Sunday, September 25, 2011

Violet Safari in Ohio

Winners stage
This year is the third year I've been to the Ohio State African Violet show and sale at Kingwood Center in Mansfield, Ohio. This event is held at one of the most beautiful botanical gardens I've been to. ( More about that later.) The show and sale is all about Afican violets and their gesneriad cousins. More than one commercial grower is there, including Lyndon Lyon and the Violet Barn. They have the newest violet hybrids and many other plants, including miniature houseplants. Many people have their "wish lists" with them, hoping to find the one they've been looking for.  There are also other vendors with many of  the supplies needed to grow violets, including soil, pots, chemicals, and tools. The room with their booths is where the money is spent........
First place winning streptocarpus
Natural garden
Underwater design.

Unusual streptocarpus.
Violet in an unusual container.
Beautiful design
.... but, in another room, is where the blue ribbons are fought for, and won. The judged show is very interesting. Trying to figure out what the judges are thinking when they award blue, red, and white ribbons, is a challenge in itself and a learning experience. . Best of show, best of class, the sweepstakes award, are all coveted awards. These plants are the best of the best. There are different categories, including design classes, terrariums, dish gardens, and natural gardens. Plus all the different gesneriad classes, including streptocarpus, kohleria, chiritas, sinningias, espiscia, and petrocosmea, and, of course, African violets. The designs are created keeping the theme in mind. This year's theme was Violet Safari.
The secrets of the growers winning the blue ribbons are what I want to know. What soil mix do they use? What lights do they use, and how long are they on? What fertilizer do they prefer? How often do they apply it, and at what strength? The nice thing is, most of these people are more than happy to talk about their plants, and their process for getting them to the blue ribbon level. They love their plants and telling you all about them. Joining an African violet club is the best way to learn all you need to know about growing violets. Find one in your area and join. You will meet wonderful people and will learn more than you thought there was to know about violets and their relatives.

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