by Amy Clark, Assistant Education Registrar & Membership Assistant, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
I started collecting African violets by coincidence only. The Richmond African Violet Society holds a show and sale each year at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and in 2008, the sale was held in the Robins Room, right across from where I was working — the membership office. I didn’t even know what African violets were, but I am never one to pass up a sale; I bought two African violets chosen for their fancy names only.
“Have you grown African violets before?” A member of the RAVS asked me.
“These are my first ones,” I said proudly.
“Good luck,” she told me very sternly.
That was April. By August they were both dead.
I’m one of the most competitive life forms that exists, so failing at growing this plant was unacceptable to me. When the RAVS Show and Sale came back to Lewis Ginter in 2009, I was prepared.
This time I asked the experts questions during the selection process. A RAVS member suggested selecting an African violet that was a bit older. Most of the African violets RAVS sells have the years they were cultivated printed on their tags. An older year means it has really proven itself as a successful plant. I chose a 1993 variety, still with an intriguing name, “Scandal.”
Next, I purchased an appropriately-sized, self-watering African violet pot from the Garden Shop. They’ve worked well for me, look very unique, and are cost-efficient. I followed all of the instructions I was given with my plant, purchasing the correct soil and even a fertilizer I use every time I water them. It’s not organic, but I don’t plan on eating or transplanting this plant in the wild! The African violet is a plant that is actually very happy staying indoors.
What I like most about African violets is the great satisfaction I receive when my plants bloom. I also really enjoy sharing cuttings of my plants with friends, as the leaves are very easy to propagate. I’m by no means an African violet expert; I became an enthusiast by coincidence, excellent product placement, and pure determination! If you’re a curious plant-lover like me, an expert, or have no idea what an African violet is, I encourage you to mark the weekend of April 8, 9, and 10 on your calendar to visit the Richmond African Violet Society’s 2011 Show and Sale here at Lewis Ginter. You might just go home with a fancy-named challenge!
Location: Robins Room in the Robins Visitors Center
Admission: No admission fee to visit the show; regular Garden admission to visit the Garden.
Sale: April 8, 9 & 10, Friday, Saturday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. / Sunday: Noon – 5 p.m.
Show: Friday: 1 – 5 p.m., Saturday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday: noon – 5 p.m.