Behind the Scenes – HOW to Limit Your Collection, Part II

Alrighty then. We’ve talked about leaves and plantlets, but what about the more mature plants you might have on your shelves? How do you limit them? During the second season of All About African Violets, I created an outline to help with this. I’m going to recreate and expand a bit on it here for you.

Let’s recap what we’ve already done:

  1. Make friends with the trash can.
  2. Let go of putting down every leaf you groom off.
  3. Be selective about the plantlets you choose to grow on after propagation.
  4. If the plantlets do not bloom true to their description, throw them out.

Now we move on to the plants that are on our shelves.

Step 5 – Evaluate your growing space

The next step is to look at your available growing space. How many light carts/shelving units do you have that you can allot to growing your plants? Remember that you will need an isolation area. If you can’t set aside a separate room or light cart, a bottom shelf can work. According to my friend and early mentor, Darryl Hoover, if something is wonky with a plant you’ve brought in, bugs will have a harder time climbing up than they would climbing down.

In this step I invite you to remember that African violets need air space around them to grow well. They don’t enjoy being cheek by jowl with a bunch of of other violets on the shelf. My light carts upstairs are 2′ x 2′. I can fit five young standards on one shelf . . .

Shelf with young standards
Shelf with young standards

. . . but as they grow this number often needs to be adjusted downward.

Shelf Getting Crowded at Standards Grow
Shelf Getting Crowded at Standards Grow

And sometimes the stardards get quite large! You’ll recall that Jersey Snowflakes takes up one entire shelf all on its own!

Jersey Snow Flakes takes up an entire shelf
Jersey Snow Flakes takes up an entire shelf

This step will go a long way toward guiding you in how many plants are best for you. Also take into consideration those little plantlets you potted up in the previous post — sure they all fit on the tray now, but once they start to grow, it could be another story altogether. So, look at your stands with an eye toward the future.

Step 6 – Non-negotiables and Your Number

Determine if there are varieties that are non-negotiable for you; i.e., for whatever reason, you’re always going to give a certain variety shelf space – for me, it’s Fisherman’s Paradise. I won my first Best-in-Show in SoCal with this variety, and although it has NEVER done well in Chicagoland for me, I continue to give it shelf space. Once you know how much time and space you have and what plants are always going to have a place on the shelf, you can make an estimate on a number of collection plants that sounds reasonable to you – the number of varieties that you feel you can truly care for well.

Keep in mind that your number can change. When I lived in SoCal, my number was 50. At one time there I grew 112 varieties. It was a nightmare – no one and nothing was happy, but when I dropped down to 50 varieties, it became very manageable. Now, my number is about 30, max, and, at the moment I have about 40 varieties, a few of which have multiple plantlets . . . you can see how easy it is to get carried away.

Now comes the moment of truth – you’re going to have your trusty trash can by your side and anything you are not going to keep, goes to its Great Reward.

The Inside of Annie's Trash Can
The Inside of Annie’s Trash Can

Here we go!

Step 7 – Learn to sing the Frozen song

You’ll recall that one of the biggest songs from this film was a number sung by Idena Menzel, as Elsa. Let it Go. We’re going to go through a series of questions to help you get to your manageable number.

  • Do you have Duplicates?
  • Do you need duplicates? (the answer is almost always no) .
    • Sing the Frozen song.

After you’ve removed all your duplicates, look at your shelf space and consider your number. Were you able to reach your number by letting the dupes go? If so, Yay You! If not . . . next question:

  • Do you have a lot of the same kind/type of plant?
    • How many blue semi-miniature trailers do you really need, Annie???
  • If you have multiple plants of the same type and/or color, take a good look at them.
    • If you grow for show and you have four pink standard violets with green foliage, they are all going to be in the same color class in a show.
    • Consider Collection vs. Color Class – This is an area where you might want to have two of one registered variety: if it grows amazingly for you and you want one in a collection and one in the color class. This hardly ever happens.
  • Which one(s) do you like the best?
  • Which one(s) grow the best in your conditions?
    • Figure it out and sing the Frozen song.

Step 8 – Wonky vs. Thriving

By now your numbers should be closer to your “reasonable” number, but if not . . .

  • Look at the plants that you have.
  • Really look at them.
    • Do any look wonky? Like they just aren’t happy? Or they never really grow?
    • Are they thriving in your growing conditions? By thriving, I mean they are asking you to be pot on so they can keep growing – they are blooming easily and blooming true – they are, for lack of a more technical term: happy.

Step 8 is where the rubber hits the road, guys. And although this is one of the most difficult steps, it’s also the most liberating. Really look at your plants. Do they like your growing conditions? As much as I would love to grow Buckeyes and the big Cajuns, they are not happy in my growing conditions here in Chicagoland. They exist, but they don’t thrive. I’ve experimented with them in all the growing spaces in my home. They just don’t grow for me here. I’m never going to be able to compete at show with Belinda Thibodeaux (hybridizer of the fantastic Cajun’s series), or with Kurt Jablonski (champion grower of Pat Hancock’s Buckeyes). So as much as I love those plants, I no longer give shelf space to them. See what I mean? Tough step . . . but once you embrace you, you’ll have more space for those varieties that grow like gangbusters for you.

By now you should have reached your number. Congratulations!! Learning to limit your collection not only puts you well on the way to enjoying your growing more, it gives your plants the opportunity to grow to their full potential. Remember to always keep your trusty trash can at the ready!

Our final recap:

  1. Make friends with the trash can.
  2. Let go of putting down every leaf you groom off.
  3. Be selective about the plantlets you choose to grow on after propagation.
  4. If the plantlets do not bloom true to their description, throw them out.
  5. Evaluate your growing space.
  6. Non-negotiables and your Number
  7. Learn to sing the Frozen song
  8. Wonky vs. Thriving

Well Done!