Friday, January 19, 2007

The meeting....

The "Boys in Pink" attended the January meeting on Saturday the 20th. There was plenty of discussion, including information about the upcoming show in March. Everyone, get some entries ready so that Northtown will be filled with lots of "violet" color and charm.

Eight weeks to go and counting!!! Contact the blog if you have questions or need some help or encouragement with your entries!

Talk About Trailers!

Our last couple of posts have been about entering your plants in a show! Well, what about trailers? They're a little different from a "standard" violet. What do you have to consider with a plant that has so many crowns and does not lay in a nice rosette of leaves?

Here are some pointers from someone that knows how to "take home the blue" in the 'trailers' class!

One of the greatest things about growing/showing a African violet trailer is that if you have a bad leaf for two, it usually won't affect the symmetry of the plant. If you have a bad leaf on a standard, you either take a chance on loosing points for symmetry or you have to take off a whole row of leaves. You do need to watch to see that the leaves on a trailer are somewhat the same size, for it gives a more consistent appearance. If you remove yellow and damaged leaves as you see them, you have a better chance that it will fill in the gaps with fresh new leaves before the show.

You need to remember when growing trailers that you must have at least 3 crowns. To get a good number of trailer stems you need more light to encourage more compact growth! This will also help to get more flowers. It is best to have an even distribution of flowers on all the main crowns for the show. Before you show a trailer, make sure you remove all the old or yellow leaves and/or bare stems.

I try to disbud my trailers just as I do other African violet plants. It can sometimes be more challenging to keep it disbudded, but well worth it at show time if you have a well grown trailer with lots and lots of beautiful flowers!

Special thanks to C. S. for today's article and to S. O. for the lovely picture of "Spunky Trail"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Entering Your Plant in a Show, part 2

The show is getting closer, the plants are getting more lovely, NOW WHAT? Well, let's first review what we've done so far before we proceed. First, we checked out all our plants! We looked for good symmetry where the leaves are overlapping nicely, leaving no gaps for the soil and pot to show through. We made sure the plants were reasonably clean and in good overall condition. The plants are potted in an appropriately sized pot. And, with the schedule in mind, we've made a list of all the plants that we intend to keep working with and getting ready for the show.

Our photo shows a great potential show plant! It's got great symmetry, it's clean and in the right size pot.... there may only be a few older leaves in the outer row that we should think about removing.

Good so far! What's next?

I always am checking plants for suckers, which are little plants usually at the base, and I remove them immediately. If a plant has a sucker in a show, judges can eliminate the plant from judging it. It would be a shame to have a beautiful plant and not receive a ribbon simply because of a sucker.

Our picture shows a "sucker" or a new baby plant growing out of the center. Note the two smaller leaves under the larger ones at the base of the stem.

I will also consider whether to enter a plant that has a real thick flower stalk. After a plant with a thick stalk blooms it will distort the center leaves so the plant will need a year or two for the middle leaves to grow out to the outer edge of the plant because they will be marred. Speaking of marred leaves, do not hesitate in entering a plant with a marred leaf or a couple of marred leaves. Only one point is deducted for each marred leaf!

Thinking of points being deducted from your plant, did you know that you can have many small imperfections and still get a blue ribbon? Up to 10 points can be taken off before the plant receives a red ribbon. That's a lot of marred leaves! So why worry if your plant isn't perfect? Don't be afraid to enter it anyway.

About the last week before a show, if a plant is starting to be in full bloom, I will move it to a cooler spot to slow it down a little, or visa versa if it isn't blooming enough. Basically, you should have 20-25 blooms for a large standard, 10-20 for a semi, and 6-12 for a mini. However, if you are a blossom short, enter it anyhow. Not that many points will be deducted.

Beginners will sometimes want to leave on spent blossoms but you can loose mega points (1/2 point per spent blossom) for doing that. I remove blossoms if they are even starting to fade because malls are hard on plants. There are cold drafts and dry air and the blossoms tend to fade more quickly there.

Our photo is showing a blossom that is getting brown edges. The flower is all but spent and although a pretty color, it should be removed.

Before I email my list to the entry person, I review each plant to make sure that it looks like the description in First Class. Is it variegated, a semi, a mini, does it have an edge, is it the right color, etc.? If you don't have the First Class program, don't know what some of the terms like "an edge" means, or have any questions on how to enter a plant, call one of the Sr. members (please don't call us old) for help.

So all you novices, my advice is to try it. Enter the show! It's scary and confusing at times, but remember every single grower in the show went through the novice stage of entering shows. It's not a requirement to enter in that class, but it's a class that the judges will look at the plant a little gentler and may make more comments on the entry tags. The comments are a great way to find out how to make adjustments and grow an even more lovely plant next time. Never, but never, try to guess what a judge sees. Remember, they only look at a plant for maybe a minute and may not even see a problem.

A large THANK YOU to Sharon Johnson for sharing this article.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Entering You Plant in a Show, part 1

Entering plants in a show is the fun part of growing African violets. Maybe you bought a leaf grew it out and now it is a fully-grown plant, or maybe you purchased a small plant and now it is large enough to show the world all its beauty. Now what exactly do you do?

What should you look for right now, with a month or more till the show? Check all of your plants to see which ones might make a good entry in a show. How do you know? What do you look for? The foliage should lay straight out from the center of the plant to the edge of the outer leaves. Each row should overlap the row below without gaps or spaces in the rows or between the individual leaves in a row. Preliminarily grooming the plants for a show is very important too and actually is quite easy. You want to take care of most of the large grooming chores at this point. Most beginners hate to remove leaves, even the baby ones and the yellow ones. But nice symmetry is important so when in doubt, remove them! If there is dust or hair on the leaves, use a soft facial brush and gently sweep it away. Better to do these things now than when there is a chance of ruining a leaf right before the show.

This photo shows some of the larger problems you'll want to deal with. There is cat hair on the leaves to the left. Use a make-up brush and gently remove it, or better yet give the plant a bath in tepid water. The red flag shows us a huge potential problem! The plant is in full bloom more than a month before the show. Those flowers should have been removed prior to now so that the plant has fresh blooms for the show! The blue flag shows a folded, broken leaf. Remove that and the one marked with purple. That one is ripped. The yellow flag shows baby (tiny) leaves in the outer rows. It's best to remove them now so that the rest of the mature leaves will fill in the voids.

When I am first deciding which plants to enter, I review each plant as a possible entry. If it is less than 8" in diameter and it is a standard plant, I do not consider entering it because it needs to grow up a few more months. If you are entering a semi it should not be more than 8" in diameter and a mini can't be more than 6" in diameter. If the plant is just a bit too large the outer row of leaves can be removed to help keep the plant in its proper category. The size of the pot doesn't matter for semis or minis, but the standard's leaf span should be 3x (times) the diameter of the pot. If I do have to repot a plant, I never repot a plant until the 4th week before a show. If I do it earlier, the plant will not be root-bound and may not bloom.

This photo shows us that some plants just need more time to grow. Picking the proper sized pot is necessary but very easy!

After I've decided on which plants to enter in a show, I write out a list and for the time being I ignore the schedule which describes all the classes and sections. At this point don't worry about entering more than one plant in a class.

This photo shows our volunteer contemplating all the different classes she'll be entering her plants in. She's holding the schedule which is good to have handy even all these weeks before the show! It's helpful to know what the designs will be so that you have time to plan for them!

The next part of "Entering Your Plant in a Show" will review what to do a little closer to the show! Stay tuned.

Intergeneric Crossing

We have a special entry for you today!!! When I got the new issue of African Violet, I happened to turn to Dr. Smith's column about breeding new violets. The first question on the page is one that I've wondered about since I got interested in violets. Can you cross a Saintpaulia with any of the other gesneriads??? His answer is informative and interesting (page 6 of the new Jan/Feb AV) but made to fit the limited space of the Q&A format. I had more questions. I kept wondering about trying to cross a violet with streptocarpus or a sinningia and then I got a bit of inspiration..... ask some people who would know!

I wrote to Dale Martens who has made some fantastic intergeneric crosses! (Click on the link.) She is the co-author of Crosswords, a publication for hybridizers, and she was the featured speaker at a half-day seminar put on by the AGGSTC, the local gesneriad club, in September of 2005. In addition, Dale is one of the nicest people you could want to meet! When I wrote to her with my questions for the blog she immediately took the time to answer... Here is her reply!
"For those new to intergenerics, streptocarpus is a genus and Saintpaulia is a genus (with a common name of African violets). If you cross two different genera (plural for genus) you have an intergeneric. Which gesneriads make the best candidates for hybridizing: Ones that have the same number of chromosomes so they match. How do you find out the number of chromosomes? Research! I believe sinningia is aroudn 26 and streptocarpus is 32, but could be wrong. One must put an "x" in front of the intergeneric's name which is a combination of both genera. I have crossed achimenes x smithiantha to get xAchimenantha, and Phinaea x Diastema to get xPhinastema, and smithiantha x eucodonia to get xSmithicodonia. The closest genera to Saintpaulia is streptocarpus, but genetically not just any streptocarpus. Studies seem to indicate that the evolution of Saintpaulia is from the Streptocarpus subgenus Streptocarpella.

Streptocarpellas are stemmed and branching streptocarpus with fuzzy leaves. A common one is Streptocarpella 'Blueberries and Cream'. Some of us have tried crossing streptocarpella x saintpaulia. The most likely person to succeed probably needs to cross a species AV with a species streptocarpella that lives near it (within miles) in Africa in nature. Therefore, it'd take some research to find which ones live close to each other. I have tried crossing species AVs with all sorts of other gesneriads including Petrocosmea since to me it's most similar. But Petrocosmeas live in Asia, so it's quite unlikely to cross with an AV."

Again, a special "Thank You!" to Dale for taking the time to reply! Hopefully, even more will follow about the intergeneric hybridizing of gesneriads and more specifics on the Saintpaulia genus.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Attention Everyone! The next meeting of the NSAVC is on January 20th at 1:00 pm. All club members are invited as well as anyone wishing to visit or join us. Club members check your email for meeting location and directions. Anyone else can contact the address on the blog for further information. ( )

The program will be about going "Back to the Basics!" This is a fun way to start off the year with your plants. This month's hosts have a very lovely growing environment and are happy to share tips and pointers with everyone! There are tasty treats served too! So please mark off next Saturday and be sure to attend. The club really needs YOU!
Flamingo tested. Flamingo approved!