From Rockets to Relaxing Growing African Violets

From rockets that zoom thousands of miles an hour to African violets that grow a few inches a month is quite a jump, but taken in stride by the technical editors at Reaction Motors, a rocket research firm in Denville, New Jersey.

Although pressured daily by the problems of this complex science, the editors find relaxation and beauty in their desk gardens of African violets, which bloom profusely for them. In contrast, for many other people, African violets produce only leaves.

african violets flowerPin

It all began about two years ago when one of the physicists presented the editors with two plants of Dupont Purple saintpaulia. One of the plants soon died, then the other began to look sick. This failure annoyed the editors.

Being of a scientific turn of mind, they searched out all the information about African violets. Then, equipped with book knowledge, they took a leaf from the remaining plant for rooting. The leaf took hold and produced six new plants. Encouraged by this success, the editors branched out into other African violet varieties.

African Violet Varieties

Plant growing is contagious, and soon all the editors and typists had their desks sprouting with blooming plants. There were 57 African violet plants of 24 varieties on the various desks.

The varieties included Sir Lancelot, a bicolored lavender;

  • Painted Lady, a double pink with “girl-type” ruffled leaves;
  • Wild Rose, a double pink;
  • Pink Wonder, single pink; Dupont Purple;
  • Red King; Lilac Princess;
  • Minnetonka;
  • and the unusual Double Spoon Wine.

The growing technique used is simple. The editors start leaves in tap water in plastic bouillon cube containers about 2″ inches high. The leaf stern is inserted through a hole in a polyethylene cover which is Scotch-taped on the container to prevent the water from evaporating.

The container, being transparent, makes it possible to observe root growth, and each container is neatly labeled with variety. Even the engineers are impressed with the scientific manner in which the whole project is carried out. It takes ten days to three weeks for the leaves to root sufficiently to plant in soil.

They are set out into a large nursery pot until new leaves develop. The nursery is located on a desk in the middle of the office, with less temperature fluctuation than at the windows.

Experimenting On African Violets

As an experiment, one of the staff members kept a fluorescent desk lamp turned on 24 hours a day about 18” inches above her plants. This accelerated their growth, especially noticeable after the weekends.

The editors experimented with all kinds of pots and found that plastic pots and saucers worked out best for the office’s high temperature and variable moisture conditions of the office. The plants are kept moist by pouring water into the saucers.

The started plants are set in prepared African violet soil. Later, an African violet planting mix with aluminum silicate is added. Every ten days, plants are fed a miniature African violet food with nutrients in the proportion of 5% nitrogen, 12% phosphorus, and 9% potash.

The editors attribute their success to frequent observation and attention plus constant, fair north fight. The moisture content of the soil is checked often, and water is replenished twice daily, if necessary when the heat is on during winter.

There is another factor that the editors call faith and TLC (Tender Loving Care). They say it’s something that cannot be defined except that maybe it’s the green in a green thumb. But it does seem that the attitude and affection of the grower have something to do with success in raising any plants.

The beauty of these office-raised violets has prompted visitors to ask for plants. Applicants are given leaves and instructions for rooting, and if they seem seriously interested, the offer is made of consultation service. The editors have found that the plants are healthier—and the gardener more. knowledgeable—when both start from scratch and “gnaw up together.”

Rocket engineers know that the rocket will never get off the ground if they slip up on anyone’s detail. The same is valid for success in raising African violets—all the factors of care and culture must be synchronized.

Asked how they can pursue this hobby in addition to doing their high-pressure work, the editors replied, “This is what keeps us going—a sort of beauty break. The violets help to make life enjoyable as well as endurable.”

41331 by Alden Stahr