Sunday, December 21, 2008

An awesome way to display plants

Here's a wonderful way to display some of the lovely gesneriads that you grow. Try something a little different to really make a statement. Look around at shops and antique stores for interesting plant accessories to really "show off" your collection. Our guest contributor found this treasure at .... well, you'll see....

My mother used to grow African violets in the window on glass shelves. My brother gave her a wrought iron plant stand. She was extremely happy with it and it stood filled with violets. The year was 1954.

She moved to a smaller home that had shelves right along the window so she put her plants on the shelves and moved the stand to the garage. It has been there for well over 20 years. I had looked at it several times wondering if I should bring it to my home but I wasn't ready to do it. A friend was visiting and spotted it and insisted that I bring it back. She said that if I didn't want it she would pay me a mega amount of money to buy it. (Or possibly run off with it some dark night.)

It was rusted, especially in the holders, and it had lots of dust and I think even mold on the legs. I used wire brushes and then used a rust remover and conditioner and then spray painted it with Rustoleum. It turned out lovely.

I was a little apprehensive putting it in my living room, but I did and filled it with violets, streps, and even a trailer. I enjoy looking at it as it sits proudly in my house. What wonderful memories I have of her violets and the stand.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Guest Hybridizer!!!!!

This cross was made last winter and seed was sown in late May. The first seedlings started blooming in October. The seed was ready earlier, but I had to wait until my annuals, perennials, and vegetable transplants were outside before I had the time and shelf space. Anyways, it is a cross between Bristol's Party Boy and Inky Frills, two of my favorites. Many of the seedlings are similar to each other, some look almost identical to Inky Frills which seems a little unusual since it was the pollen parent. Several have yellow throats. Not all of the seedlings from this cross have bloomed. So far one seedling is showing fantasy. According to Dale Marten's Hybridizing Notes, fantasy seedlings are very difficult to get. Once the fantasy seedling gets a little bigger, I plan on selfing it to see if the fantasy improves any. I don't think there is anything too unusual about the seedlings so I am not planning on naming any, but I will keep a few of my favorites.

Photo "B-Strep cross BPBxIF Grouping" shows a grouping of some of the seedlings from this cross and all of the blooms in this photo are from different plants.

Shown in photos "D-Strep cross BPBxIF Seedling", Z1 and Z2, is probably my favorite so far. In person it is very brightly colored with a white throat and dark lines.

M. Wheeler

**I would like to welcome and thank M. Wheeler for sharing these photos and crosses with this blog!!!! How exciting to see what different traits and characteristics are passed along to the offspring.

*** NOTE click on the photo to make it full size for a closer view.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Some Results???

Here is the original plant that had perhaps the best of the flowers. There are six petals which is the interesting part of this strep.

But..... but it produced photo #2. A peloric flower with five very even petals with markings evenly spaced throughout the flower. I pollinated this particular flower.

The first baby that grew out of the cross was five petaled, but marked more like the original plant.

The second baby is also five petaled, but lighter in the throat. It's also a bit more fringed. So, we seem to be getting the five petal trait coming through. Is the six petal original more desirable, because it is the most different look considering most strep flowers? Is the perfectly even markings and five petals from the "peloric" flower the cool part? Although the babies aren't new and different, they are VERY interesting to see what is coming through with the self pollination! Comments???

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This is our second baby!!! Perhaps to be named something like Fluffy Flamingo! Gott'a love the nice ruffles and the color. The petals are a pinkish red with darker veining, the throat is red with darker wine color lines. I should also add that this is a seed from a DIFFERENT pod than the photo just prior to this that is claimed as our first seedling.

This one is the second one that we got from the two pods that were put down in March of 08'. We perhaps could have had blooms faster, but this has been quite the experiment to see what does and what does not work when trying to get streptocarpus seeds to grow.

We would like to try several more crosses in the near future and see for ourselves which of the various traits are the most likely to be dominate. This just gets more and more fun as the babies are starting to produce their first flowers. Would anyone like to see (with photos) how to pollinate a streptocarpus flower?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

First Seedling!

This is the very first baby from the self-crossing of the peloric strep flower.

The flower is quite large (although it is the very first time the plant bloomed) and it's quite symetric, but it's not the same as the parent flower. The "mother" flower had all petals the same with the pink striping coming out from the center equally on all petals. This included the upper petals which on this flower don't have the colored striping.

It's a thrill to see the first of any experiment though. I can't wait to show you more.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back Again

Isn't this a good looking gesneriad. It's a Drymonia pendulina which was on display at the Shelby Gardens in Tampa. The photo is from the gesneriphile list which you can suscribe to. What a wonderful plant to have in a hanging basket.

Time for the summer doldrums to be over and everyone to get excited about their indoor light/window gardening again.

The blog is back and this season we'll try to have more tips on growing and keeping the plants that you have looking good. Plus, more photos of interesting gesneriads for you to check out, perhaps order and grow in your own home.

The first of the events for the year will be at Bachman's on Lyndale on Saturday October 25, 2008 during store hours. Come and see our display and plan on having some fun chatting about violets and gesneriads.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sail On

The Niagara and the Pride of Baltimore! Both of these tall ships are right out of the days long past. With real working cannons and just the right wind, these historical ships made history come back alive as they sailed within 30 feet of the expectant crowds in Duluth.


The streps that are outside are actually not suffering too much in the days of 90+ degree heat. Perhaps that there has been enough of a breeze to keep the air flowing. The Sinningia 'Apricot Bouquet' might get big enough to see without a magnifying glass by the time it has to go back inside for the summer, and to my absolute horror..... I found out that chipmunks actually are very fond of digging up and EATING florist's Gloxinias. My double-flowering tuber is no more, along with about 4 others. Sigh.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer Streps

This is where the streptocarpus plants are living outside for the summer. Most are putting out a few blooms although I am not so sure that there is really enough bright light to get them to bloom well.

Direct sun seems to burn mine, but this works to get them growing and filling out. There aren't many insect problems this way either. I will however, spray them with the Imidacloprid before they come inside for the winter.

July in the Garden

Stuff has really grown. The tomatoes are showing just a little pink. The kale you see in the front of the bed is more than knee high.

The lettuce is about done for the spring crop, but the zinnias are at their best and the chard is wild. Now if the bunnies would leave the beans alone, things would be great.

The gesneriad are also doing well this summer. The streps are enjoying their time outside under the trees but, the chipmunks dug up all three of the gloxinia bulbs and made them disappear. The two sinningias were also dumped out of their pots and flung to the ground. The interesting thing is that the streps and the orchids are all being left entirely alone.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

July First

Wow, what a change a couple of weeks brings. As you can see, the grass in the background is very dry. We could use some more rain for more favorable conditions, but the gardens are being watered and even on the 90 degree F. days, the vegetables and flowers don't suffer too much wilting.

The streps are all outside under a big, dense maple tree and hoping for cool breezes. With some regular fertilization, they should grow well for the summer out under the shade of the trees.

The flowers in the photos from the community garden are zinnias. Magellan series.

Friday, June 20, 2008

More on the Garden

Wow... a little sun and the things grow. Who knew????

The streps are outside and the orchids too. One of the semi-dormant larger sinningias is starting to show some growth too. Let's hope we don't get any hail to spoil the pretty, lush growth.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Nothing has been growing as fast as it should for a typical year. The cold spring weather and sporadic rains have made planting tricky but finally I'm not the only one to put out their vegetables. The garden will be fun this year if the peas and beans grow up the trellises like they are supposed to. The front flowers are all zinnias! I can only hope that they are a huge success and I get enough for cut flowers.

The streps at my house are now outside on shelves and looking a little bewildered. Hopefully, they will start to actually grow. There have been quite a few garden centers that have featured streptocarpus as hanging baskets and single plants as fillers for containers. Go streps!!!!

The sinningias are also outside, but only recently. They need a few days to get used to the brighter light and perhaps then they can go out in some partial sun. I'm going to put some kohleria out as an experiment too.... something has to make them stay a little shorter and not so leggy.

What are YOU going to plant outside from the ye 'ole gesneriad collection???? Send a photo and we'll compare outdoor growing to indoor culture in a couple of months.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spring.... finally.

Finally, a little spring to add to the blog. Not much going on with the gesneriads right now. With the unusually cold spring it was time to focus on getting outside and really trying to get the annual plants in and the perennial gardens cleaned and ready for the season.

I'm thinking of putting some of the sinningias outside this year to see if more light will make them grow well.

I put out 5 kinds of voo doo lilies this year and we'll see how they do. The rabbit ate the top off the bud coming out of the one mellon size corm that I have. I suspect that the plants are poisonous.... and since they only produce ONE leaf.... I suspect mine will be sort of mutated. Oh well..... Happy May.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

OOOOOH, It's Finally Time Again....

Ahh, finally time for the community gardening to begin. This ought to make someone wonder about my sanity, but .... come on, it's more fun this way. Last year I had more comments about why anyone would want to put "flowers" in with their boring rows of vegetables. Well, besides aesthetics, flowers help bring pollinators to the garden. This year after the gardens were tilled, I added 2 cu/ft of peat for its moisture and nutrient holding ability. Then came some 10-10-10 granulated fertilizer. I raked all that in and smoothed it out, after filling the planters. I am envisioning the pole beans on the trellises, the larger greens and chard to the back fence line.... the lettuces by the stepping stones.... I have some cilantro and parsely on the side along with some of that sweet Steveia. I hope to try a little lemonade this year sweetened with Steveia. There will be two heirloom tomatoes in the corners with some onions (I think). The small areas to the side will be for a short row of beans and the front will be filled with flowers. That ought to make everyone "happy".

Monday, April 21, 2008

What to do with that Kitty Litter....

The Gesneriad list once again gives us something interesting to think about. The topic relates to passive hydroponic growing of your violets and gesneriads by placing them in a truly soil-less mix thats only purpose is to hold the plant's roots in place. This could be an item such as perlite or clay pellets which act to support the plant while it gets all it's nutrients from the enriched water that gets passed over its' root system. The fact that the kitty litter is Diatomaceous Earth is important because DE powder is used to KILL pests and insects mechanically by making cuts and abrasions on the pest as it comes into contact with the "sharp" qualities of the DE. Diatomaceous Earth is mined from "glass-like" sea creatures, diatoms, made of mostly silicon dioxide. Passive hydroponic growing is a very interesting topic and one respondent, BF, commented about it:

I'm using a product I read about on the Bonsai4Me website: I got my big bag of DE gravel at my local NAPA auto parts place, "part" number 8822 for $7.99 plus tax. The grains are up to 1/4" (.5 cm). It looks just like the photo on the website. So far, so good. The only plant I've lost has been an adoptee Wisdom violet that was sick from soil mealies when I rescued it. Its soul mate has put out a new leaf since I treated and potted them into DE. The only red bag of Wal-Mart cat litter I found was the old style clay that melts right away rather than "Special Kitty® Natural" that the article says is actually DE. The Wal-Mart clay litter has the words "Absorbs odors naturally" in small print, so shoppers really need to check the ingredients info.

As you know, it's questionable as to whether DE works to kill critters when it's wet, but I'm hoping to find a side benefit is that thrips larvae, gnats, and any soil mealies are eliminated. And I hope it reduces the frequent repotting peat moss mixes require. As a plant grows and becomes root bound, the roots grasp and hold the gravel in place. The plant can be simply repotted into a larger pot with additional DE or clay granules. There's no waste and no brushing the old soil away from the roots. An additional quality is that the granules are washable and re-useable.

The African Violet Magazine carried an interesting article in the March-April 2006 issue, "Wicks and Rocks" by Irving Tashlick who uses clay pellets, reservoirs, and the wicking system. He comments, "I think the reasons the [passive hydroponics] methods....are successful in growing African violets and other gesneriads are that there is a great similarity to the conditions achieved with 'Texas Style' cultures. There are many air spaces to allow free gas exchange at root tips, the roots have free access to moisture and nutrients and the system depends on capillary action."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Closer Look

Isn't this a lovely flower? Sinningia eumorpha....

You Voted!

More votes are in and the results were quite interesting. Two polls ago the question was raised about what was the biggest challenge to the violet grower in their situation. Of the possible answers, getting rid of BUGS was the most voted for answer followed by challenges with watering properly and having the correct house temperature. Coming in last with the votes were wilting the violets and sunburning them. No one chose fertilizing challenges, keeping them too wet (which surprised me) and "other problem" for answers.

So..... we took that information and asked this question: Which PEST problem was the most difficult to deal with and Cyclamen mites topped the charts with 40% of the votes. Foliar mealy bugs and nematodes got 20% of the votes with thrips and red spider mite getting 10% each.

All in all I think that it's an interesting outcome to the questions. Insect/pest problems are more challenging to folks than other horticultural issues like moisture, temperature and lighting. Now, what do you think that most people will say about what they DO to correct the problems? That will be the next poll question, so please cast your votes!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What's new!

Dale Martens is once again a very happy hybridizer! She has graciously shared some photos with the blog that show three of her newest violet hybrids. Here are the descriptions: 1) Yuk x HHLace6858s.jpg is a photo of my newest seedling:

Yukako x (Emerald City x Louisiana Lagniappe)

2) The second shows 3 live flowers with Yukako in the middle and its selfings on each side of it. Only one out of 10 seedlings was purple showing that the green center stripe is the dominant color.

3) Yukako x self with a bell/cupped flower. I'm thinking of naming this one 'Heartland's Lime Bubbles'

Thanks again to Dale for sharing!

Monday, April 07, 2008


Now this is a proper edge on a violet. How come they all don't look like this one?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Show Me The Violets!

Here are a few of the exciting plants and designs that you'll see at the Spring Show sponsored by the AVSM. Still going on today, be sure to stop by Har Mar Mall on the corner of Snelling and CR-C to check out the blooms.