Sunday, August 7, 2016

Once It Was All About African Violets

Euphorbia take over

First it was the dying geranium which took over my small pullman kitchen in my studio apartment my final year of college. It won me over by living and even thriving on my neglect. What can you expect from a senior in college?

And then Aunt Zelma turned me on to African Violets. Small things which bloom all the time and come in infinite color and variety. But easy to move in boxes in the back of the camper shell on the pickup. She had shown me how to propagate new ones from a single leaf and so I became a leaf thief. In North Carolina I had over 75 African Violets. In the summers they lived on plastic shelves on my wonderful south facing veranda and I watered them with a garden hose. Something my neighbors never grew tired of telling me would kill them or at the very least spot their leaves. Never did either.

Came time to move I only took ten or so. One for Aunt Zelma and the rest I gave away to those friends and neighbors which promised to raise them right. 

My Kansas City town house days was my caving period. In lieu of drapes I acquired tall and leafy plants I could peek through but none of those outside could see in.  I am not sure I remember them even. It was an eclectic group provided by my mother, the green thumb, and sales at the local nurseries. Among them were my first Euphorbia. They seemed to do well when I did not water them. I was climbing up to the glass ceiling and hadn't a lot of time to spare. And when the company I worked for moved me the mover gave me wardrobe boxes and brown paper and showed me how to pack them. He assured me they would handle even 30 days in storage if necessary. And they did. I was sold. 

But my next move was mid winter and to a colder clime and they didn't make it. I was moved four times that year and could not bear to lose more plants. But when I moved at last to my new house here in Black Lake I set out to acquire more of the slow growing, thrives on neglect plants. And they took up every window space and even had grow lights were there were no natural lights. Some melted for lack of sun. That is what cactus and euphorbia do. They melt. So I built them a green house. And the survivors thrived.

A friend at a green house told me how to propagate them and other succulents. And soon I was back to my cave period. They covered all the windows until they got too tall to catch the sun and above the sunlight they melted. I moved them to the middle of the room where in some part of each day they could get light. I had, after all, a peaked ceiling 14 feet tall. The tallest was just seven feet. But there was no way to spread out my art projects or reorganize the art on the panels without the prickly plants making their presence know. It was time to let go.

The shorter tall guys
 And so I rehomed four of the biggest. I still have others but they fit the space better. And they opened up space for some of my newer ones which were relegated to corners just to fit in. Including all the jade plants. Gave three of those away last year. Never quite solved the leaf thief tendencies from the African Violet Days.  I have managed to avoid being a crazy cat lady but I think there should be a category of crazy plant lady.

My Three Crown of Thorns with Orchids

Next goal is to not feel I must start a new jade plant from every fallen leaf or find someone or a nursery which wants to buy them all from me.


  1. A new jade plant from every fallen leaf, :) What a great post. I tell people some of my best friends are plants. Only half kidding. Your cave system reminded me of my sister. She had the typical Dutch huge front window on the ground floor and used various tall green things just like that. Those tall cactus things look intimidating. My indoor plants have become Iimited to one jade plant with a long history, geraniums in tne front window that go into the garden in late spring, and an aloe vera plant in the reflexology room. However, the side window sill this year will be full of food and starts. Happy growing!

    1. Part of my madness is to make room for starts and maybe even one of those grow light arrangements to fit on one plant bench and grow lettuce and Swiss chard through the winter. Not to mention starting broccoli and peas earlier. You are my inspiration. I remember reading about your inside grow light arrangement and trying to figure out the space for it.

  2. I feel honoured! Your best bet for winter growing is those mesclun mixes, or a salad mix, and just eat the thinnings and the outer leaves. I also found those Epyptian walking onions work well in containers. Chives just sit there, multipliers go pale and leggy, but the smaller tops of top setting onions do great in a planter. Do you have any? I would love to send you some!

  3. I just replied but think I messed it up. Best crops for winter growing are microgreens and mesclun mixes. I grow arugula by itself more as herb than as vegetable and reseed every ten days or so. I dislike must mustards, so I just seeded a planter with a blend of 4 leaf lettuces instead of using the mix. Also, I will have a pot of green onions, using the tops of my walking onions. Do you have those? If not, I would lovebto send you some. Indoor gardening in New Mexico should be good. You get more sun and more light than we do. Eliot Coleman's book Four Season Harvest is about growing fresh food in winter in Maine. It does not work here.


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