The Garden State African Violet Club (GSAVC) will hold its 61st Annual African Violet Show and Plant Sale on May 5 and May 6 at the Mercer County Community College Student Center located at 1200 Old Trenton Road in West Windsor.
The GSAVC consists of 22 active members – men and women – and has a board of trustees. It holds monthly meetings for nine months, which include guest speakers who are usually from another African violet club or someone of professional status relevant to flowers, such as a botanist.
Grace and Grace Rarich, a mother and daughter who have been members for two years and who reside in Titusville, explained how rewarding it is to be members of the GSAVC.
“We love learning from this club,” the mother-daughter duo said collectively. “It’s great for people who share a passion for flowers and violets like we do, and it’s a great family to share your passions and joys with.”
After nine months of meetings, the GSAVC holds an annual show, which focuses on a different theme every year.
The theme of this year’s show is “Revolutionary Violets,” which featured plants and flower arrangements that evoked the importance of New Jersey’s role at the crossroads of the American Revolution.
At the show, there will be different plant displays that integrated events from the American Revolution, including Molly Pitcher’s role, New Jersey’s role at the Crossroads of the Revolutionary War and the Battle of Trenton, among others.
The scenarios needed to contain at least one African violet plant, and included other materials to create the backgrounds.
At the two-day show, members will showcase their plants, which ranged from terrariums to dishgardens, in front of a panel of judges for awards and recognition.
The judges would focus on different categories, which included the design, type of bloom, size, type of leaves and what type of condition the plant was in, according to the Rarich’s.
Each contestant is allotted 100 points when they began the contest and continued to lose points according to the condition of their plant(s) displayed. The members with the most points, or with the least points deducted, at the end of the show would win red, white and blue awards accordingly.
The judging is very critical and members could lose points for a variety of things that included water spots on a leaf, a yellow or torn leaf, a discolored flower or even a missing leaf within the bunch of other leaves.
“It’s kind of like a dog show, where there are different pedigrees,” former vice president of GSAVC and 12-year member Luanne Arico said. “They (plants) are essentially treated like pets. They need to be groomed and picked, and tended to.”
The ideal, perfect plant is one whose characteristics are perfectly symmetrical with leaves that are evenly distributed, a big bouquet of blossoms in the middle and tiered leaves on the outside, with the smallest leaves on the inside and largest on the outside, according to Arico.
“These are definitely not your grandmother’s African violets,” she said.
There were also to be lectures each day given by two members of the GSAVC.
On Saturday, Hunter is slated to give a presentation called “African Violet Species and the History of the Saintpaulia” and on Sunday, vice president of the GSAVC Paula Ball was to give a presentation about the “Specific Care of African Violets.”
The GSAVC is part of a larger organization known as the African Violet Society of America (AVSA), where African violet growers from all over the country join to expose their plants.
AVSA holds a convention in a different state every year, which draws in hundreds of growers who display and discuss all types of African violets with other growers.
There are thousands of different types of African violets, most of which have designated names such as Irish Flirt, depending on their look, size and color.
In 2011, the AVSA’s convention was sponsored by Philadelphia, but since there weren’t enough hotels to house the attendees, it was moved to Cherry Hill so GSAVC members were able to attend.
“There’s a whole sub-culture of African violet enthusiasts,” Arico said. “We’re not just old ladies.”
Like Arico, The Rarichs genuinely enjoy growing and learning about African violets and are grateful a club like GSAVC exists to entertain their hobbies.
“We’ve always loved houseplants and African violets – and joining this club showed us how vast the collection can be,” the elder Rarich said.
“It’s been a really great experience working with my mom,” the younger Rarich said. “Both of our collections have grown – and so has our relationship.”
The GSAVC holds meetings at the Robbinsville Branch of the Mercer County Library located at 42 Robbinsville Allentown Road in Robbinsville on the first Thursday of every month from September to June. Meetings are open to the public.
For more information about the GSAVC, call (732) 771-7117, email GSAVCmail@gmail.com, or visit www.princetonol.com/groups/gsavc.