Bzzzz January 30th, 2010

The chick­ens aren’t the only ones sick of this win­ter­time weather incon­ve­nience. I’ve been jonesin’ for spring for weeks now. Well, spring and choco­late. I can do some­thing about the chocolate.

It turns out, I can do a lit­tle some­thing about spring too!  Some of my gar­den­ing pals egged me on (*snicker*) with their dis­cus­sion of all the spring bulbs they were buy­ing for forc­ing. The nurs­ery of choice among these sea­soned gar­den­ers was Brent and Becky’s.

Hey, I can keep up with the Jone­ses and get my jones on too! (Is any­one fol­low­ing me here?)

spring forced bulbs sm

Here’s the Brent and Becky’s win­ter mix bulbs with nar­cis­sus, tulips and small oxalis peak­ing out around their feet. Next to it is the gor­geous Amarylis ‘Elvas’ and the stout lit­tle ‘Fox­trot’ tulips.

elvas sm

tulipe foxtrot sm

I also have some Princes Irene and ‘Lilac Won­der’ tulips, but they’re not quite ready for their debut.

There’s still a lot of win­ter left here in South­ern Mary­land. In fact, as I write this it’s snow­ing. The weather guessers had pre­dicted a cou­ple of inches. Right now it looks like it’s about eight inches and rising.

I responded, of course, by order­ing seeds. So far I’ve placed a nice, healthy order at Baker Creek Heir­loom Seeds and a small­ish order at Cook’s Gar­den.  I’m not even closed to fin­ished yet, cause I’m jonesin’ for some sum­mer bulbs.

Brent and Becky’s here I come!

Posted In: Gardening, Gardening Life, House Plants



Bzzzz February 2nd, 2008

For the novice, the word “prop­a­ga­tion” can seem a bit inti­mat­ing. After all, it sounds so scientific.

But the fact is, prop­a­ga­tion is just a fancy way of say­ing “make more.”

If you’re inter­ested in dip­ping your toe into the world of plant prop­a­ga­tion (and we are talk­ing plants here), there is no eas­ier plant to start with than the lovely African violet.


Although she’s been gone for many years, I always asso­ciate African vio­lets with my grand­mother. She always had pots of bloom­ing vio­lets on her win­dowsills. Now, I almost always have some vio­lets grow­ing in my light gar­den or the win­dowsills. I con­tin­u­ally prop­a­gate them and have some ready for giv­ing away for spe­cial occa­sions. I will also group them on the din­ing table for a live flower arrange­ment that doesn’t cost a for­tune or require loads of chem­i­cals at the flower farm.

Recently, I took one of the pret­ti­est of my vio­lets to my Great Aunt Max­ine for her 90th birth­day cel­e­bra­tion. While I was at her house I noticed she had some vio­lets of her own. What bet­ter oppor­tu­nity to add to my col­lec­tion in a mean­ing­ful way? She sup­plied a bag­gie and I loaded up with new cuttings.

To prop­a­gate your African vio­let, select a leaf that is not too big and not too small. You don’t want an old gnarly leaf or one that is too tiny. Select a medium-sized, vig­or­ous leaf and cleanly slice it off the plant, leav­ing about 1” of stem.

Now, here’s the hard part. It seems counter-intuitive, but you’re going to have to cut the leaf in half, leav­ing about 1” of leaf on the stem.

My grand­mother used to root her cut­tings in plain water, sus­pend­ing them through a hole in some alu­minum foil. This works just fine. But a bet­ter, and faster, way is to root the cut­ting directly in some soil­less medium. This is typ­i­cally avail­able as African vio­let soil in nurs­eries. I can find it in my local gro­cery store.


Give your cut­tings a head start by using a root­ing hor­mone, such as Rootone. Just dip the stem end into the root­ing hor­mone pow­der before plant­ing the stem in some soil­less medium.

Since the plants don’t have roots, it’s impor­tant to keep the cut­ting moist. I just pop a plas­tic bag over the top of the pot to retain mois­ture and make sure I water reg­u­larly. In your zeal for mois­ture, don’t overly seal the plant in or you’ll be cre­at­ing an envi­ron­ment where dis­eases can flourish.

Plants need light to grow, so make sure you pro­vide ade­quate light. A sunny win­dowsill in the win­ter will do the trick. In the sum­mer, you’ll need to make sure the sun isn’t too intense or the leaves will burn and the soil medium will dry out too quickly. I find that my light gar­den pro­vides the per­fect envi­ron­ment for prop­a­gat­ing and keep­ing live plants.

Some other use­ful tips for grow­ing African violets:

–When prop­a­gat­ing or repot­ting, use African vio­let pot­ting soil. It’s soil­less, so it’s lighter, doesn’t com­pact and gives the aer­a­tion and drainage that the African vio­lets need. Vio­lets do just fine in the tem­per­a­tures of the aver­age household—65 to 73 degrees.

–Make sure you pro­tect cut­tings and grown plants from drafts. Vio­let leaves are cov­ered with tiny lit­tle “hairs.”

–Avoid get­ting leaves wet when water­ing to pre­vent dis­col­oration. Are you vio­lets dusty? Just use a soft-bristled paint­brush to brush off dust or accu­mu­lated dirt.

–Nurs­eries sell spe­cial­ized African vio­let pots with an inner and outer layer for indi­rect water­ing. I have never had as much suc­cess with this method as with tra­di­tional terra cotta pots. My favorite pots are by Guy Wolff. Large Guy Wolff pots can be expen­sive, but the tiny ones are very reasonable—and just the right thing to give your African vio­lets a good start in life.

Inter­ested in the African vio­let lifestyle? There is a whole soci­ety devoted to the pro­mot­ing African vio­lets, the African Vio­let Soci­ety. I remem­ber when we used to live in Florida there was a local African vio­let club that got together monthly to talk about their vio­lets. They also had annual com­pe­ti­tions at the local fair. Next to the chicken dis­plays, this was always my favorite part of the fair.

Isn’t it amaz­ing that there is a spe­cial inter­est group for everything?

Posted In: House Plants

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