Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Saving African Violets My Way (Or Something)

My African violet is in bloom, which doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, but it is for me. People give them to me regularly as a thank you or whatnot. I imagine this is because I wrote about a trip I made to the Amani Nature Reserve in the East Usambara mountains of Tanzania. (The violet pictured here is one found there, not the one in bloom in my window. See "Where the Wild African Violets Are" from the New York Times of Nov. 3, 2002.) The Amani Reserve is a very interesting place where Tanzanians are striving both to preserve a unique ecosystem (the East Usambaras are a UNESCO-designated Biosphere reserve) and to provide decent employment to people living there.

Unfortunately, though, I've been killing the plants given to me as presents. My trouble with growing them shouldn't suggest that I don't like the flowers. I understand completely how you could get wrapped up in their breeding and care. I’ve even got a novel coming out next year called The Violets of Usambara where a woman wild about the plants is a central character.

But I have great trouble growing them, for some reason. The plant that is in bloom now is one of two which I received a year ago and which I treated the same way (or so I thought.) One shriveled up and died about February, but this one hung on, althought it had no flowers until last week. Now it has five stalks and a total of eight blossoms. Not much, the real African violet fancier would say. But I can’t help being a little proud.

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