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and a November Virtual Violet Show!
New Interviews being adding all summer!

Fred C Hill Interview

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 Gold       
Members 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. ( ( (
 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 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.

Blossom Types

Blossom Chart
by Alana & Nancy
When you first discover the world of African Violets, you may run across descriptions of blossom types and characteristics that you find puzzling.  What is a geneva edge, for example?  We have tried to answer these questions in the chart below.

Happy Harold - Single Pansy
Rob's Boogie Woogie -Semidouble Pansy
Island Coral - Double Pansy
Pansy (Single)
All the original saintpaulia species have this plain type of single blossom.
The top 2 petals are smaller than the bottom 3 petals.  The petals are rounded. The correct term for the petals is actually "lobes" because they are joined to each other at the base instead of being entirely separate as petals are.
This blossom shape is named for the garden Pansy because it looks very similar in shape.
Today there are also semidouble and double pansy shapes which were developed through hybridization.
The original blossoms would drop at the slightest disturbance. We now have "Sticktite" blossoms which are non-dropping and just dry up on the bloomstalk when they are finished.

 Halo's Aglitter - Single Star
Black Ace - Semidouble Star
Can Can Trail - Double Star
This blossom type appeared in 1952.
The 5 petals of the single star are slightly pointed and of equal size.
Note the small tufts of inner incomplete petals on the semidouble star.
The inner layers of the semidouble and double star may be of unequal size but the outer layer has lobes of equal size.
Any blossom which has 10 complete lobes (petals) or more is called a double.  However, there are now blossoms that have many more lobes than that and may actually be triples but they are referred to as "fully double".  These are sometimes described as "carnation".
 Chantaspring - Single Bell
Rob's Pewter Bells - Semidouble Bell
These blossoms have a characteristic bell shape.  They face downwards like bells.  The blossoms are cupped and do not fully open because of the way the lobes (petals) are joined to each other. 

Will O The Wasp
The two upper petals of the blossom are much smaller and narrower than the bottom three. The wasp has true separate petals. The upper petals curl backwards. It resembles the outline of a wasp, hence the name.
The wasp is a unique blossom and is often paired with bustle back foliage.

 Playful Rainbow - Fantasy
Semidouble pale pink star with blue and rose fantasy.
The main colour of the blossom is speckled, streaked or splashed with contrasting color(s). The fantasy can be unstable and variable and occasionally you can lose it altogether.

Mosaique - Medium blue star with pink fantasy.
Reverse Fantasy
On this type of fantasy the colors are reversed with the lighter color fantasy streaked, speckled or splashed on to the darker main color.

Dark Sensation - Geneva Edge
Geneva Edge
This is simply a white edge. It was first found on a sport of "Blue Boy"  that was given the name "Lady Geneva" as it came from the "Geneva Nursery".
If you look in AVSA's *First Class 2  program, you will see that they do not use "Geneva" in the blossom descriptions preferring to use "white edge" only.
*Computer program of AVSA's African Violet Master List of Species and Cultivars. Registered and Unregistered African Violets are included. 

Purple Crest - Double white with purple edge.
This refers to the colored edge on a blossom.  Also called banded or bordered if the edge is wide.
If the edge is speckled with color it is referred to as a fantasy edge.
Lavender Blush - Fluted
Buckeye Butterflies - Ruffled
Designer Dress - Frilled
Raspberry Crisp - Fringed
Fluted, Ruffled, Frilled, Fringed -- what is the difference? These terms are an attempt to gauge the degree to which the edge of the blossom is ruffled, so they are listed in order of least to most frilly.
Fluted - the loose "pie crust" edge which is formed by a lengthwise fold on the petal.
Ruffled or Wavy - a more uniformly wavy edge.
Frilled - edge has an even tighter wave or frill.
Fringed - edge is so frilly that it looks like a fringe, sometimes called serrated or saw-tooth edge.
Classifying these blossoms seems to be open to some interpretation and I found it curious to note in a search of blossom descriptions in AVSA's First Class 2  that the term "fringed" is not used. Those plants that do have Fringe as part of their name such as "Lavender Fringe" are still described as "frilled". All of the other terms listed above are found in the FC2 descriptions.
Buckeye Butterflies -Semidouble lavender two-tone ruffled pansy.
A blossom with 2 or more tones or shades of one colour.
Optimara Alabama II - Bi-color
A blossom that has two different colors. This term is not used in FC 2.
Multicolor - a blossom of two or more different colors.  This term is used in a few FC 2 descriptions.

Bloomlover's Sweetheart - Single Pansy Chimera
Suncoast Peppermint Kathy - Double Star Chimera
Bob's Omega - Striped Star
This is not a Chimera
A pinwheel blossom with stripes or rays coming from the center of the blossom towards the outer edges like the spokes of a wheel.  These blossoms will not propagate true from a leaf cutting.  They must be propagated from suckers.   This is because they are made up of two or more kinds of genetic material.  Bloomstalk propagation also works.  Since these methods are more time consuming, these plants can be quite expensive.
There are striped blossoms that can be propagated successfully by leaf and these are not chimeras.  An example of this is "Bob's Omega".

Bloomlover's Spirit - Thumbprint
This type of contrasting color looks like it was applied with your thumb.  You will see this description in african violet catalogues but it is not a term used in FC 2.

Tipped Honey - Double ruby red with dogwood tips.
Dogwood Tips
These small markings on the tips of the petals resemble the markings on a flower from the Dogwood Tree.

Some blossoms have an attractive amount of veining in a contrasting color that resembles netting material.  Sometimes just the edge shows the netting.

A special thanks to Tina of Bloomlovers for the use of her blossom photos.
Wasp photo courtesy of Violet Gallery.