New windows, garlic greens, and other things.

Sooooo…I’m waiting patiently (okay, maybe not so patiently – who am I kidding, really?) for the snow to melt here and in the meantime things are happening on my windowsill.

I mean, REALLY happening.  A couple of weeks ago, maintenance staff arrived with new windows for our apartment building.  It was definitely cause for celebration, as our previous windows were at least two decades old – probably more like three –  and we were having issues with ice building up between the panes (especially as one of them had a small hole in it).  The hardware wasn’t working smoothly anymore, either.  Of course, once the new windows were installed, I couldn’t bear the sight of the chipped windowsill, and we had some imperfections on the wall from when we had blinds put up a few years ago, so out came the filler and the paint.  I’m extremely pleased with the results – but now I think the whole place needs new paint!  UGH.

The African violets are certainly happy with the new windows and the sunshine.  These two bloom frequently, every 2 to 3 months or so.  I have a couple of others as well, but the one looks to be on its last legs and the other hasn’t bloomed in about a year.


African violet - 11 March 2014

And there’s a leaf cutting I started a couple of months ago.  I wish I could say it is from the plant that is dying, but it’s not – I didn’t have the forethought to take a cutting and now the mother plant is so far gone I don’t think it would be useful to try.  It’s too bad – the pale pink flowers were so pretty and delicate, almost sugary-looking.


African violet pink

I keep buying cacti – with my watering habits (“when I remember to, which is often nearly too late”), they seem to thrive.  I was all excited when I brought this Mammillaria spinosissima home, thinking I had a new-to-me species until my hubby reminded me I already had one. (My excuse is that the “red head” on my established one has long grown out).  I don’t know how he remembered this and I didn’t – I honestly thought he wasn’t paying attention.  Good thing I don’t buy designer shoes or handbags – he’d call me on them every time.  😉


And I’ve been growing garlic greens!  I planted a LOT of garlic in my community garden bed last fall, both bulbils and bulbs, but I still had some bulbils left and I really wanted to use them up, so I popped them into a pot and voila!  Fresh greens in less than two weeks. It’s been so nice to use them in cooking.


I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!  What home and garden projects have you been working on lately?


Spring stirrings (a miscellany).

Ah, spring!  Have I mentioned how much I love this time of year?  There are so many reasons to celebrate!

Glories of the snow  


Pea shoots on my windowsill 

African violet 

Unblanched popcorn shoots 

Another African violet 

Larch flowers 

Prairie crocuses

What plants are you enjoying most this spring?

Adventures in African violet propagation.

Apparently it is very “easy” to propagate African violets from leaf cuttings.  Well, I’m here to tell you that I can turn “easy” into “not so easy” with very little effort!  Way back in June of last year I obtained a leaf cutting from a beautiful pink and white flowered adult violet that we have growing in a sunny window at my workplace and I was bound and determined to root it.  I trimmed the end of the stem with a diagonal cut, and dipped it into a tiny amount of rooting hormone powder, then stuck it in some potting soil in a 4″ pot.  I spritzed the soil (being careful not to moisten the leaf) every single day with a light liquid fertilizer application (8-14-9) and water.  My project sat in the sun, next to my adult African violets.  A month later, I started two other leaves in the same manner.

Roughly three months after planting and diligent daily watering and feeding, I was thrilled to see that baby plantlets had emerged from the base of all my leaves.  Success was mine!

But then I got excited and cut off the “mother” leaves and well, let’s just say that, over the next eight weeks or so, as I checked on them daily with increasing dismay, all of my tiny plantlets officially bit the dust.  There is a lesson in this:  even baby plants need their mommies.

Soooo…I’m starting over again.  This time I’m going to try it this way:

I’m going to make sure I have a short stem on the mother leaf.  The whole process takes more time if the stem is over one inch in length.  I’m going to also ensure that I don’t use older leaves as cuttings – even though it is recommended to regularly trim the bottom ring of leaves from adult plants to encourage new growth and create a more pleasing shape, I’m just going to throw those leaves away instead of trying to use them as cuttings.  Old leaves take longer to root, and I’m going into Year Two of this.  No need to drag it out further.   I’m going to use soilless mix, or go solo with perlite or vermiculite.  Potting soil will work, but it should be sterilized first.  I’m also going to be very conscientious about watering – I have to keep the soil around the mother leaf moist, but not soaking wet.  It won’t do to let it dry out in between waterings, either, which is what I was doing with my old method.  I’m actually supposed to cover the pot with a plastic bag, careful not to touch the leaf with any part of the plastic.  A dowel can be used to “prop” up the bag so it sits properly over the pot, and I should keep the bag open at the bottom, with a fairly large air gap.  Completely encasing the leaf may promote rotting.  I think my light conditions were appropriate, and I don’t think  very light feedings with fertilizer could be harmful.  Perhaps not every watering, however.  But the most crucial thing I have to remember is not to separate the emerging plantlets from the mother leaf so quickly!   I can sort that all out later, once the plantlets are bigger.

So…I’m off to practice patience.   If anyone out there has any other tips for me, please feel free to share.  I’m all eyes.