My friend Jeri this week asked me to take her African violets — the ones that suffered from not getting enough windowsill time. Like she thought switching them to my windowsills would bring them back to life. I told her no. And that if she needed permission to toss them out, I was giving it to her.
But the thought took me back to my first African violet show at Botanica. I remember being carried away by the charm of white-and-lavender-striped blossoms (known as a chimera type) and tiny periwinkle flowers that fairies must surely peep out of. I had had no idea there was such a variety of African violets under the sun.
You can experience the same astonishment today, as the Wichita African Violet Study Club has its 2011 version of the show, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Botanica. There will also be plants for sale, because your windowsills need them.
Patty Daniel is president of the club and sells a quaint combination of African violets and antiques at Patty's Plants & Antiques in Winfield. The shop is in a circa-1915 post office building where Patty and her family also live. (You can see pictures on the website www.pattysplantsandantiques.com.)
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Patty is a designer of container gardens who has won awards for them at shows in Texas and Oklahoma. She is part of the interesting membership of the small club _ now at 14 members _ that also includes the Soergel sisters: Brandi, just shy of 14, and Jocelyn, 10. They've been growing African violets for the show, along with their mother, Audrey. The girls are home-schooled, which enables them to attend the club's monthly afternoon meetings, Audrey said.
"Lovely girls," Patty says.
Patty, a relative newcomer to the area, is hoping to get new members in the club and rev up the annual show, too.
"Our Wichita club does not put on judged shows, but we do adhere to the rules set down by the African Violet Society of America and try to have all categories represented except the flower arrangements," Patty told me. "My goal is for the club to increase membership and start putting on judged shows again." That would mean including classes for terrariums, dish gardens and natural gardens.
I've always stopped at the name the Wichita African Violet Study Club. "Study" has a negative connotation to me. But the club dates back to 1962, and in that case, "study" just sounds retro.
But African violets are not retro. The local club is affiliated with the African Violet Society of America, and it has recently financed the typing of Saintpaulia (African violet) DNA and has established relationships between the various species of Saintpaulia, Patty said.
"And that caused much consternation amongst older growers because we've had to change some names to reflect the new categories," she said. Always a pain.
Patty also told me that African violets are endangered and/or extinct in the wild, so the various societies are dedicated to protecting them, too.
I want to say a big thank you to all of you who came by to visit me at The Eagle booth at last week's garden show. It's always good to see people on the other side of our writer-reader relationship. Please continue to keep in touch!
Here are some quotes I jotted down from some of you:
"I plant in whatever's got holes."
"Getting the ground ready -- that's harder than weeding."
"You get excited to get out and plant but it's still a bit cold yet."
"Antsy to get in the garden like you are."
"Interested in growing but won't."
"I'm getting so hungry for garden."
"Ride with The Eagle."
Now you know
Wichita African Violet Study Club
Founded: 1962 Purpose: To study African violets and other plants in the gesneriad family, promote interest in them and work to preserve them (they're extinct and/or endangered in the wild)
Members: 10 (including a 14- and a 10-year old)
Dues: $10 a year for an individual, $15 for a family
Meetings: Second Friday of each month at 1 p.m. at Botanica. The meeting includes a program about some element of African violet or other gesneriad culture.
Events: Annual show and sale (today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Botanica) Contact: Patty Daniel, president of the club and owner of Patty's Plants & Antiques in Winfield, 620-402-6282
Website for the African Violet Society of America: www.avsa.org