to sell at the Seed Show!

Optimara Trinidad:

Not Star Eclipse (turned out to be Spectacular Blue!):

In all three sets of plants, the one on the disbudding schedule had more even foliage, and were just loaded with buds!

Updating Experiment #2 Watering Methods

I didn't take photos of these plants either!  And they were all blooming or budded and I sold them!
I had four plants. Two were in saucers to be bottom watered, one was potted true Texas-style and water was kept at a constant level every day.  One plant was on an automatic waterer using a circle of capillary matting with a 'tongue' hanging down in the water.  The fourth plant was wicked using a piece of acrylic yarn.

Of these, the Texas-style and the wicked one using the yarn were noticably larger, and were a bit advanced in bloom.  The one watered by saucer had wilted several times.

Updating Experiment #2 Soil versus Soil-Less

In this experiment, one pot in each set was a clay pot with 100% garden soil, and a second pot was plastic with my traditional mix.  In the set of smaller pots, a third pot contained Miracle Gro AV soil mix.
Final conclusions for this experiment: 
In the set of smaller pots, the worst performing one was the Miracle Gro soil.  This plant was smaller and slower to mature.  I did fertilize this pot after the first month.
The small clay pot with garden loam bloomed a bit later but had 5 more leaves, even though the leaf span measured the same.
In the set of two plants of Amethyst, both plants struggled as they were in the window light, which was weak because of the winter season.  I didn't have space or time to find a better place so there they remained.
The following photo was taken February 2nd. 


 I have a recent photo of these plants!!!!
The following photo is taken June 114th:
The plant on the left is the Amethyst potted in my traditional mix.  The Amethyst plant on the right is in a clay pot with garden loam.

Today, the plant in my traditional mix is larger with more leaves.  At the moment, it has a great number of blossoms.  Two months ago, mid-April, they both began a heavy round of bloom.  The plant in the garden soil bloomed about a week longer, but in the weeks since, the plant in my traditional soil mix has sent up more total blossom stalks.

The plant in garden soil does go several days longer before needing water.  The blossom stems are possibly shorter, but the leaf stems are longer.  ?????

Right now, I like my traditional mix!  :)

April 7, 2013

Book Review: Arranging African-Violets

(excerpt from African-violet Arrangements in Home Decoration by Emily Stuebing)



     Of the thousands of people who grow African-violets, only a few take advantage of the adaptability of these flowers for use in decorating. Distressed by the confinement of all this loveliness to pots and window sills, I began some time ago to experiment with the possibilities African-violets offer to the flower arranger. This book is a description of my discoveries and an attempt to entice those of you who love Saintpaulia to do some experimenting of your own.
     African-violets as blooms or plants are perfect for use in many decorations. It is only a question of learning how to use them, and to begin, all you need is enough boldness to take your "violets" off the shelf. Don’t be discouraged by the neighbor who fixes you with a cold eye and says, "What are the rules for arranging Saintpaulias?" Nor by the superior aunt who says, "It’s an art, of course. All arts take years to learn."
    Of course it’s an art but, in the beginning, look upon it as a folk art. All art began that way. The cave man, drawing for his own satisfaction on stony walls—who made the rules for him? Nobody. All art begins simply, by taking forms which nature gives us and arranging them into a design. Only please, let’s discover some design for African-violets newer than rows of pots on window sills!
   Women are still saying to me, "Why not just cut my flowers and stick them in a vase? What’s wrong with that?"
    Nothing, of course, except that sticking flowers in a vase is an automatic and uninteresting act whereas arranging flowers is an expression of personality. Once you have tried, however feebly,
to arrange some flowers into a design with a harmonious color effect, you have been for a time in tune with all artists, have known the urge to create something original and have a sense of fulfillment which follows self-expression in any form. With only flowers for material, you can paint a picture or tell a story. And the flowers you use, mark you, can be African-violets. It hasn’t been too many years since we had only horticultural shows. Gorgeous as some of the specimens were, even the growers began to tire of specimens in rows. Dahlia growers and other flower fanciers have asked me many times how their beauties can be brought in and used in the home, the church, the sick room. Man or Woman, a good grower who has taken a plant from seed to specimen bloom naturally wants to put it some place where it will show off to advantage. Only thus can the flower be enjoyed throughout its entire life. It is by this road, I am sure, that more and more men are coming to an appreciation of flower arranging.
    And it is by this road, I hope, that African-violet lovers will come to an appreciation of arranging their jewels. To grow Saintpaulias, however rare or beautiful, is one thing. To enjoy arranging them is quite a different experience, something new and exciting.
    If your first efforts are clumsy and not too successful, don’t worry. The flowers will wither and die in a few days and you can toss them out and start all over again. Suppose it had been an oil painting? There it would be, hanging on the wall year after year, for friends and relatives to moan about. The very fragility of flowers makes them ideal for experimental art.
      One of the best things about a new interest, of course, is that it always leads to still another one. As it will be a new venture to arrange African-violets, so it will be a new venture to look for plant material that will be compatible with them. You will enjoy your Saintpaulias more if you build up a background for them, a frame to dramatize your prima donna. To find the foliage and plants for these backgrounds, acquire the seeing eye in your garden as well as on the highway. Collect some branches from your garden, starting perhaps by forcing some branches in the spring. This will be the beginning of a collection which you can continue practically all year. Dried materials are effective with "violets" so keep your eyes open for plants which can be dried and kept.
     And now you’re ready. You have brought into the house some material you think will make a good background and you are prepared to sacrifice a few blooms from your African-violets. How do you start?
     First of all, erase that frown. This is fun, remember? Stop worrying about the flower show. You're not ready for that yet, although you probably will be soon. Look around you for a moment. Let your home be your first guide. Is it formal or do you live a casual life here? Your "violets" will lend themselves to either type of surroundings but keep those surroundings in mind while you work. Are you a collector, perhaps of figurines? Later on I’m going to show you some pictures using collections of various things with the "violets." Meantime, have you a hobby of any sort? Could you work that into this first arrangement? Let yourself go and you will be surprised at the ideas which pop into your head. Maybe you would be more comfortable making a small beginning. If so, use only one or two blossoms and make a miniature arrangement for an end table.
      Whatever you try to do, organize it into some sort of design, dramatize it in one way or another. I think most of us have an innate sense of good design, know by instinct an amazing number of "rules."
     There isn't a person who doesn’t enjoy having flowers around unless it's hay fever season. And come to think of it, I never heard of anyone who was allergic to African-violets. So you’re ofi to a good start. There’s your first arrangement, finished and standing before you.
      Now share it. Take it into the living room or to a sick friend—or to a well one for that matter! As you read on, you will learn more technique, but the basic technique of any art is the technique of sharing. The Chinese have been saying this beautifully for years. "Flowers leave part of their fragrance in the hand that bestows them."
     Flowers are living things and, as such, require understanding of their peculiar needs. It is not necessary that you be a biologist to learn how to care for flowers, but the purpose of all conditioning will be clearer if you understand what the blossom does while it is still on the plant.
     The petals of flowers exhale moisture which is supplied through the stem. As soon as the stem is cut, air starts to go up its pores. If the air has time to go any distance before the stem is put into water, the water is absorbed very slowly because of the air above it. When moisture is exhaled from the petals faster than it comes up the stems, the flowers begin to wilt. Hence the first rule of conditioning is to get cut flowers into water as fast as possible.


      Although African-violets are delicate flowers, they keep surprisingly well after cutting if properly conditioned. Under normal conditions, a cut stem will continue to hold some blossoms for about a week. This is a longer life than can be expected from many flowers popular for cutting, the sweetpea being one example. So do take the time and the trouble to condition your Saintpaulias before you start to arrange them. First of all, use a sharp knife to cut the blossoms from the plant. That woman we spoke of with her rusty old scissors will crush the stem, closing its pores so that water never can reach the flower.
     Next, place the flowers in warm water in a warm room (never in a temperature below fifty degrees) and let them soak for two hours at least, overnight if possible. African-violets do not respond well to cool surroundings. Most authorities now agree that it is not necessary to plunge flowers in water up to their necks for proper conditioning since most flowers absorb water from the cut end. African-violets have many of the characteristics of the succulents, so soaking them in an inch of water will do the job.
     The keeping quality of your Saintpaulias will vary. You will soon learn that the varieties which have more substance in the stem will hold up the longest. After picking the "violets," you will find that the first blossom may wilt in a day or so. Cut it off at once and the rest of the blossoms on the stem will open day by day. It is this that makes it possible to keep an arrangement for a week. Like any cut flower or foliage, of course, they will not keep well if placed on a radiator, in a sunny window, or in a draft.
      African-violet leaves require a conditioning which differs slightly from the conditioning of the blossoms. Foliage bearing short hairs, like the "violet" leaf and geranium leaves, takes up water fast and will become waterlogged if left in water too long. Soak the leaves for no more than an hour and then put them in a cellophane bag until you are ready to make your arrangement.


      Remember that, because flowers need oxygen, the water they are in must be kept fresh. There are several products on the market which help keep the water clean. However, my own feeling about the matter is that, if we keep the containers clean and change the water every day, the flowers will last about as long as under any other treatment. The slime which forms on the inside of the container comes from bacteria and this is what makes it essential to wash containers in hot soapy water after each use. I have heard what seem to me to be old wives’ tales about a great many things which will help keep cut flowers fresh. Some people recommend sugar which only speeds the forming of bacteria. Charcoal will help keep the water sweet but makes it dark. Aspirin does so little good that, if I were you, I’d save it for the headaches brought on by unsuccessful arrangements. I can hear you protesting, "Well! If I spend all this time making an arrangement, I'm certainly not going to tear it apart every day to change the water."
      Be consoled, for this is not necessary. Take your arrangement to the sink, hold your hand on the back of it, tilt it, and let the water run off. Put the container under the spigot, let it refill, and back to the living room it goes. This takes little time and, if your mechanics have been properly done, the flowers will not fall out. Pick off any dead flowers at the time you change the water and your chore for the day is complete.


      African-violets lend themselves well both to the process of drying and to dried arrangements. For the drying material, use either borax, white sand, cornmeal, or a combination of any two of these. Start with a large box over four inches in depth. Fill the bottom of the box with an inch of your drying material, gently lay the flower heads on it and, with a small stick, push it around the petals, leaving the stem sticking up in the air. Cover the blossoms with an inch of drying material.
     The more quickly the flowers dry, the better they will hold their color, so some people put the box in a 2 50-degree oven, leaving the door open. Others simply leave the box in a fairly warm room.
      It takes flowers from several days to several weeks to dry, depending upon the thickness of the petals. It is well to test them by brushing the sand away in a few days and touching the flower to see if the moisture is gone. It usually takes from five to ten days for African-violets to dry.
     As soon as you think they are dry, remove all drying material with a soft brush and then you are ready to make an interesting arrangement. Use some grasses, a little dock, perhaps, or some lambs’ ear, and you will be delighted with the result.

Plate 8. A four-inch arrangement in a salt dip with a brass hinge for background. African-violet Silver Lining and acacia.