Some people collect Pez dispensers. Some people collect uranium glass. Some people collect magazines, or rocks, or posters, or children.
I collect house plants.
I mean, I collect other stuff too, but if you were to walk into my apartment and look around, the second thing that would probably stick out to you is that I have a lot of random green things growing in various containers of dirt. The first thing that would stick out would be the dust bunnies, but we’re not talking about them today. Or ever.
There’s a pothos vine that cascades about three feet from the top of the hutch in the kitchen. There’s a smaller pothos vine that I propagated from the first one (because buying new living things is fun, but growing new living things from the old things without having to pay for them is even better, unless the living things are human, in which case NOT INTERESTED). There’s a huge aloe plant that I detest but can’t seem to give away and don’t have the heart to just throw out. There are four bushy holiday cacti (not actually cacti at all by the way, they’re epiphytes…/plantnerd) – one that I bought and three that I inherited when my Nana passed away. I have a dracaena that is aspiring to become a legit tree, and a mini jade plant that I intend to someday turn into a bonsai.
Then there are the violets.
I have three mature African violets – two full sized and one miniature. I also have four containers with violet leaves in various states of propagation, most of which have more than one plant in them. So, while my actual mature violet count is currently three, I have a Potential Violet Count closer to like…12. Which is way more than I realized and now I kind of regret doing that mental tally because I sound less like a collector and more like a hoarder-slash-mad-scientist-wanna-be, which isn’t exactly INACCURATE, but is maybe hitting a little too close to home. Also, tangent: this list of house plants doesn’t take into account the stuff I have growing in containers out on my front step, because those are OUTSIDE plants and are thus a whole different classification of problem.
All this is to establish that I’m pretty into plants, violets especially. It should come as no great surprise then that I participate in an African Violet growers group on Facebook. It’s a private group so at least it’s not the abject hive of misery and abuse that a public group would be…but like any group about any subject on the Internet, there are people with Opinions. The Opinions are almost always shared respectfully, which is a refreshing change, but every once in a while the snark creeps in a little bit and it’s unintentionally hilarious.
Take, for instance, the lady who recently posted a picture of what she called her “palm tree violet”. It was a lovely little plant with a thick brown stem that rose up a couple inches and was topped with a canopy of lush green leaves. The crowning glory was a small cluster of light pink blooms set just a little off center, like a lady with a rose tucked into her hair at a jaunty angle. The overall effect was, to me, quite charming.
Most African violets grow from a center stalk outward, pushing new leaves up and out from the crown of the plant. As new leaves get bigger and spread out, they force the older leaves down. That bottom layer of leaves has to regularly be removed as the plant grows, so that the new leaves can keep growing without exerting pressure and damaging the old ones. The problem with doing this is that, by removing those lower leaves, you expose the central stalk (also called the neck) of the plant. Normally you see African violets with their bottom-most layer of leaves flush against the edge of the container they’re growing in – that’s the standard. Growers will usually re-pot their violets every 6 months or so to maintain this look. What the “Palm Tree Violet” lady had done was the opposite – she just kept trimming the old bottom leaves off but didn’t re-pot and trim the central stalk, so it just kept growing up and up with the rest of the plant growing on top.
The plant was perfectly healthy and happy, as evidenced by the condition of the leaves and the fact that it was blooming. But OH MY GOD, the side-eye in the comments. It was gold:
“What did you DO to that plant?”
“You’re torturing it!”
“That’s not what it’s supposed to look like, Janet.”
“Why would you do this?!”
“You need to trim the neck on that plant IMMEDIATELY.”
And on, and on. Several brave souls interjected that they liked the look, and that she could grow her plants any damn way she liked, but the vast majority of comments were the Facebook equivalent of disapproving tuts. Which, granted, considering the utter vitriol that bubbles forth from most Internet comment sections, it was like a picnic in the park that was topped off with a free ice cream cone and a hand job, but still. Sooooo much side-eyeing and snark over one little plant that was probably being grown culturally much closer to how it would be found in nature to begin with.
Because you know there aren’t like trained chameleons in the cloud forests of Tanzania going around trimming the bottom leaves and burying the necks of wild saintpaulias in order to make sure they adhere to AVS standards.
Also, now I want to get some chameleons and see if I can train them to clean my bathroom…