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?

Propagating African violets via leaf cuttings.

Just last week I had the pleasure of attending the 32nd annual Stampede City African Violet Show and Sale and I was floored by the variety and beauty of the cultivars displayed.   I currently own three African violets, my most recent acquisition a gorgeous purple chimera (the type with the stripey “pinwheel” blooms), and excepting my lack of physical space requirements, I am eager to start a collection.

I rooted around the website for the African Violet Society of Canada, an absolutely fantastic resource for anyone questing for information about these plants, and uncovered some interesting facts.  The first wild African violet was found in east Africa in 1892 by a German gentleman named Baron Walter von St. Paul, who lent his name to the genus.  There are about twenty different kinds of wild African violets, all with blue-violet blossoms and dark green leaves, with slight variation.  The first plants arrived in North America from Europe in 1926 and since then they have been successfully hybridized into the myriad of cultivars we see today.  In the 1970s the first trailing types were introduced, and in 1992 the very first true yellow blossoms were created (I don’t recall seeing a yellow one at the show; apparently they are extremely rare).

African violets belong to the family Gesneriad, which are comprised of three types:  fibrous-rooted, tuberous-rooted, and rhizomatous-rooted.  African violets are, of course, fibrous rooted (and as such cannot be divided to propagate).  At the show, I saw some perfectly symmetrical, glossy-leaved plants that I initially thought were violets as well, but they were actually Petrocosmea minor.  There is a photograph on the Canadian violet site that illustrates the absolutely perfect foliage form of these plants; they’re quite astonishing.  I also saw many examples of Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose), a very common fibrous-rooted Gesneriad.  True gloxinias are a type of rhizomatous Gesneriad, while their misnamed counterparts, Florist’s Gloxinias, are actually Sinningias, a group of tuberous rooted Gesneriad.

African violets are most often propagated by leaf cuttings; the process is as simple as taking a sturdy leaf from the middle ranks of the plant and rooting it with powder in a soilless mixture (ideally composed of vermiculite, perlite, and activated charcoal).  Regular liquid fertilizer feedings and a lot of patience will produce fully formed plantlets within six months or so, upon which time they can be transplanted.  Years ago, leaf propagation was performed by placing the stem of the cut leaf in a glass of water until roots formed, but apparently that method has fallen out of favour because it can produce weak plants.  My new chimera cannot be propagated via leaf cuttings, however, as it will not produce a baby that is true to its parent (chimeras are genetic freaks and not easy to reproduce).  They can be propagated via a detailed sucker or peduncle method, with the latter producing the most babies.  Perhaps if I get daring enough, I will attempt to propagate the little beauty one day.   I do think that perhaps three plants aren’t nearly enough….