When He Gives His Opinion---
We Should Listen!
You could live to the age of one hundred, grow thousands of plants, and still have much to learn about African violets. However, a desire for the correct and proper methods, a willingness to observe and build upon past experiences, and attention to detail are tools by which one may become a 'master violeteer'. Fred C Hill has these tools at his side as he lends a hand to encouarge and guide other growers. Many are the questions posted somewhere on the web that Fred has answered with his simple to-the-point advice.
Fred's neighbors may not see much of that 'violet grower' side of Fred as they enter his home---"There are no plants of any kind in our living space." He explains his wife does not care for them and he is kind enough to oblige her---"as she does the cleaning." "Visitors don't see my violets unless I take them upstairs to the loft. I guess you can say I'm a closet grower."Fool's GoldMembers of the Garden State African Violet Club would hardly agree as Fred is very much an active member in their shows and activities. He also serves as Treasurer for the New Jersey Council of African Violet Judges, and President of the Tristate African Violet Council. His violets have won many awards, and photos of several winning entries may be seen on the club's website, as well as an article on Show Day written by Fred. (http://www.laeom.com/guestfred.htm) (http://www.princetonol.com/groups/gsavc/page5.html) (http://thevioletvoice.bravepages.com/fredhill/shows.html)Once in his loft, you would surely be convinced that here is an experienced grower, serious about growing African violets. Most of the violets are grown on two four-shelf Flora Carts. The environment is generally warm---in the summer it can reach 80 degrees. A ceiling fan is kept running and an oscillating fan also runs when the lights are on. One day this winter, his loft was 78 degrees and the humdidity was 48 percent. Summer humidity holds at about 50 percent."My soil recipe is a traditional 1-1-1 ratio of potting mix, coarse vermiculite and coarse perlite. I wick water all my violets using acrylic yarn. My reservoirs are pint plastic containers which I line with plastic bags so when the algae gets too heavy, I just toss out the liner and put a fresh one in."
Fred also has a time-saving tip for repotting time: "I am lazy and hate to wash pots, so I grow all my minis and semis in 3 oz plastic bathroom cups. Ten years ago, I could not grow minis. We had a speaker who grew great ones and I found why my minis always looked miserable. I didn't repot them enough---because I hated to wash pots. The revelation came when I found I could grow in Solo cups. From then to now, I grow as many plants in the cups that I can. I repot more often and just toss out the dirty cup."
Those semis and minis are now what he considers his strength and Fred frequently enters 30-40 plants in shows. "My biggest mistake is trying to grow trailers. I would like to conquer growing them."
When asked about the amount of time he spends on his violets, Fred responds: "My wife says 'too much' and my plants say 'too little'. I have approximately 150 hybrids and currently am trying to reduce my collection. I have become rather hard on my plants when they don't respond well to my conditions." In recent discussions, Fred has described the ways in which he gives blooming plants to people who will think they are beautiful.
"I still can't resist putting down leaves and watching those little 'mouse ears' pop up from the soil. I like to start a leaf and bring it to a full grown plant in bloom. The only problem is that they get big."
"I am constantly trimming plants and removing outer leaves to try to keep them to a mangeable size, as you saw with Picasso. (See Q's & A's page two) I keep may of my plants disbudded for months on end. I usually show twice a year so many of the plants in the spring show will be recycled and go into the fall show."
"After a show, I remove all the blossoms, take the plant down to about 6 leaves, spray them with Raid house and garden spray in the boxes and leave them overnight. I do try to place them away from my other plants, which is virtually impossible."
One of Fred's favorite hybridizers is Mr. Max Maas. "Mr. Maas was a NJ hybridizer who was very active during the 60's and 70's and has left a legacy of beautiful, symmetrical plants that grow easily and produce prolific bloom. You can see many of his hybrids at the AVSA.org site. Some are legendary: The King, Mark, Chris Leppard and a host of others. I grow them because they are so well behaved and are quite floriferous. They are a bit of history and I want to keep them going. He developed only one semiminiature that I know of---Maas' Angela, a clackamus leaved plant with mauve double flowers with a darker mauve edge." (pictured on the left)African violets are the focus of his horticultural efforts. In years past, Fred had a small back yard and grew roses, primarily hybrid teas but also grandifloras and several floribundas. This spring he will plant a few annual beds around his present home.
Since retiring from teaching five years ago, Fred and his wife Irene enjoy many activites and trips away from home. Three days a week they take a aquacise class. Scheduled group trips 3-4 times a year indulge his passion for musicals. "My biggest vice is going to NYC as often as I can and going to a Broadway show---I do get to see a number of productions."
He also boasts of a particularly bright grandson whom he appears to enjoy spending time with. "He is the best looking boy in the world. So good looking he should be a model. So smart we are thinking of registering him next year for Harvard or MIT. I wonder: do they take 18 month olds?"
Fred fills his day with family, violets, and action. Where does he find time to answer our questions? "I am more of a nite owl than a day person and generally spend evenings on this computer. My wife is a morning person and usually falls asleep watching TV by eight or nine and I must wake her up and tell her to go to bed."
The next time you see an interesting message signed FredCHill, picture him at his computer, among his plants---and wonder that he takes the time for our simple questions.
A special thanks to Tina of Bloomlovers for the use of her blossom photos.
Wasp photo courtesy of Violet Gallery.