Saturday, March 11, 2017

unseasonal beauty

Quite a few years ago, on her return from a visit to England, my mother brought with her some leaf cuttings from a plant belonging to one of her brothers. Called a streptocarpus or 'cape primrose' the tiny cutting eventually grew into a flower producing factory with fifteen inch long soft furred leaves that was quite wonderful to behold. Related to african violets, but more magnificent in bloom, streps are even easier to grow. I know that because, naturally enough, I got to carry another cutting home to Portland. The flowers on that first plant were a soft blue-purple colour with a yellow throat. When we moved here from the west coast it was without my plant collection except for a few bracts taken from a very old and hardy christmas cactus.

Although I grew a whole new collection of house plants I missed my  streptocarpus plant enough that I regretted not having made an effort to nurse a new plantling through our relocation; but trying to find one turned out to be more of a chore than I'd ever expected. Easy as they are to grow (and at least as beautiful as orchids, I think) they are very rare in Canada. I found the web site of a nursery in upstate NY that specializes in african violets, streps, and other moderately exotic plants whose products I hungered to own. Most were far more fabulous than the originals that my uncle, my mother and I had nurtured. The problem was, that although the young plants were inexpensive, the charges for international shipping and handling were outrageous. I couldn't bring myself to finalize an order.

Early last autumn I came across an ad on Kikiji placed by a lady in NS who had a few varieties for sale. I bought three (this one and two smaller varieties) and set up a small lamp with a daylight grow bulb to light them safely through the dark months. It all worked out quite well.. even on those days when I put my own head under the lamp.. They didn't seem to mind sharing the light and I got a very close-up view.

"Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge."
~Teilhard de Chardin


The Crow said...

What beautiful blossoms, Susan! So delicate looking, yet such deep, rich colors! So glad you found living reminders of your lost treasures.

susan said...

They are lovely, aren't they, Martha? I'm very happy to have these.

Rob's Violet Barn in NY is the place to go if you want to order a couple. Shipping in the US is very reasonable.

marja-leena said...

Beautiful! And what an interesting story. I remember receiving a streptocarpus as a gift once but it didn't survive for a greater length of time as I don't have it anymore. I wish I could pop in for tea and a cutting, something I used to often exchange with a dear gardening friend (no longer living nearby, sadly). May this one last many years with new cuttings.

Should Fish More said...

My untrained, inexperienced eye sees them as Iris, for some damn reason. They are lovely. On close examination, one can see the path it guides bugs, hummingbirds, whatever, to it's inner treasures. My mind wanders thinking of these pictures and the genre....unseeming for a 72 year old I suppose.
Where was I....Oh! Lovely pictures, m'lady.
It got up to near 50 f today, but I'm not easily fooled.

susan said...

My mother and I enjoyed sharing plants (well, cuttings), Marja-Leena, and we did it largely by long distance - in those days when the mail was much faster than it is now and before every bit of the cross border stuff had to be identified. I too wish we could enjoy a cup of tea together and plant exchanges too.

susan said...

It's probably the colour of this one that made you think iris, Mike. The one here is a hybrid so it's a bit more outrageously colored than may be natural. I have a feeling that in the wild they provide nectar as you describe. I'd never seen one myself until I saw the one my mother had grown, but it turns out they are pretty rare despite the fact they're quite easy to look after.
We've continued having bizarre weather too - it's minus 2 right now and a blizzard is scheduled for Tuesday. Yet spring will come.. eventually.