Botanical Hypochondria

I’m getting frustrated with my african violets. Last fall, they woke up out of a lack-luster stretch and for no apparent reason decided to put on an incredible floral show for me. To my delight, every single violet I owned started blooming non-stop with massive posies of flowers that stayed fresh-looking for weeks. Convinced that I’d suddenly acquired the “touch”, I made a call to Doris Brownlee of ACA’s Violets in Mississauga. On a blustery and frozen winter night, I visited her home and went on a wild and abandoned spending spree. Well, I spent $40, but that’s a lot of baby African Violets, believe me. I came home with a box-load in all shapes and colours, as well as a huge bage of soil specially-mixed for violets and a bottle of the magic potion all good indoor gardeners use, Superthrive.

All went well for six weeks or so — more than well. I started having daydreams about posing for pictures in the winner’s circle with a spectacular specimen and a giant blue ribbon. Then, almost overnight, the flowers and buds started wilting. I started seeing grayish streaks on the backs of the blooms, and what looked like black speckles of dust. EEK!! A quick trip to Dr. Optimara and a frantic email to Doris revealed that my plants had a wretched dose of powdery mildew. The black spots were the spores, which I didn’t know at the time, and probably spread all over the rest of my collection with my hand. I sprayed with fungicide, and a Neem oil concoction for good luck. They perked up a bit, then slid rapidly downhill with brown mushy spots on the underside of leaves. Botrytis!!! But no, wait, the leaves were starting to twist and get smaller and smaller, and the bud stems getting shorter and shorter…Cyclamen Mites!!!

Geez, I’m a botanical hypochondriac.

I got fed up with them, and let them go a little too long without water. This morning I looked at them again, and felt guilty. I gave them water, and cut off every single bloom, bud, or blip that could become a bud, that I could find. I was being contrary… if the flowers are going to crap out on me, I don’t want ’em at all.

Tonight….is it my imagination?? They look….perkier. Who said flowers are stupid? They probably know I’m one step away from tossing the lot of them. Maybe if I move the garbage pail closer they’ll be more motivated.