Monday, June 6, 2011


It was a sunny weekend here, filled with fun plant-related events. I helped out with my local African violet club's annual show. Members spend months preparing their plants to bloom to full effect just in time for the show through a careful choreography of artificial lighting. I'm always amazed by the precision of the process and the beautiful show of blooms that it yields.

Did you know there are more than 30,000 cultivars of these flowering beauties? This variety called "Leading Lady" won the Best in Show award.

I've been a fan of African violets ever since my grandma gave me one as a housewarming gift shortly after my husband and I married. One of my favorite magazine assignments was producing and writing an article on these flowering beauties (see excerpts from it below). It was fun styling the shots with my collection of vintage china. The magazine team came out to my house to shoot my violets in various teacups, teapots, creamers, sugar bowls, and soup tureens.  


While blooms are certainly breathtaking, foliage can also pack a vibrant punch in the garden—and my favorite foliage plant is coleus. So when my friend Vicki told me about a coleus sale at our local botanical center, I jumped at the change to go with her on Saturday morning. We are both crazy about coleus. Thanks to a delightful array of both sun-loving and shade-loving varieties, I can light up all areas of my garden with these dramatic growers.

The sale offered many varieties I hadn't seen before. Here in Iowa I don't usually see much of a variety. I really had to overcome my temptation to buy nearly every variety!

To showcase the wonderful array of coleus available, our botanical center boasts an eye-popping coleus display garden, which is maintained by a local master gardener chapter, who also coordinated the coleus sale.

Coleus are a particularly fitting choice for a Victorian home's landscape like mine. The Victorians were as crazy about coleus as I am and they often incorporated them into dazzling carpet bedding schemes—a style of gardening that featured an often intricate and highly ornate tapestry of flower and foliage, creating a colorful, carpet-like effect. Their enthusiasm for these showy plants was so great that it sparked the term "coleus craze".  Here are more pics from the botanical center's coleus showcase garden.

Wouldn't this be a glorious place to visit during cold, winter days? I'll have to remember that when I need some garden inspiration in the middle of January! Hope these photos will brighten your day and encourage you to give coleus a try in your garden—if you haven't already!