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The House of Violets, Moscow.
The African Violet Show 'Winter's Fantasy'.
28th of January - 6th of February 2005.

There was winter and frost in Moscow. Hands and feet were freezing in a short time. And on this very day I had arrived to take part at the saintpaulia's show in "The House of Violets". Each of my violets were wrapped inside several newspapers and warm porous synthetics. The boxes (which had contained bananas) were warmed also by the layers of synthetics and plastic foam. The plantlets were dried out a little to make them less sensitive to the cold. I began to wrap them separately also, yet it would take too much space and time to do it. My husband insisted that I put them all in one box yet I disagreed with him. It took four big boxes, three of them I could place on the small handy cart. So, I would have to carry the flowers on the small cart, the bag in my hands and I hopefully will arrive at "The House of Violets". The fourth box with the plantlets would fall off if I am not met at the Moscow's railroad station because there is no more place in my hands to carry this box. However my husband told me again to take the fourth box with me because it was the agreement that I will be met by the man responsible for it. I argued with my husband for a long time, yet at 3 a.m. I remembered that much work had to be done tomorrow to get ready to go to Moscow and finally I agreed with my husband.

The train had arrived in Moscow 20 minutes later than the schedule time. This day there was strong frost with the wind. I saw the man seeking someone by his eyes through the window of the carriage. I had recognized him immediately as the person who was there to meet me and I was not mistaken. I was waiting until all of the passengers went out of the carriage and then I saw this man inside the carriage. I asked him: "Are you here to meet me?" He answered: "Yes". All the boxes were immediately moved out of the carriage. I had my own small cart and Aleksei put all the boxes on the cart and fixes them himself. I carried my own bag only. Aleksei carried the small cart and one box in his hand. Excellent, the man carried all the boxes and I had the light bag only. There was no need for me to engage the porter and I saved a big amount of money. The way from the carriage to the car took ten minutes only yet my face became weather-beaten and I felt the strength of the frost.
We drove to "The House of Violets" and I became acquainted with Aleksei while we were on the way. He is a very likable man, it seems as if we were acquainted long ago. I have taken part in flower shows many times and this moment was not exciting for me. I entered "The House of Violets" with very quiet feelings and became acquainted with all of the participants of the show. I began to unpack my flowers. I am very happy because nothing has been frozen. Praise to God I have arrived here safely! There are remarkable people around. I wasn't in the grip of deep emotion. I felt myself at home in spite of being here for the first time. Nina Nevolina (the participant of the show) helps me to sign and to arrange all my flowers. There are beautiful pots for the flowering plants, trays for the plantlets, different stickers. Igor helps me to prepare inscriptions at the computer. If I had forgotten to take something with me - all is here in "The House of Violets".

I have to tell you about two wonderful people - Nicolai Dorofeev and Ludmila Pak - the participants of the show. I have special feelings for them and their flowers. They are very pleasant people. It was noticed by the customers and visitors of the show also. They are collectors with great experience and I got to know much about using fertilizers, fungicides and about the soil mixes they use. This information is confirmed by many years of growing experience. The seminars at the round table gave much useful information both for the participants of the show and for the visitors! I have to tell you about Igor Ustugov also. I have received countless number of answers to my questions. His flowers were exhibited with the flowers of Vera Vasilievna. They are both from Voronezh, Russia. Their flowers have the special look like the nicely collected saintpaulias. It was highly evaluated by the visitors in the first day of the show. The whole day people crowded around these flowers as well as around the other exhibited at the show collections.

You have the opportunity to look at the exhibited saintpaulias at the site of "The House of Violets" yet i will show only four first prizes from the four types and my winner in the miniatures - Irish Flirt:

The best standard of foreign selection
    (1st prize) Peace Maker (Croteau) col. Nina Nevolina. The best standard of foreign selection (1st prize) Peace Maker (Croteau) col. Nina Nevolina. The best standard of native selection
    (1st prize) Wedding bouquet (Morev) col. Nina Nevolina. The best standard of native selection (1st prize) Wedding bouquet (Morev) col. Nina Nevolina. The best variegated variety
    (1st prize) Rebel's Stormy Sky (Bann), col. Ustugovi. The best variegated variety (1st prize) Rebel's Stormy Sky (Bann), col. Ustugovi.
The best miniature
    (1st prize) Chimpansy (Murphy), col. Helen Prudkova. The best miniature (1st prize) Chimpansy (Murphy), col. Helen Prudkova. Miniature
    (3rd prize) Irish Flirt (Sorano), col. Vera Doubeikovsky. Miniature (3rd prize) Irish Flirt (Sorano), col. Vera Doubeikovsky.

I want to tell you about the collection of Patrusheva Svetlana also. She arrived one day later awarding prizes to the best violets. I suppose if she had arrived earlier her flowers would receive many of the first prizes. There are excellent rosettes and nice symmetry of foliage! The most beautiful is the shining of the foliage and high floriferousness of her colourful saintpaulias. Those who saw this miracle will agree with me. I kept on asking Svetlana every day: "How do you grow such flowers?" Her flowers are striking! So, there were wonderful flowers and experienced exhibitors at the show.

The first very day I met Tatyana Kalgina. She is very pleasant and a nice woman. I do not have the words to describe her voice, manners and behavior. She finds the time to answer all my questions and explains about the goods and its quality one could buy in the shop. I got to know about soil mixes. Some mixes are ready to use yet some need to add porous material like sphagnum moss, perlite or vermiculite in large quantity.
I was impressed by the presence of sorrel acid. This acid is found in the shop and is pretty cheap. I need this acid because I use water with high pH. I searched for this acid a long time. I've heard that very hard water has to be softened by apple vinegar or sorrel acid yet I was afraid to add it to water myself. In my water pH = 7.8. I previously had asked to investigate it in the laboratory. I've gotten to know from Tatyana Kalgina that they use sorrel acid in the shop (tip of the teaspoon to five litres of water). There is amazing results when alkali falls to sediment! Water becomes softer and there is no need to boil it. For example, if the pH of water is too alkaline, the nutrients may be locked up to some degree chemically and thus unavailable to the plant.
The fertilizers and the soil mixes are cheaper than in Gomel and it surprised me. There are perlite and vermiculite on sale also. These goods are very rare in Gomel shops. Vermiculite is manufactured from crushed mica or expanded to many times its original size through intense heat. I used it in the soil and the results were good. Vermiculite gives better and faster growth. Moreover, vermiculite gives nutrients also. Yet i didn't have much place in my bag and I was forced to refrain from buying vermiculite (I have some in my home). I bought perlite only.
I couldn't hold out from increasing my library. I bought books about saintpaulias and other gesneriads and several issues of the russian magazine "Uzambara Violet". Because of the cheap price I bought a whole year's issues easily and I saved the money to buy books for my friends. They had asked me to buy some because all this literature one could buy in Moscow only.
I had brought many old newspapers with me for packing but I didn't use them. Special vacuum boxes were prepared. One puts the plant inside this box then wraps this box in newspaper and puts it into the bag, ties it up and in the end we receive one more vacuum. You have to be sure that nothing wrong could happen with your plant from now on! Its protected from the frost and from the cold wind.

At the end of the show Tatyana Kalgina and Vladimir Kalgin gave diplomas to all the exhibitors and congratulated all with presents and champagne. And it is yet not all. Aleksei drove everyone to their railroad stations. When I heard about such wonderful news my small handy cart became full of different purchases for the flowers. I have returned home to my beloved husband and son without troubles and with ease. They missed me.

Vera Doubeikovsky, 11th of February 2005.