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Patty Craig: A Slice of Time

Lester Cole commented, “The Japanese say, ‘If the flower is to be beautiful, it must be cultivated’” ( As spring flowers bloom, I’ve been researching the care of three plants: the orchid, the violet, and the peony. I love flowers and want to give mine good care.

My aunt and uncle sent me an orchid for my birthday. Since I’ve never cared for an orchid, I’ve been reading about them. Much information is available online, and one site ( provided the following instructions:

•Orchids require shallow planting. 

•Place orchids in an east to south-facing window or room. These plants prefer bright, indirect light. Insufficient light results in poor flowering. However, too much light can lead to leaf scorch. 

•Temperature is also important for indoor orchid care. While orchids tolerate cooler or warmer temperatures throughout their normal growing season, they need to be about 15 degrees cooler at night than during the day in order to bloom sufficiently (The directions accompanying my orchid suggested a temperature of 59-77° F.).

•Orchids need ample water but should be allowed to dry out some between watering. One way to check for watering is by poking your finger about an inch into the growing media. If it’s dry, give it some water; otherwise, let it be. 

•Indoor orchid plants also need adequate humidity, about fifty to seventy percent. There are various ways to increase the humidity in your home. Place a water-filled saucer or tray of pebbles beneath plants, mist plants daily, or use a humidifier.

•Fertilize orchids weekly or bi-weekly while they are producing new growth and decrease to monthly or bi-monthly intervals once they mature. Discontinue altogether once the plants go dormant.

•Repotting is normally done every other year. If your orchids suddenly stop blooming but have suitable light, temperature, and humidity, then repotting may be necessary. 

•Orchids are occasionally affected by mealybugs, scale, and aphids. These can usually be washed off or treated with insecticidal soap.

Additionally, my orchid has a couple of aerial roots. My research indicated that I should leave them alone – no pruning.


One of my favorite indoor plants is the violet. The one I currently have has been here for more than a year. In that time, it has doubled in size and currently has about 15 purple blossoms in its center. I searched for online care guidelines – wondering if I could improve its care – and found the following information (

•Plant violets in soil specifically formulated for the flowers, usually labeled as African violet potting soil, or make your own by combining one part each of soil, sphagnum peat moss and perlite.

•Choose a container with drainage holes in the bottom for potting violets. Fill with moist potting soil, either commercial or homemade, leaving a hole in the center for planting. Place the roots into the hole, surround them with soil, tamp down with your fingers and then water to compact the soil.

•Place violets in north- or east-facing windows in the summer and south- or west-facing windows in the winter. Violets require 10 to 12 hours of bright, indirect sunlight and eight hours of complete darkness per day. If these requirements are not met, the flowers will fail to bloom. 

•Water violets from the bottom to prevent spilling on the foliage. When the top inch of soil is dry to the touch, water again.

•Keep the temperature around your violets at 65 to 70 degrees during the night, with no more than a 15-degree rise during the day. Remove violet plants from the window at night to prevent chilling. 

•Maintain high humidity around violets. Fill a metal or plastic tray that is large enough to hold the violet container with rocks. Add enough water to the tray to come about halfway up the rocks. Place the violet container on the rocks, where it will be exposed to the evaporating water.

•Apply a balanced fertilizer formulated for blooming houseplants to your violets once per year during the spring, summer or fall months. Use according to the manufacturer's instructions for proper dosage and application. Over-fertilizing can be a problem, so only apply when the foliage looks light green or the growth rate decreases significantly.

I have never tried the humidity suggestion above, but plan to do so. Although my plant is beautiful, I want to see if it can become even better.

I have an area of my yard for growing peonies, and they are popping out of the ground now. Last week, I raked aside the yard debris and the little plants were popping up through the soil. I have found that peonies require little work. Some online advice ( for spring peony care included the following:

•The first step of spring maintenance for peony plants is clearing away any mulch or debris around peony shoots to allow them to soak up much needed sunlight. This is also a great time to weed around peony plants. 

•Staking may be needed as the large flowers arch toward the ground and hard rains force them to the ground.

•Remove spent flowers, cutting to a strong leaf.

The peony produces large, abundant flowers, and their fresh cuttings make beautiful floral arrangements for days.

Author Mike White said, “A flower doesn’t love you or hate you, it just exists” ( My great grandmothers, my grandmother, my mom and my mother-in-law all taught me to appreciate flowers. And this week, I am enjoying the existence of my orchid and violet, as well as the progress of my peonies.


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