Friday, December 31, 2010

Seriously! It just gets worse!

Come on, this is looking more and more like you're just throwing a name on a plant trying to sell it to some unsuspecting buyer.  

Are you buying these from a local wholesaler and simply throwing any name on it that comes to mind?  Seriously!  This is bad business, is deceitful and is a practice you should not engage in!

Rob's Fiddle Faddle (7431) 10/06/1990 (R. Robinson) Semidouble rose-pink. Dark green, pointed, hairy, serrated/red back. Semiminiature.


I don't see anything about crown variegated foliage in this description from the hybridizer.  Do you?

Versus what it should look like...

True Blooming - You Be The Judge!

I don't know what it is with this particular eBay seller but they seem to have more than their fair share of auctions offering plants which are either not blooming true or are mislabeled.

I like to give folks the benefit of the doubt, but take a look at this - how obvious can it be that the plant they're selling as Playful Spectrum (P. Sorano) Single-semidouble white fluted star/blue fantasy, wide lavender-pink band. Medium green. Standard, is not Playful Spectrum?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Hortense and I trying to remain incognito!

Howdy John!

John - stop buggin''s your picture!


Dynamic Duo!

Here's a picture of Hortense and I at the Lone Star African Violet show in Kerrville, TX.  Thanks to Andrea W. for sharing the picture with me!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

African Violet Species - Yes, they make GREAT show plants!

While I have never grown an African Violet species to such perfection, we shouldn't be surprised that these "originals" can and do make great show plants.  Yes, they are a little more challenging to grow then their modern hybrid cousins but the accomplishment one must feel to bring one to this stage must be remarkable.  This was exhibited at the 2010 Lone Star African Violet Council convention in Kerrville, TX.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hortense Pittman - The Real Deal

I've had the pleasure of calling Hortense and her husband Ray my friends for nearly 27 years.  Oh, I was so young back then!  Here's a picture of Hortense at the recent Lone Star African Violet Council (LSAVC) show in Kerrville, TX.  At 84 she still grows, shows and hybridizes.  We should all be so lucky!


Tommie Lou

Have you ever seen Tommie Lou?  I think most of you probably have not.  What is the significance of this vintage violet?  This was the first variety to display the white and green leaf variegation which is largely concentrated along the leaf's edge.

This was Best of Show at the Lone Star African Violet Council show in Kerrville, TX November 4-6, 2010.  It was exhibited by Steven Spachek.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jolly Mel

Hortense has only named a handful of her hybrids after people and this one is named after Melvin J. Robey, author of several African Violet reference books including, "African Violet - Queen of the Indoors".

I took this picture on Hortense's back porch.  I guess I should have moved the newspaper background.  Oh well!

This variety will also be available in the spring!

Jolly Marvel - The "MUST HAVE" of the LSAVC Convention

I wish my photography was better than it is because this picture doesn't capture the beautiful coral color in this blossom.  It is an extremely striking contrast between blossom and foliage.  This was the "must have" of the convention.  It will be available in the spring!

B-Man's Etna

I don't typically pay too much attention to standards but this one really stood out in the showroom at the Lone Star African Violet Council show.  It's quite striking.

Description:  B-Man's Etna (B. Curcuruto) Single medium pink ruffled pansy/purple fantasy. Medium green, spooned, quilted, ruffled. Standard

Friday, October 29, 2010

Texas Bound! Lone Star African Violet Show

I'll be on my way to Dallas on Tuesday to visit my old friends Ray & Hortense Pittman.  On Thursday we'll be jumping in the rented minivan and we'll be heading south to Kerrville for the Lone Star African Violet Council Show (LSAVC).

It's always fun to visit old friends and doing it in the setting of an African Violet show is just the icing on the cake!

If you're in the greater San Antonio, Texas area November 4-6, take an hour drive west to Kerrville and come pay us a visit.  We'll give you a big Texas welcome!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

AVSA Convention - Denver 2007

Here's me with my good friends Diane (top left), Sue (top right) and Dorothy (bottom left) eating at a nice Chinese restaurant at the 2007 AVSA Convention...and not a violet to be seen.  Shame on us! 

Winter Break - Thank Goodness!

I thought I had another week in me for listing violets on eBay but after pulling, packing and shipping nearly 200 I'm done for the season!  I am physically and mentally exhausted at this point.

Now comes the fun part - cleaning the stands, tossing those varieties that aren't going to be offered next year, tossing any plant that doesn't look perfect and pulling leaves to put down so I have enough plants for everyone next year.

The other benefit to the shipping season ending is I can once again focus on my blog!  Don't forget that I'll be posting pictures of the Texas State Convention when I return on November 7th.

What's the definition of Mail Fraud?


18 U.S.C. 1341, makes it a Federal crime or offense for anyone to use the United States mails in carrying out a scheme to defraud.

A person can be found guilty of that offense only if all of the following facts are proved: First: That the person knowingly and willfully devised a scheme to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false pretenses, representations or promises; and Second: That the person used the United States Postal Service by mailing, or by causing to be mailed, some matter or thing for the purpose of executing the scheme to defraud.

Hmmm?  Does the selling of mislabeled or incorrectly identified plants by a reasonable person with access to reasonable resources meet this burden?  I wonder!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Buyer Beware - it gets worse!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to eBay and buy plants I find another "mis-labeled" listing.  Hmmm?  Same grower as before.  Does this constitute a trend?

Here's Rob's Boolaroo as pictured on the hybridizer's website:

And here is Rob's Boolaroo (at least one eBay sellers' version of it).  Seriously, does this even look like a trailer?  You be the judge!  Personally, I'd be asking for a refund.

Buyer Beware! You're not getting what you're paying for...seriously!

I recently saw two listings on eBay, from two different sellers, for Rob's Fiddle Faddle that literally made me do a double take.  I couldn't believe that these two sellers who have feedback ratings of 4,764 and 2,684, respectively, would sell something that was so NOT Rob's Fiddle Faddle.  I realize mistakes in listings happen but when you list the same plant with the same picture multiple times is it still just a mere oversight? 

Here's a picture of Rob's Fiddle Faddle from the hybridizer's website.  The description, as seen in First Class is:  

Rob's Fiddle Faddle (7431) 10/06/1990 (R. Robinson) Semidouble rose-pink. Dark green, pointed, hairy, serrated/red back. Semiminiature


Now lets look at the first "version" of Rob's Fiddle Faddle that caught my eye.  Hmmm?  What's different?  Wow, nice variegation...except...Rob's Fiddle Faddle isn't variegated!

Lets look at the second "version" of Rob's Fiddle Faddle that caught my eye.  Wow!  It has the same variegation as the first "version".

If you bought this plant from these sellers as Rob's Fiddle Faddle, someone owes you a refund as you did not receive what you paid for!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Stuff Coming Soon...I Promise!

Yes, I've been missing in action from the blog for quite some time.  Quite honestly, I just haven't had the time between my "real" job, the two gift stores and of course, listing, selling and shipping violets on eBay.

Fortunately (sort of) shipping season is coming to an end here very soon so I'll be able to focus more time on the blog.  My first new and grand article will be of the Texas State African Violet Convention that I'll be attending November 4-6.

Thanks for your patience...interesting stuff coming soon!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One is too many and twelve isn't enough or "Recognizing Violet Addiction"

  • If you're on a first name basis with the're a violet addict;
  • If the deli dish your potato salad came in is transformed into a water're a violet addict;
  • If the acrylic blanket you bought for the guest bedroom becomes're a violet addict;
  • If you can remember the names of your violets but not the names of your children's're a violet addict;
  • If the clear bakery containers get transformed into hot houses for your leaf're a violet addict;
  • If the bright lights from the plant stand next to your bed regularly wake you're a violet addict;
  • If you find yourself talking more about your newest violet rather than your newest're a violet addict;
  • If you spend more time reading the ingredients on the package of your violet fertilizer than the package of cereal you're're a violet addict;
  • If the yarn you purchased to make that special afghan becomes wicking for your're a violet addict!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

eBay's latest "Rules Change" - UGH!

One of these days I'll figure out why eBay does what it does - that day just isn't today!  Historically eBay allowed a seller with multiple bidders to send a 2nd Chance Offer to all non-winning bidders.  A 2nd Chance Offer allows non-winning bidders the opportunity to buy the item being sold at the non-winning bidders last bid price.

That certainly seemed to be a win-win for both the seller, the buyer and eBay (they get their 12% cut).  I guess eBay saw it differently.  eBay now only allows a seller to send ONE non-winning bidder a 2nd Chance Offer.

So, if you happen to bid on a listing of mine from time-to-time, don't hate me if you don't get a 2nd Chance Offer!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Follow my hybridizing...coming soon!

I am in the process of creating a new page which will document the journey of a couple of my recent crosses.  The crosses have been made, the seed pods have matured and were recently harvested.

The page will document the life cycle of a hybridizing effort from initial pollination through the final selection of any seedlings worthy of continuing to propagate for potential naming and release.

I think you'll find the page to be both interesting and informative.  The goal of the page is to:

1.  Educate growers on how to successfully make a cross should they want to try it at home;
2.  Educate growers on how to anticipate what the end result of their crosses might be so they can strive for a specific result;
3.  Bring awareness to growers on the actual effort required to bring a new variety to market.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Violets are worth more than $3.40

I thought African Violets might be spared "Wal-Mart" discounting on eBay but I see that isn't the case.

In addition to African Violets I also sell gifts and collectibles on eBay and I am amazed at the number of sellers who will sell products at or below wholesale.  How exactly does one make a profit with that business model?  I tell my family and friends if you didn't buy it on eBay you paid too much!  And it's the truth.

Consider for a moment what it costs to do a transaction on eBay for an item that is being sold for $3.40.  

Insertion Fee:  .25 cents
FVF Fee (12%):  .41 cents 
PayPal Fee (5.5%):  .19 cents
Total Fees:  .85 cents

Gross profit from the sale of a $3.40 plant is $2.55.  Now consider the other costs associated with raising a plant to an age where it can be sold:

Potting Mix
Wicking/Matting materials
Light stands
Shipping Labels
Shipping Boxes
Packing Material
Plant Labels
eBay Store Fee

Conservatively speaking I would estimate these items add at least $1.00 to the cost of selling the plant.  So now we're down to a net profit of $1.55.  What about labor?

Lets assume the average length of time required to produce plantlets from leaf cuttings is 4 months.  Add another three months before they are mature enough to ship and then divide that by our net profit of $1.55.  In the end, the seller of the $3.40 plant is making approximately .22 cents a month for each plant raised and sold.

So, for every 1,000 plants sold the seller who is selling plants for $3.40 is making $220 or about $1.00 a day.

Question.  Who would care for 1,000 plants for 7 months for $1.00 a day?  If you know of anyone willing to do this please send me their resume!  Boy do I have a job for them!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Packing Day!

If I'm honest, my least favorite day of the week is packing day.  Until you've pulled, groomed, rolled, packed and shipped a few thousand plants, you don't know what you're missing!  It is a tremendous amount of work that is tedious and time consuming.

Funny thing though, as soon as I've packed the last shipment for the week I'm right back upstairs getting my next auctions ready.  I'm a gluten for punishment!

The photo below shows a few plants that I've pulled in preparation for a long day of packing.  I shipped over 100 plants in that sitting - UGH! 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Clearly" a better way to propagate leaves!

I'm often amazed that after 30+ years of growing (I started when I was 14) I can still uncover a bit of knowledge that I did not possess the day before.

During one of my regular trips to California I stopped in at the Smart & Final store to see what goodies they had that could be repurposed into a violet related accessory.  What I found on this trip were clear two ounce and rather shallow cups (a.k.a. Pots!).  I thought they might actually take up less room in my trays then my three ounce Solo cups so I threw caution to the wind and splurged $2.00 for 150.

Once I got them home I quickly realized while they were shallower than the three ounce Solo cups, their diameter was a tad bit wider so the net benefit was the big goose egg!  Since I had already taken my soldering iron to the pots to create drainage holds I decided to pot up a tray of leaf cuttings to see how they'd perform in the rather shallow pots.

What I noticed a couple of months later was the leaf cuttings in these pots produced plantlets that could be harvested sooner (about 30 days), produced more plantlets and there were virtually no underdeveloped plantlets in these pots as compared to leaf cuttings propagated in non-clear pots.  Why you ask?  I theorize that the clear containers allow light to hit the soil, roots and developing plantlets which allows them to mature much sooner.

Fluke?  Give it a try and let me know if you don't experience the same end result.  Here's a picture of what those leaf pots looked like in three months.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

No Experience Necessary!

It has always puzzled me why some growers can grow African Violets for 30 years and never raise a truly spectacular specimen while others with little to no experience put together beautiful specimens right out of the gate.  Such was the case this past November at the Lone Star African Violet Council show in Kerrville, TX.

The plant pictured, Shirl's Hawaiian Lei, was exhibited by Ken Muzalewski.  As I understand it he's been growing African Violets for a short period (2-3 years...maybe a tad more/less).

Now, if this were the only high quality plant he entered in the show I probably wouldn't be writing this blog entry but it wasn't.  Everytime he opened another box of plants he had transported to the show you could see the quality.  He had miniatures, semiminiatures and some really beautiful standard size African Violets.

Why do some growers hit the ground running while others don't?  I wish I knew.  But its nice when they do because they create some spectacular plants to admire!

Premier Pro-Mix HP versus Premier Pro-Mix BX

Try as I may I can't find Premier Pro-Mix BX in Colorado.  Yes, I can find it in every other state in the Union but not this one!  I've been shipping it in from California but as you can imagine the shipping almost doubles the price of the product.

A new business opened in Denver that "said" they carried Premier Pro-Mix BX.  Well, I made the drive up to Denver (about 80 miles round trip) only to discover they sold Premier Pro-Mix HP not BX.  The HP stands for "High Porosity".  I reviewed the ingredients and honestly couldn't see any difference between the two formulas.  In theory, the HP formula should work very well with African Violets and other plants that prefer a porous growing medium.

Curiosity got the better of me so I cracked the bale and sifted some of it to see its construction.  I immediately noticed the HP formula has a lot more perlite (hence the High Porosity description) than the BX formula.  Other than perhaps reducing the amount of perlite I add to the mix, I don't see that I'll have to make any other adjustments.

The cost was $42 which I thought was a bit high for a 3.8 cubic feet compressed bag.  I was paying $34 in California.  Fluffed out, it makes 7 cubic feet of potting mix which will fill about 2,000 3 ounce solo cups.  I figure when I add a little extra perlite my "recipe" costs me about .03 cents a pot.

I've been using Premier's products for close to 20 years and I honestly wouldn't use anything else.  If you're not using Premier Pro-Mix for your violets, you might consider doing so.  Pro-Mix is available in smaller quantities so don't feel the need to buy a 3.8 cubic foot bale!

Want to learn more about Premier Pro-Mix and where to find it in your area?  Click here and I'll send you over to their website.

Happy Growing!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Who's Behind the Name? Pat Champagne

I had only been in San Antonio for a few months, courtesy of the US Air Force, when I attended my first Lone Star African Violet Council (LSAVC) convention.  Having just arrived I didn't have a chance to groom any plants to exhibit so I simply attended the first year as an observer.

What I observed was something I had not seen before; perfectly grown miniatures and semiminiatures that were about 1/3 their normal size.  I was amazed at these oddities.  I quickly learned that they were all grown by a lady in Spring, Texas by the name of Pat Champagne.  It didn't take long for our paths to cross and so I inquired as to how she was able to grow these varieties so small (particularly living in Texas where it's hot and everything grows BIG!).  We'll, to my disappointment there was no secret and she couldn't explain it.  "That's just the way they grow in my house."  Over the years we became good friends and competed against each other every fall at the LSAVC convention.

I haven't seen my old friend in many, many years.  So Pat, if you're still out there...I have a Pat Champagne with your name on it!


What's Blooming in the Plant Room Today?

I snapped a few shots tonight and thought I'd post them.  I haven't grown these varieties in the past and find that I quite like them!  Don't forget to visit my eBay store if you're interested in purchasing plants.  Click here and I'll send you right there!

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Page - "In Search of...Lost Violets"

I've added a page (the link is in the lower right corner) that will document violet varieties that other bloggers are trying to locate.  If you know where one of these hard to find varieties can be found, please let me know and I'll pass along the information.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hortense's Care Package!

Hortense Pittman and I make it a point to send each other "care packages" a couple times a year just to brighten each others day.  Today it was my turn as I received a care package from her in today's mail!

She has several new varieties that I'll be propagating and making available next year.  I don't have all the descriptions yet but here's who they are:

Jolly Bells - This one was in FULL bloom when it arrived and the small, symmetrical foliage was COVERED (I mean LOUSY) with cute little white bell blossoms with a strong blue center.  Miniature.  This one is going to be very popular.

Jolly Happy Time - Description forthcoming!

Jolly Snow White - I saw this one in November at the Lone Star AVC show in Kerrville, TX.  It's a beautiful pure white (doesn't blush with pink) pansy atop medium green foliage.  Semiminiature.

Jolly Dimple - Description forthcoming!

Jolly Angel - Description forthcoming!

Jolly Jill - Description forthcoming!

Jolly Lavender - Description forthcoming!

She was also kind enough to send me a couple of previous releases that somehow managed to stay out of my collection.

Jolly Daybreak - (10018) 12/06/2008 (H. Pittman) Semidouble creamy white and yellow. Light green, plain. Miniature (TX Hyb) 

Jolly Champ - (9711) 01/15/2007 (H. Pittman) Semidouble-double red pansy. Medium green, quilted, wavy. Semiminiature

I will hurry to make them into beautiful specimen plants so I can photograph them and share them with you.  Hopefully it won't take too long!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Plants Under Lights or "Who Needs Natural Light!"

I must say, without any heir of boasting here, my plants look better this year than I think they have ever looked in the past and I'm growing at least 50% more this year than in previous years.  Perhaps it's the realization that I must stay on top of the general grooming/care.  You know, watering them when they need it, feeding them when they're hungry and grooming off unnecessary leaves/suckers before they become a problem.

I believe I've mentioned in past blog posts that I mat water 100% of my collection.  Living in Denver, CO where the average humidity is about 20% (on a good day) the added humidity mat watering offers certainly doesn't hurt.  I did also add a rather nice humidifier to the plant room back in March which keeps the humidity at a constant 45%.

The material I use to mat water is the same material used to line the inside of ski boats.  It's an acrylic based material that is very durable, about 1/8" thick and is capable of holding sufficient water for 3-4 days during the hot summer months.  In the winter, I can normally get away with watering on a weekly basis.

Here are a couple of pictures of one of my many fluorescent stands (it's actually four tiers but only three are pictured in the one picture).


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"A leaf with no purpose...serves no purpose"

I have people from time to time ask me what I mean by the statement, "A leaf with no purpose...serves no purpose."  Well, it's quite simple.  Leaves must serve one of the following purposes in order to be productive.  If they are not capable of supporting one of these areas, then it is usually an indication that the leaf should be removed.

Symmetry or Form - If you exhibit African Violets in competitive shows it's easy to understand that leaves create the symmetry (in the case of rosette varieties) or form (in the case of trailing varieties).  If a leaf is not adding to the symmetry or form of the plant, it is best to remove the leaf.

Propagation - Leaf propagation is the most common method of propagating African Violets.  Ideally, you want a healthy leaf that is still showing vigor.  When a leaf is no longer adding to the plants symmetry or form and is no longer a viable candidate for propagation, it is best to remove it.

Photosynthesis - Our violets, like other plants, use their leaves to collect light energy in order to convert it into chemical energy.  If a leaf has been damaged (by trauma or disease), it is best to remove the leaf as it's ability to contribute to the photosynthesis process has been greatly diminished.

So as you can see, "A leaf with no purpose...serves no purpose!"

s. clone grotei Silvert or "Where it all started!"

Saintpaulia clone grotei Silvert is a remarkable species.  I believe it and other former species have recently been reclassified as subspecies.  I haven't followed the reclassification very closely so I'm not an expert in this area but did want to share with you how well and free blooming some of the original African violets can be under the same care as their modern day hybrids.

A friend of mine does happen to be an expert in this area so I'll get the scoop on the reclassification and pass it along.

Anyway, if you're not growing this remarkable plant you should.  I grow it as a trailing variety and it does quite well.

Visit my eBay store at Hoovers Hybrids to see this variety and others.

Monday, May 31, 2010

In Search of..."Crafty Farmer"

A blog follower is looking for an old Lyndon Lyon trailer called "Crafty Farmer".  I grew it YEARS ago but it hasn't been part of my collection for a long time.  The description is:

Crafty Farmer (L. Lyon) Semidouble blue. Plain. Semiminiature trailer

If you have this variety or know someone who does, please post a "comment" with the information or send me a private note and I'll forward the information along.

If you're looking for a hard to find variety, let me know and I'll post a similar request.  You can email your requests to

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Shirl's Blue Passion or "America's Most Wanted African Violet"

It's funny how a variety that has had such little public exposure can solicit such a demand from the violet community.  Such is the case with Shirl's Blue Passion.

The specimen pictured below was exhibited at the Lone Star African Violet Council show in Texas this past November.  Trust me, there was more than one person who wanted to see a leaf or two fall to the floor!

I should have starter plants of this variety available next year.  I know, a WHOLE year from now.  Patience is a virtue! :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Perfect Window!

One of my longtime customers recently sent me the below photo and I can see why she LOVES her violets.  She has the perfect window for them and they certainly are rewarding her with an abundance of bloom.

The "perfect window" normally has an eastern exposure (Northeast or Southeast).  Ideally, you want the window to provide bright, indirect light while maintaining a "comfortable" temperature.  The rule of thumb there is, "If you'd be comfortable sitting there...your violets should be too!"

Remember, if you don't have a "Perfect Window" you can always use florescent lighting to provide the necessary light.  See some of my past blog posts for lighting tips and techniques.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sports! But Not The Kind You Play!

A wonderful trait found within African Violets (saintpaulia - pronounced Saint-Paul-e-ah) is their tendency to sport.  In this context, sport means a mutation different from the original.  One of the earliest sports was the pink blossom followed closely by the double pink blossom.  Sports have given rise to some wonderful breakthroughs over the past 50 years.  Some of these breakthroughs include, but aren't limited to:

1.  Variegated foliage
2.  Pink, red, white, coral and yes, yellow blossoms
3.  White edges (also known as Geneva Edges)
4.  Girl foliage
5.  Sticktite single blossom
6.  Double blossom

The plant below is Rob's Combustible Pigeon.  You can see that half the blossoms (those that are all blue with a white edge) have sported (mutated) from the original (fantasy pattern with white edge).  Once a plant sports, it is very unlikely that it will ever revert back to the original.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Ultimate Little Hand Sprayer!

It seems anymore it's nearly impossible to find an affordable hand sprayer that actually works for more than 15 minutes...until now!

Let me share with you the ultimate find in reliable and affordable hand sprayers.  I found this gem at Home Depot and I couldn't believe the price - $6.88.  It has a 64 ounce capacity which is sufficient to spray my entire collection of 2,000 + plants.  I primarily use it to apply fertilizer via foliar feeding but if you do need to use it to spray pesticides, it does that very well too!   

In case you can't read the brand, it's Flo-Master.  Home Depot stocks them in the garden center area near all the weed killers and pesticides (naturally!).

I've had the one pictured now for three years and it works as well today as it did the day I bought it.

So, if you're in need of a good hand sprayer...look no further!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My You're Handsome or "What a healthy starter plant should look like!"

I was fortunate in my early African Violet hobby to meet several exceptional commercial growers who really prided themselves on selling the highest quality starter plants available.  This "lead by example" approach is one that I bring to my violet sales on eBay.

A few thoughts.  Single crown varieties should be, well, single crowned!  If you're buying a starter plant and can see a picture of it, such as you might on eBay, and it has more than one crown the grower is obviously not paying close attention to their inventory.  As such, I'd suggest skipping that particular purchase.

Healthy, clean and a shiny appearance.  If the starter plant doesn't have an immediate heir of health and vigor, skip it!

If the crown (main growing point) is not clean and clearly visible, skip it!  If the leaves aren't crisp and growing horizontally, skip it.

Starter plants of trailers (as seen below) don't necessarily have to have multiple crowns when you purchase them, but they should have a nice shape to them.  The foliage color should also be clean, rich and healthy looking and void of excessive scarring or damage.  If the foliage is curling, twisted or otherwise distorted, skip it!

Remember, if you're in doubt about the health of the starter plant you're about to purchase, error on the side of caution and pass on that particular purchase.

Don't forget to check out my eBay African Violet auctions by visiting my eBay store.  Click here and I'll redirect to my store.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I'm back!

My birthday celebration came and went with little fan fair...which is a good thing!  I want to thank everyone for the warm birthday wishes, they are always appreciated.

Look for some new posts this week on Springtails, Oyama pots and more!

Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If it moves, its not perlite! or "How to manage a soil mealy bug infestation"

The shear mention of soil mealy bugs (a.k.a. Pritchard mealy bugs) to an African violet enthusiast is enough to send them into a panic.  Nothing creates such despair as the discovery and diagnosis that their collection is infected with these troublesome pests.  Soil mealy bugs are extremely destructive and are very difficult to kill thanks in part to the powdery wax layer (secretion) that covers their bodies.

Optimara Violets® (a.k.a. Holtkamp Greenhouses, Inc.) has a very good section on their website dedicated to the detection and treatment of pests and diseases that impact African violets.  Click here to be directed to their diagnosis and troubleshooting center (a.k.a. Dr. Optimara). 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  This goes for your personal health as well as the health of your violets.  Regardless of the source, ALWAYS keep new plants isolated from your primary collection for at least three months.  If a problem exists, be it soil mealybugs or something else, it will normally manifest itself within that isolation period.  If you've taken the proper precautions and you still find yourself with a mealybug problem, then here are a few suggestions:

If the infestation is limited to a few plants, it is best to discard the affected plants.  If the varieties impacted are hard to find you might consider removing a few healthy leaves (or crown in the case of a chimera) and washing them thoroughly in tepid soapy water.  Please Note:  Mealybugs have been known to lay their eggs on leaf stems and the primary stem of the plant.  This "soapy bath" does not guarantee that you've removed them but certainly goes a long way in doing so.  It is important to isolate these leaf cuttings (or crown cuttings) just like you'd isolate a newly acquired plant. 

A secondary step you can take after giving your cuttings a "soapy bath" is to treat the leaf and crown cuttings in a solution of Admire Pro, per label instructions, which contains the active ingredient Imidacloprid 42.8%.  Click here to review this pesticide which is readily available on eBay.  You'll note that this pesticide is very expensive ($169/Pint) so you will have to decide what is cheaper...replacing the infected plants or treating them.  If you estimate plant replacement at $10.00 each (plants + shipping), your break even point would be approximately 17 plants.

My thoughts on the use of pesticides:  I'm not in the practice of personally taking antibiotics to prevent a bacterial infection.  As such, I don't dispense pesticides in this manner either.  I think we're all aware that overuse of antibiotics or pesticides can and does create resistance strains of diseases (e.g. Tuberculosis; a.k.a. TB) and pests.      

Cleanliness is next to godliness.  Make sure any area where mealy bugs were found is cleaned thoroughly.  If you mat water, I strongly suggest disposing of all matting where mealybugs were found.  It is simply too difficult to ensure you've killed 100% of the bugs in the matting.  If you wick water in reservoirs, clean (preferable soak) the reservoirs in hot bleach water and rinse thoroughly.  I normally use 1 cup bleach to 8 quarts of water.

Remember, if it ain't perlite!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"The Nursery" or "What to do with immature plantlets"

Often when you're potting up plantlets from leaf cuttings you'll have plantlets that aren't quite large enough to warrant their own pot but don't deserve to be sent to the compost pile either.  

What I do with these immature plantlets is pot them up into a communal "nursery".  I use a 3" pot and fill it with my regular potting mix and top dress it with vermiculite (the vermiculite prevents the small plantlets from settling/sinking into the potting mix).  As you can see, I can easily fit seven immature plantlets in the nursery.  These "babies" are generally ready to be potted up into their own pots in 6 to 8 weeks or you can leave them in the nursery longer if you're not ready to deal with them. 

If you're short on space, this is also a great space saver.

The first picture was taken April 18, 2010; the second picture was taken May 19, 2010.  You can see how quickly they grow. The plantlets are large enough now to safely transplant into their own pots or can be left in the nursery for another month.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Repotting Into a Wicked Pot or "An Ilustration of Wicking"

The original intent of this blog entry was to demonstrate how I install wicks into pots but it will actually teach you three things:

1.  How to install a wick;
2.  How to transplant a small starter plant;
3.  How to use a modified form of Texas Style watering;

Things you'll need:

1.  #18 Nylon cord - I buy mine at WalMart (it's cheaper than Home Depot).  The #18 since works great for me on pots up to 4".  If your 4" pots don't seem to be getting enough water, use the #36 size nylon cord.
2.  Pots - I use 3 ounce Solo cups (actually I use the WalMart or Kroger knock-offs because they are about 1 mill heavier than the Solo brand);
3.  Soldering Iron - Required to burn two holes in the bottom of the pot (Warning:  Do this outside on a day with a slight breeze as you don't want to inhale the fumes.  I also recommend wearing a protective mask).
4.  Perlite - Course grade (about the size of a small pea if you can get it)

Step 1 - Cut the nylon cord into 6" lengths and insert in pot (Image 2).  Leave half inside the pot and half outside of the pot.

Step 2 - Add 1/2" to 1" of perlite to the bottom of the pot (image 4).  This layer of perlite provides a great air exchange area for your plants' rot system.  You'll be surprised how this improves your plants' root system.

Step 3 - Add approximately 1 heaping tablespoon of potting mix on top of the perlite and then lay the wick on top of the potting mix so it circles the edge of the pot (image 5).

Step 4 -Place the plant you're transplanting on top of the potting mix in the pot.  If it sits too low, add more potting mix.  The goal is to have the bottom row of leaves at or just slightly above the rim of the pot.  Note:  The black line indicates the level of the perlite in the pot (illustration purposes only).

Step 5 - Fill in the pot with potting mix (image 7).  I dress the top of the potting mix with some vermiculite as it prevents excessive settling of the potting mix when you give the plant a drink and I think it makes the plants look nice.  Plus, Ray Pittman does it so if he does it, it can't be all bad!

Step 6 - Using a water bottle (pictured below), give the plant a good drink of water by watering around the top of the pot with tepid/warm water until it begins to flow out the bottom.  Place re-potted plant on matting or a water reservoir.

Click here to visit my eBay store to see what violets are available this week! 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Mat Watering or "The Lazy Growers Watering Method"

I say it's lazy because you can dump water and go.  My schedule is so busy between the regular 8-5 job (which has me traveling a lot); the gift store that I own and the violets that this watering method is used out of necessity!

While not the best picture to illustrate mat watering, the picture below is one of my many trays that has an acrylic matting material lining the 22.5" x 12" perma-nest trays.  The matting is gray and if you look closely, you can see it runs the entire width and length of the tray it lines.

If the plants on the matting are still moist but the mat has dried or nearly dried out, I'll add 2 cups of tepid/warm water to the tray by simply pouring it into the tray (dump the water and go!).  It's easy.  If the plants have dried out a bit, I will generally add about 2.5 to 3 cups of water to the tray as the plants will absorb quite a bit of the initial water that is added to the tray.

Pros to matting:
1.  Easy;
2.  Reliable;
3.  Increases humidity around plants

Cons to matting:

1.  If one plant sneezes, they all get colds!  Meaning, pests and diseases are easily passed from plant to plant;
2.  The matting will normally dry out in 2-3 days but the plants will normally remain moist for another 2-3 days.

I buy my matting from the Violet Showcase.  The matting they sell is actually the insulation used in ski boots.  It's very durable and can be washed and reused over and over.  I find that this matting will last 3-5 years before it requires replacing.  Click here for a better picture of the acrylic matting I use inside of the Perma-nest trays.

Violet Showcase

3147 South Broadway
Englewood, CO 80113-2423

Click here to visit my eBay store to see what violets are available this week!

"Killing me softly with your love...." or "How overwatering killed your violet"

Roberta Flack wasn't singing about African least I dont' think she was...but you can definitely kill your violets softly with too much love.

Overwatering is without question the number one killer of African violets. This, I believe, is the result of the new grower simply not understanding the moisture needs of African violets.  Potting mixes that are saturated with water are a breeding ground for crown and root rot which are death sentences for your violets.

Violets enjoy a potting mix that is moist, not soaking wet. I would describe moist as the water content present in a lightly rung out sponge. There is still plenty of moisture for the plant to use but it's not dripping wet.

Remember, if you're going to error with respect to watering your violets, less is far better than more.

Click here to visit my eBay store to see what violets are available this week!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Look who's coming to dinner! or "What's new from Hortense!"

When I visited the Pittman's in November they were quite excited about their newest introductions that they were grooming for the Texas state show (a.k.a. Lone Star African Violet Convention).

One, of the many, that caught my eye was Jolly Playmate.  The blossom color resembles that of a chimera blossom but this one comes true from leaf cuttings.  The foliage, as you can see, shapes nicely (this, despite growing it on the very end of the stand and not turning it at all!).  When foliage grows this symmetrical and flat in less than desirable lighting, you can imagine how it will perform when given a little better spot under the lights.

I expect to have starters of this variety available in June!  

Click here to visit my eBay store to see what violets are available this week!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Water Reservoirs or "The Vacation Saver!"

Show me a violet enthusiast and I'll show you someone who doesn't like to take a vacation that is longer than three days for fear their plants will dry out during their absence.

One of the great things about violets is they are very adapt to being wick watered.  The following pictures demonstrate how to wick water a violet.

You'll notice that these 8 ounce reservoirs (saucers with lids) have a hole in the lid where the nylon wick is lowered into the water.  8 ounces of water will easily keep a plant in a 3 ounce Solo cup (2.5" pot) watered for 10-14 days.  In order for the wicking action to start, both the potting mix in the pot and the wick need to be moist.  This is easily achieved by slowly pouring tepid water from the top of the pot until it runs out the bottom.  Once the reservoir is filled with water and the potting mix/wick are moistened, the following picture shows what the end result will look like!

These reservoirs can be purchased through Cape Cod Violetry.  You can email them at to obtain a free catalog in PDF.

Why are the reservoirs black?  I spray paint them black to prevent algae from growing in them.  It's a BIG time saver every month!

The Astrodome! or "Where to start leaf cuttings and harden off plantlets"

Starting new plants from leaf cuttings is fun and is certainly an economical way of increasing your inventory.  This method works quite well for me and I'm sure it will work well for you too!

What do you need to start?

1.  3" pots (just a preference, other sizes can be used)
2.  22" x 12" Perma-nest tray
3.  Hard plastic vented humidity dome

The 22" x 12" Perma-nest trays can accommodate eighteen 3" pots comfortably.  I can normally start six (6) semiminiature leaves in a 3" pot (pictured) and a few more than that if starting smaller miniature leaves.  As an average, I put eighteen 3" pots into a tray, with 6 leaves per 3" pot.  Each leaf will produce about 3.1 plantlets for me so I will normally yield about 330 plantlets from one tray.  Yes, that's a lot of plantlets!

Where can you buy the supplies?

I've been buying my supplies from the Cooks at Cape Cod Violetry ( for a number of years.  They are friendly, fair and affordable.  You can send them a catalog request via email ( and they will send you their catalog in PDF format for FREE!

Click here to visit my eBay store to see what violets are available this week!