The Kachemak Gardener calls this African violet “the Margaret Pate violet because she gave me the original plant from which several have been propagated and gifted. I think it may be my favorite —if a favorite is possible.” The flower blooms on March 29, 2020, at her Homer, Alaska, home. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

The Kachemak Gardener calls this African violet “the Margaret Pate violet because she gave me the original plant from which several have been propagated and gifted. I think it may be my favorite —if a favorite is possible.” The flower blooms on March 29, 2020, at her Homer, Alaska, home. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

Kachemak Gardener: Over-the-top and charming, African violets are blooming

This was the perfect afternoon to freshen up the African violets. These lovelies bring me so very much pleasure. This is the time of year when they begin to bloom so perfectly, each one a nosegay, each one over-the-top charming. At least I think so. But they need attention before they bloom. The flowers don’t really care to be showered so, while still in bud, they got their shower. Each plant (there are 30, which gives you an idea just how much I admire them) goes to the kitchen sink and gets a good shower and watering and a glug of fertilizer. This happens about every two or three months, but in the spring it seems to be especially crucial for their well being.

I take a good look at them, trim off any leaves that look old/yellow/blotched or detract from the overall shape. They get a gentle shake before they go back to their bespoke window sills so they don’t drip. There is a berry bowl under each one so the ordinary watering is done from the bottom. But there are those times that they just really need a deep drink and today was it.

This latest batch of violets were mostly started late last summer from leaf cuttings taken from older plants that looked tired no matter how much care I lavished on them. So they are young and don’t need to be repotted.

Because of the self-isolating mandate I won’t be able to have a violet tea party when they peak, although they will certainly deserve one.

I am often asked by others why theirs don’t look like mine. I don’t know. There are so many variables to houseplants. Does your home have a Five Star rating or a Zero Star rating? Do you heat with wood or radiant? What light do they get? Most important: Do you pay attention? I don’t really know how often I water them. Does it matter? They get watered when they need it. And I know they need it by looking at them. By caring, deeply. Why? Why not? I care deeply about a lot of things on a non-prioritized list. Violets are on the list.

Whatever your choice of houseplant (I forgive you if they are not violets) take the time to refresh them with a shower including under their leaves. They will reward you and reflect the time and attention you have bestowed on them.

* * *

It was 12 degrees this morning. March. Which got me thinking about hellebores. I pity my Ivory Prince. It was attempting to bloom the first week in December and then, well you know what happened, the sub-arctic that we call home is what happened. Our daughter, Andrea, lives in the Bellingham, Washington, area and the Instagram photos of her garden are both a boon and a bane. Do I want to live there? Yes and no. Her garden progresses with the seasons. Which is where our gardens get interesting. The season may be short but so very intense.

Have you been to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show held in February in Seattle? I hope so. You only need to go once. The demonstration gardens are spectacular, and a lie. They are like a science fair project. Landscape designers have everything blooming at once, plants have been forced to bloom out of season, which in the real world doesn’t happen. Doesn’t it? How about here? Aha! An advantage. If the Ivory Prince makes it, the blooms will come sort of early but then everything else will start blooming even before it has a chance to bow out gracefully. And the ball gets rolling and our gardens are a dazzle to visitors from Outside that are amazed by the depth, the richness, the glow of color that our flowers possess. No bleaching out by too much sun and heat, no siree.

Now THERE’S something to look forward to, March and COVID-19 be damned.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener and has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.

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