From Russia with love
I have many times stated that our little African violet plant has done more to spread love and friendship than any diplomat has ever achieved. Proof of this has come to us from Moscow. I have been writing to some of our violet friends in Moscow for the past three years. Elizabeth Sadova was our first correspondent. She is employed by a company called Centre for Business Skills Development. The company provides training for multinational businesses in Russia and brings her to the United States two to four times a year. She called us while on one of these trips and wanted to purchase leaves to take back to Moscow when she returned home. I sent her AVSA magazines, pictures of African violets and other material on how to care for plants. She and I have become friends and now correspond through e-mail. She has since become a member of AVSA and has ordered the book Growing to Show and our AVSA Fiftieth Anniversary Book.
One of Elizabeth's trips to the U. S. brought her to San Antonio. We were privileged to have had her as a guest in our home in July. We spent the day in the Violet House talking about the plants, answering questions she had about growing the African violet and our methods for making soil, potting up leaves, transplanting, and what fertilizers we use. Elizabeth took pictures of the plants to take back to Russia and selected several leaves to take home as well, which my husband, Sandy , boxed up for air travel.
Some of our club members and friends joined us in the evening to celebrate her visit in San Antonio. Alma and Bob Hummer had visited Russia and had much to talk with Elizabeth about, as did the rest of our friends; Bill and Dea Johnson, Douglas Gregory, Hector Becerra, Steve Spachek, Marjorie Crawford and Ken Froboese.
Of course we had many questions to ask of our Russian friend about their methods for growing violets. They have had an African violet club in Moscow for four years. We were surprised to hear that before their club in Moscow was formed there was an amateur club in Biophytum for 30 years! I asked if many subscribed to the AVM and was told that because of the language barrier that only two people in their club receive the magazine. Too bad it isn't published in different languages! What sales we would have!
Their club has 30 members and this number varies as some members go and new members join. They have a show and sale twice a year, usually at the end of spring and again in August or September. The show plants are sold on the last day of the show.
Until they began receiving leaves from growers here in the United States, they bought their plants from growers in Holland. Most of the plants they bought were Ballet or Optimara ® varieties. They truly enjoy getting so many different varieties that are hybridized in our country. There are growers in Russia who are now hybridizing and they can buy some plants from them,' but the majority come from American hybridizers.
Elizabeth explained that people in Moscow live mainly in apartments with one to threerooms . This does not give much area for growing space, but as most of us know, where the African violet is concerned we will make room! She gave me a picture of her violets and they are very pretty, all grown from leaves she ordered from us in past years.
Elizabeth wrote recently to say: "The violets are grow ing and soon I will be repotting them in small pots. The per- lite and vermiculite you sent me helps a lot; it makes the soil more porous and light. This winter my husband prom ised to add one more shelf where I can place violets and one more additional lamp with artificial light. You know it is like a disease spreading and it is very hard to stop when you start your collection!"
I also have been writing to Irina Danilina who is a member of the same club. She is also a member of AVSA and is very appreciative of all materials that we can give to their club to help them grow better violets.
Irina was kind enough to send pictures of her plants, and said, "As a violet lover, maybe you are acquainted with some of my violet problems. It's very dry and hot in my flat, sometimes my violets get sick and die. I live in a single room flat and my collection occupies my kitchen and the window of my only room. I know it's too small a space."
She also has violets at her work place but cannot have a controlled temperature there or at home. She says, "As a result, I cannot grow superior show plants." The pictures she sent show me that she is doing a very good job of raising violets under these conditions. They cannot get vermiculite and perlite and have been using sand in their soil. There has been some trouble with petiole rotting and the leaf staying green for some days after. The sand could be causing the soil to hold the water, and account for the rotting.
Irina sent me one of their violet magazines called, "In Violet World". She had an article in this issue and will be writing more. Of course it's in Russian and I can't read it, but the pictures are great! They are putting out a very informative magazine and writing about some of the people here in our violet world.
I hope this has given you a little insight into two of our friends from Moscow. It is such a blessing that it is now possi ble for the people in these two countries to get to know each other and share our love for the plant that brought us together.
november • december 1998
african violet magazine #39