Yesterday afternoon I was invited into the apartment of a fellow Parkdale resident to check out her collection of fascinating and unusual plants. The visit brought the plant junky in me out in full force. I went home conspiring to get my hands on a few of those amazing plants myself and then spent the remainder of the afternoon rearranging and caring for the gazillions of houseplants I do have. Visits to other peoples’ gardens never fail to motivate me to do better by my own plants.
Mesembs in the front window.
Erika collects alpines, Mesembs (conophytum & lithops aka living stones are examples), Gesneriads (not African violets), orchids, and euphorbias. Looking back on our conversation, I’m not completely certain that she is exclusive to those plant families. Most of her collection just seems to fall within those categories. When I asked her what inspired her collection, she replied that she has always loved diminutive plants. The perfect-sized plants for an apartment dweller.
Conophytums are a South African plant that consist of two fused leaves. That’s pretty much it. They’re some of the most simplified and reduced plants I have ever seen.
They kind of look like doughy buns. Or really cute anatomical models of the cervix. Apologies for putting that image into your head, but frankly, that’s what I see when I look at one.
Conophytum bergerii (red) and Conophytum ratum (green).
Say what? These freakish things remind me of jelly candies or those stinky jelly air fresheners everyone had in their bathrooms in the late 70s. When I was a kid, I could never help opening up the plastic cover and poking them. I REALLY wanted to poke these too but that would have been very rude. The flower (yes they do flower) comes up between the two “leaves.” I can barely distinguish where that is on the red one.
I’m a bit of a closet African violet fan. More than any other plant, African violets seem to have a demographic, and I am very much not it. My interest began with the success I had with a couple of plants while living in a dorm room in my first year of university. I already had the plants and didn’t think much of them until I discovered that they loved the hot and humid environment in my room. From that point on I have always had at least one. I currently have six, which is all the space I can afford to dedicate to them.
If I had more space you can bet I’d have lots more. I’m addicted to the variegated varieties with frilly leaves. I can’t resist the African Violet Society tables at events like the CNE. The society sells leaf cuttings of all sorts of interesting varieties for easy propagation — only 2 bucks a pop. All but one of my current plants were acquired in this way. These days I just repeat the mantra, “Walk away, don’t even look at those cuttings.” and buy another bulb I don’t have space to plant at the bulb booth instead.
Like many apartments mine boasts poorly insulated windows and baseboard electric heating. Yep, it’s a keeper. With the weather being in the high My Ass is About to Fall Offs I’ve been scheming ingenious ways to keep the plants that are stuck enduring their fate on the cold windowsill warm and alive through these dark days.
With a little extra time and some spare wool on hand I recently crocheted some handy warmers that seem to be making a difference. The first is a cozy coaster that was ridiculously easy for a novice crocheter like me to cobble together. All I did was make your standard crocheted circle — there are lots of books and websites that show how this is done (see list below). However, for those with some basic crochet skills all it takes is to make a small circle by slip stitching a couple of chains, and then double crocheting into that circle on every round, inserting some extra double crochets here and there to keep the coaster sitting flat.
Keep crocheting new rounds until your circle is as large as your pot’s saucer. You can make it a little larger so some of the design peeks over the edges or you can fancy it up with decorative edging like I did. Being the Queen of Scallops I went for the shell stitch which is as simple as double crocheting 3 to 5 times into a stitch until you’ve got a fan shape. Attach each fan (or scallop) to the coaster with a slip stitch and then begin double crocheting into the next stitch. You can spread them out a little bit or keep them tight like I have to make them puff out and curl. Just be sure to set a saucer underneath your plant pot to avoid turning your coaster into a wet and stinky mess.
I’ll post about the other project in a few days so stayed tuned.
We popped into the C.N.E last night for a bit of picture-taking and happened upon the Toronto Gesneriad Society table displaying the largest selection of the craziest African violets I have ever seen! Some of the names were just a little bit naughty, and some of the plants over-the-top Vegas Show Girl shimmery, giving me the impression that the African violet world isn’t totally about doillies and perfect leaf formation.
I had a bag of cameras on hand that prevented me from purchasing any plants, however they were selling standard leaf cuttings for 2 bucks a piece. It took me a good 20 minutes to make a choice but in the end I chose 4 very ornamental variegated leaf varieties. I chose:
- Deadly Sting
- Ness’ Orange Pekoe
- Northern Seduction – Has dark burgundy flowers. Leaves variegated mostly along the edges.
- Sonoma Imapink
Growing African Violets from Leaves
It is very easy to grow an entire African violet plant (or two, or three) from a single leaf. All you need to do is cut the stem end on an angle using a really sharp blade. Then you just pop the stem into some moistened vermiculite and wait. Of course, don’t forget to keep it moist. Soon enough the leaf will set root and start to produce little plantlets around it. Transplant the babies and you’re off. You can have your own full-grown ‘Dirty Face’, ‘Lady Diana’ or ‘Nancy Reagan’ plant in six short months!