The problem with African violets, that is, if there really is a problem, is that they are never mentioned without the word 'grandmother' somewhere in the first two paragraphs of any write-up. Google a couple, see what I mean.
Maybe African violets need jazzing up like this photo I juiced up just a little
There's certainly not anything wrong with grandmothers. We love our grandmas. I even aspire to be one, someday.
All of our grandmas had them and that's the first thing we garden writers think of when we ponder these pretty little flowers. My grandmother had a single African violet sitting on an end table. This was in complete contrast to her lush gardens outside.
Another older relative grew prize-winning African violets. However this required one of those tiered stands with the sickly pink-purple flourescent lights. They were fertilized within an inch of their lives. These robust and ruffly violets sat obediently like the almost hothouse flowers they were; terrified of the fate of those that failed. You see, she tossed them down the hill behind the fish market next door.
I always like to think when this happened they were actually liberated and grew wild down there amongst the other trash. I liked to imagine them flowering amid the rusty soup cans and old toilet seats.
So this past summer when the man in the Optimara booth offered me a couple, I almost turned him down, but heck, the guy in the booth, well, he reminded me of my grandad. What's a girl to do?
Turns out I'm glad I took them, thanks again, Optimara guy.
Long after the last kalanchoe blooms dropped, and after the poinsettia went kaput...the little flowers that could are still blooming in only that prim and proper, cheerful and earnest way that African violets do. But that green one is just a bit edgy. Green? We'll get to that in a moment.
There's something decidedly domestic about the way they sit on the windowsill, but I can tell by the brochure that came with them, the Optimara people are hoping to change that perception.
NeverFloris is the name of their green African violet that never quite blooms. Abundant tiny stems and buds stay on hold so to speak, giving the plant an even greater sense of texture beyond the fuzzy leaves. It's shown in comtemporary containers with all sorts of ah-KOO-truh-mAWnt. I like the tall pot with curly willows coming out the top. Not a new look until you figure the flower component is an African violet. Hmmm.
I think it's not too much of a stretch to think of planting and designing with AV as if they were succulents. They have that living but static quality that lends itself to modern presentations. Think long line of them in a skinny trough. How about multiples in shallow basins?
All I know is that the little wine-colored one, the one I lost the label to, planted in McCoy pottery just like my grandma's, has helped to lift the gloom on many a day this especially long and snowy winter. So once again, maybe Grandma was onto something..