Friday, May 6, 2016

African Violets 101.01

African Violets 101 - How It Began

My forty-seven year old love affair with African violets began in my early twenties. I was teaching first grade at Jefferson Elementary School in Niles, Ohio. I loved my job, I loved my students, my co-workers, my boss, the food in the cafeteria, etc. The only problem I had was, by the time I finally sat down at my desk, it was covered with a mound of papers. This was directly due to my answer: "Put it on my desk." I found my homework from last Tuesday. Put it on my desk. This page got accidentally torn out of this book. Put them on my desk. Here’s the book I borrowed from you. Put it on my desk. Here's a note from my mother. Put it on my desk. 

I discussed my problem with my older, wiser sister. She said I needed to better organize my desk so that it was functional and pleasant to look at. It was good advice. I went to the office supply store and bought four clear letter trays.

A few days later at lunchtime I could sit at my desk, with a mound of papers to the right and a mound of papers to the left. It was a little better, but not ideal.

And then, later that day there was a delivery at my classroom door that changed everything: a beautiful pink African violet wrapped in pink and purple foil and a big purple bow. It was from my sister. The note read something like, here’s something neither you nor your students will bury under papers.

I was enthralled with it. It was so beautiful it looked artificial. We had plants at home outside, flowers and a huge garden, but my mother wasn't a plant person so we had none on the inside. I stacked my letter trays to the right and gave the beautiful pink African violet the complete left side of my desk. It was a joy to look at. 

Now I wish I could tell you it had a long and happy life there on the left side of my desk at school, but that wouldn't be the truth. Cold drafts. Hot sun from a wall of windows. No heat on the weekends. Overwatering. But that's s story for another day. 

I hope you enjoyed this African violet column. The discussion of violets and orchids and their care was a thread on my weekly website, along with nature photos I took along the way, and assorted author ramblings from yours truly.  

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