Begone, miserable African Violets!

I’m finally fed up with the african violets — after all this time, they still haven’t shown any spark of recovery. The leaves were tiny and deformed with red streaks through them, the flowers (what few there were) super small and twisted, and there was just no sign of new growth anywhere, no matter what I did to coax and prod and plead. I think they have a virus. So, this morning I swept them all off the shelf and into the garbage, except for one that looks perfectly fine and is one tough customer. My light stand in the front hall is bare… and ready to be loaded up with orchids!

Doctor Optimara

I sprayed my African Violets with a mixture of Neem oil and insecticidal soap tonight, but I’m still not sure they’re going to recover to full health. They’re…ok. but not spectacular, and no flowers. I visited the Doctor Optimara Web site to try to diagnose the problem, but I got frustrated. When it came to choosing symtoms, there was no box for “all of the above”.

Bringing the outdoors in

I’m ready for winter — bring it on. I spent the entire day, from 9 in the morning until 11:30 tonight, putting my grow room together. I covered the walls and floor with heavy-duty plastic (to help keep the humidity up and the water out of the apartment downstairs). This was no simple job; I had to pull everything out, then work around the mess with huge sheets of plastic and a staple gun. I ran out of plastic twice and had to make extra trips to the hardware store. I put up racks for mounted orchids and my big staghorn fern to hang from, and re-hung the hanging plants. Then I brought 90% of my plants indoors, arranged them, purged them of bugs, repotted some, and watered all. The humidity was up nicely at 60% to 70%. If I can keep that going all winter, I’ll have lots of flowers and new growth on my orchids this year.

I did eat — Laird lured me out for a late lunch at an Irish pub on Bloor Street. On the way out, we waded through the Harvest Festival crowds one last time, and had a close encounter with an east Asian Elvis impersonator who was crooning ballads on a portable karaoke machine almost outside our front door.

Back home, I realized that moving things indoors meant everything on the deck needed to be re-arranged. So I put myself back to work and swung the corn broom around for a while. Though a bit less “dense”, the deck still looks nice — it’s just a little more roomy. I figure there’s at least another month to six-weeks of deck weather to enjoy.

I even paid “some” attention to my african violets tonight. I watered the droopy things, and spritzed them with Neem oil and insecticidal soap. They’re looking distinctly better…. maybe I won’t throw them away after all.
Yeah right.

My Streptocarpus plants have made

My Streptocarpus plants have made an amazing recovery since I moved them from the light stand to the grow room, which is more humid. Even the tiny mystery one has bloomed, and it’s a lovely white flower with a yellow throat and a faint pink racing stripe.

My finickity African Violets, on the other hand, seem to making a slow recovery from whatever has ailed them. This lovely white one, “Frosted Whisper”, has a number of blooms. Few of them have the tell-tale brown spots (trouble!), but I removed a couple of sickly brown buds. I’m hoping that the fuss I’m making will encourage the rest of the gang to get back to work.

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.