Best sturdy bloomers

Begonia2005(7)August 10, 2013

I was wondering if anyone could recommend some sturdy and also very profuse bloomers. Some violets that grow large, are solid (optimara style) and also bloom like crazy. I have been growing AVs for over a year now and the few I got from lyndon Lyon last year, like red summit, etc. just never bloomed a lot and eventually I lost them. I grew a few more from leaf but some were very spindly. At the same time, an optimara (Colorado) that I got from pikes grew huge, steel-solid, and bloomed its head off to the point it looked like a perfectly round bridal bouquet. I grew some more from leaf too and everything that came out from store bought ones look great. Those that came from lyndon Lyon, the "fussy" ones, are spindly and not so great.
I realized I am not so crazy about these fussy specialty types, they don't seem to do so well in my environment. So I am thinking to get a few more beauties like optimara. Which ones would you recommend ?? They must be bred to be strong and to be great bloomers.

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Begonia ...

So sorry that the Lyndon Lyon plants didn't work out for you.

What you are looking for is more Optimaras.

Take a look at the Optimara site.

I've had good success with Milllenia and New Mexico.

Bluebird Greenhouses sells a few of these.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 6:21AM
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Le Heur' Blue does great for me under just one cheap 24" fluorescent grow light from Walmart on 12 hrs a day. It may be Lyndon Lyon, I really don't remember. It's a little more lavender than it looks in the picture..,

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 11:34AM
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Thank you for your replies. All I know is that everything I ordered online last year is gone now. All those that are still standing and that I also propagated from leaf successfully are store bought types (optimara). Not as fascinating and unique as the specialty ones from LL but alive, nevertheless. I have none left from LL after one year.

In fact, I take that back. I still have "whitch doctor", but that one got some sort of powdery mildew that appears on buds as soon as they bloom...and when they try to bloom, they come out very small, pale and stunted. It's not doing well. I wonder whether my conditions can only tolerate the sturdy optimaras and whether I will ever be able to grow anything fancy. :(.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 8:01PM
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Hone your skills on the Optimaras.

When you feel like you've ready, ... try something else.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 9:51PM
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I agree with Aegis; practice on Optimaras and then begin to add the "exotics" slowly to your collection.
A couple of thoughts: the first thing to look for with spindly plants is a light issue. Usually spindly growth is indicative of not enough light. It could be not enough hours of light or too far away from the light. You have to practice growing just like you practice any other craft or hobby. Move plants around. Try different soils and fertilizers. Threaten. Cajole. Plead. They understand more than they let on I am sure.
Another thought: it seems some people have trouble with Lyon's plants and spindly growth is the issue. I don't have any problems with them but everyone's growing conditions are different. Thirdly (is that a word?), every variety and every plant in that variety is an individual. Some will love you, others will tolerate you and some will die out of spite. It's trial and error. I have a 'Playful Spectrum' that just went out of bloom. It began blooming last November. Nine months it was in full bloom. On the other hand, I can't bloom 'Gillian' to save my life.
And, lastly, 'Witch Doctor' is aptly named. Not to offend the hybridizer, but it is an terrible grower and a worse bloomer. Yuck.
Keep at it. We have all lost plants and will continue to do so. If you don't want to sink the money in experimenting with plants there are always violet growers who are looking for good homes for their extras.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 1:30AM
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I am glad to hear Witch Doctor has something about herself that makes it difficult to grow - and that it is not just my inability. It grew very slowly, leaves curl under (I saw this is the case with others too, not just mine), the buds are always very small, don't open well and tend to dry a little bit.

Unfortunately, this plant also had some powdery mildew at some point - so I am not sure how much this was the culprit and how much it is due to this plant being not such a genetic winner in the first place.

Thank you again!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 11:05AM
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I recently learned that my water source may have had a negative effect on my growing efforts, as well.

Check to see if your water supplier uses Chloramine as a disinfectant.

If so, ... that water will kill some violets. I hesitate to think how many plants I may have lost to this problem. I had just given up on growing some varieties.

If you find that your water does have Chloramines, check out the "Chloramine" thread in this forum for suggested solutions.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:04PM
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perle_de_or(Zone 7)

That is a good point aegis. I filter my tap water. I made the mistake of using distilled water for a while and realized it has no nutrients so switched to filtered tap water.
Begonia, these are some Optimaras I have found to be very good bloomers: Chico, Indiana, Hiroshigi, Dali, Yellowstone, My Joy, and also from their "Little" series, Little Ottawa Girl, Little Moonstone (the blue one), and Little Crystal are very strong plants and propagate very easily and have been in constant bloom since I have had them.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 4:57PM
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perle_de_or(Zone 7)

I forgot to mention to Linda, I am really glad you said that about Playful Spectrum, I have two very nice plantlets of that one. I also cannot get Gillian to bloom. I have tried everything. I am willing to wait for now. But I was thinking, I have an Optimara Hiroshigi that bloomed all white last fall with gigantic blooms and I don't see how Gillian could be any prettier. Those HIroshigi blooms stayed fresh for month on end. I was amazed by it.
Optimara Hiroshigi:

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 7:58PM
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perle: those are the most beautiful white flowers i think i have ever seen. i immediately opened up my shiny new AVSA First Class software to look up what size that Optimara Hiroshigi grew, only to not find it anywhere. they do have a Hiroshige, but the flowers are purple instead of white.

i assume you are quite sure of the name, so that leaves me asking... would you tell me where you got it? admittedly my looking has only been for a few minutes, but searching for "Hiroshigi" only produces results for "Hiroshige" for me, even on the optimara site itself, and i would really like to get my hands on your version. :)

thank you!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 8:49PM
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Yes, absolutely Gorgeous this Optimara Hiroshigi. Now the question is where to get it from ? :-)

I have been looking for a great white violet for a while now and I ended up getting Ma's Pillow Talk (which should be on its way). I am just afraid that not being Optimara, this one will be fussy too.
Is it true that the "exotic" ones need more light than the sturdy Optimaras?

I have had Red Summit and Live Wire on the same stand as Optimaras. The first grew spindly and frail whereas Optimaras could not have grown stronger and happier.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 10:22PM
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Well...about the chloramine.
Who knows? If it was the water, I will never really know because since then, we have introduced a water-filtration system for the whole house (carbon filter) so now we don't have any more chlorine in the water.

Granted, the babies from leaf of those plants died only recently, so if it was the water for their mothers, this new filtered water didn't do any better for their children-from-leaf either.

I just don't think the water was the culprit. I will never know what went wrong, I just know they grew frail and very spindly, with large leaves yet very frail stems. Maybe they were not getting enough light - although the Optimaras sitting on the same stand with them pretty much "went to town".

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 10:27PM
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I would love to hear more about what others find to
be prolific bloomers.

This post was edited by fortyseven on Wed, Feb 12, 14 at 23:31

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 4:30AM
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All filtration systems do not remove Chloramines. You might to check to make sure that yours does.

OTOH, ... a nice, sturdy, madly-blooming white AV is Sansoucy Julie Marie.

A plug of it (a crown with stem to plant) should be available from Bloomlovers.

This post was edited by aegis500 on Thu, Sep 12, 13 at 8:14

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 8:10AM
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perle_de_or(Zone 7)

Wow, that Sansoucy Julie Marie is really gorgeous. Sorry, I only now saw all the responses on this thread. I misspelled Hiroshige. That is the name. My plant originally bloomed just like the Optimara site shows, but then in the winter bloomed in the all white version. I had two other Optimaras that also bloomed all white around the same time, Dali and Rita.
I don't know if my Hiroshige will ever bloom all white again. It was so beautiful I couldn't believe it. Optimaras are prone to sporting, so possibly my version with the white blooms is a one of a kind sport.
I am still waiting for Gillian to bloom, and I am adding Sansoucy Julie Marie to my wish list!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 10:44AM
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Sometimes plants will bloom a different color in cooler (or warmer) weather. As you said it was white in winter chances are it will bloom again this way this coming winter.

And don't hold your breath on Gillian. There are too many non-temperamental beautiful whites out there to bother with this one!


    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 12:31PM
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Some plants do like a higher light level than others. At one time, Optimaras were developed specifically to be grown in windows, but they have gotten somewhat away from that. There are still a lot of them that do well in natural light.

Lyons has some plants that have done very well for me. I recently neglected mine severely for a very long time and still have a number of Lyons varieties left. I love Arctic Frost and Private Dancer. Witch Doctor is still going strong and has little buds so I will see how they turn out.

Witch Doctor has mosaic foliage which is fairly rare so its flowers are not the main draw.

If you don't have extra light, you may find that some varieties just won't perform either. I gave away my lights but now I'm hanging up one! Still, I have grown Arctic Frost, Private Dancer, Snuggles, and Snuggles Little Dreamer plus some other Lyon's varieties in my windows for a long time.

I have O. Texas and O. Modesty and they both do well. I recently found O. Pennsylvania and O. Tennessee and I think they are adjusting. I've had O. Manitoba for a long time but Harbor Blue is really a bit nicer.

Good luck and don't be discouraged. The "fancy" ones aren't really fancy. There are some that are just disagreeable or don't like our houses. Oh, yes. If you like trailers, Candy Fountain has grown through thick and thin too. Well all my Fredettes have but I suppose they are something of a specialty although Rob's is now carrying Fredette's Risen Star.

I love your Hiroshige too. Some of the Optimaras aren't the most stable but sometimes that makes them interesting :). Many thumbprints will go solid in the heat and come back in the cool weather (Millennia always did this).

Diana in PA

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 4:22PM
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An oldie but a goodie is Chanticleer. I believe it was hybridized sometime in the 60's and has droopy foliage, something no longer seen in more modern hybrids. It puts out a huge head of pink blooms and always grew easily for me.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 5:11PM
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I got Chanticleer from "Fancy Bloomers" in New Jersey. The blossom stalks grew out symmetrically around the plant and also drooped. They were long stalks with about three to five blooms on each stalk, very pretty mixed in with the attractive leaves.
Would you recommend any other vintage violets
from the '60's?

Optimara MyDelight blooms in rosettes.The flowers are pale pink edged in light tan or silver and lightly frilled Very pretty. I ordered it directly from Selective Gardener. Jo

This post was edited by fortyseven on Fri, Feb 14, 14 at 21:16

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 12:30AM
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This is interesting, Joanne. I hadn't seen any of the MyViolets around here. Maybe Lowe's will get some although I don't get to check there regularly.

I grow Happy Harold and Tommie Lou, but I guess they aren't for everybody. Harold drops but I don't mind. I grow Feather too and it drops but I don't mind it either. The 60's were a long, long time ago in the violet world :). I think I had Rhapsodie Violetta in the 70's.

Diana in PA

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 11:42AM
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Hi Diana,
I edited this post for clarity. What color was Violeta? It became the parent for a "sport" according to archived history.
Thanks for your list of vintage favorites! I looked up those you mentioned. They are all beauties. Although I did not find a picture of Violetta, a web search lead to a patent description! I read that Violetta carried a patent, was a parent for a sport, of the same shape flower but in an orchid hue, also patented, for which Mr. Harold Holtkamp raised 30,000 seedlings! Or perhaps the total of all seedlings raised for the combination of the two parents and the sport was 30,000. Impressive! In any case, he certainly earned his patents!

I first got MyDelight and Michele from Selective Gardener. Then I found them in local stores, the ones grown locally were brighter in color.

I tend to buy a lot of Optimaras for various purposes (clubs, people who need violets), because they are readily available all year 'round in local stores.
So, Optimara provides a service. They originally started in California.
I try to buy the O's long before I will need them so I have a chance to grow them and make sure they are clean and groomed and in bloom.

This post was edited by fortyseven on Fri, Feb 14, 14 at 21:22

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 2:33AM
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Thanks you for the information, Joanne. I certainly appreciate the feedback on the Selective Gardener items. It's depressing, but appreciated :).

I am in such a rural area that I am fairly far from even Lowe's so I thought that grititng my teeth and spending the money on Selective Gardener would at least get the right plants, blooming correctly. Apparently not. I do have a leaf with a baby of what I believe is Michele. I don't think it was ruffled though (mom).

It took me a long time to run down R. Violetta. I had a photo of my plants from the 70's and it was obviously a Rhapsodie. Unfortunately the photo was a color print that had faded badly but it really did look nice. I suppose they dropped it for something "better." I think some of the first ones were perfectly good plants (my mom had them too). I started growing them when I was young.

Yes, from what I've read old Mr. Holtkamp was a real plant lover. I'm not so sure about the newer generations - perhaps more business oriented which, of course, is necessary too.

I do like some of the older varieties. Sometimes the latest is just not the greatest. I shouldn't say this, but I think Feather has the prettiest blossom of any plant I've had.

I get the impression that the Optimara blue and whites can be somewhat variable. They've produced so many and, boy, picking one out of the slew can be a chore unless you know it's in production. I picked up what I think is Tennessee II and it's somewhat more blue/lavender than many photos but it may that it's been grown cool. Pretty and tough though!

(I've gotten so old that what I think is a new plant is probably vintage :)

Diana in sunny, cold PA

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 10:40AM
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Hi, Diana,
Oops, I must have goofed in that post written above! I will edit that post so I don't mislead anyone! I have high positive praise for Selective Gardener. They sent the correct plants, all labelled. They arrived fresh, in bloom. The packaging was superb.
I was trying to say that the east coast-raised versions of the plants are smaller, paler than their "California -raised cousins."
As for who is doing hybridizing, someone must be. For those going to the Convention, a lot of information

I am a fan of Optimara, for the local availability all year.
yes, my Manitoba is like Harbor Blue. It is blue in daylight and lavender or orchid under fluorescent lights.
Your comments on the bi color blues were helpful. There is another one, similar, that might be "Maine." I do prefer Cora,
At Christmas, the local stores had four or five different O reds to choose from. For gifts, they were fine.
Then in January, the stores had whites. (I appreciated your comments on Arctic Frost, a friend of mine wants a white.)
Now, the stores have "spring colors." The colors offered for sale are seasonal.

I agree that Feather is gorgeous. I will look for Fredette's also.
I did not mind paying SG for bug-free plants. The O's grown locally sometimes carry thrips. That is another conversation ...
My aunt raised a few AVs in a bay window and had an aquarium. They were allergic to pets, had asthma, so they had to have AVs.


This post was edited by fortyseven on Fri, Feb 14, 14 at 12:04

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 3:11PM
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Sometimes I don't read as carefully as I should! It's interesting to read others' experiences. I never thought or noticed any "seasonal" pattern to the violet colors but I will have to watch now. Our Lowes has always seemed to have an oversupply of "dirty" pink ones. I suppose it doesn't help that I always see them when they are past their prime. I have no idea what variety(ies) these are but they are Optimara.

I got Pennsylvania (red) and the Tennessee about October. Tennessee was a gamble because it had no blooms but the old unopened buds looked light. It is very pretty. I have seen Pennsylvania for years so will see how it works out.

I'm looking for a really great white one too. Some people like O. Ontario but it wasn't my favorite. I have Nortex Snowkist Haven but it's not in bloom right now.

I'm very fond of Fredette's Risen Star and if Rob's has it, I suppose it must be all right. I like Fredette's Sweet Jenny too but the last one didn't seem to do so well. Buying vintage is something of a crapshoot.

Thanks for reassuring me about Selective Gardener. I planned to get Millennia again (pain in the rear but so showy) and Rita and see which I liked best. Cora is great. I had 2 before I murdered half of mine, now I'm nursing a leaf of one. I can always pick Cora out of a lineup on a shelf or a row of plants.

I thought the only ruffled leaves on Optimaras were the Ever series. I saw two of those but they were so big and I passed on them. Maybe a mistake, maybe not. I, too, appreciate Optimara for keeping things going!

Diana in PA

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:09PM
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I just got Rita--because it was there and healthy. Not my favorite but someone will like it. If your Cora does not take off, let me know. I can send you leaves. I looked at one of my Cora's to try to see if there was a sucker I could remove. The leaves are all growing in a jumble, I can't tell if they are growing straight up, or if there are multiple crowns. What mess! (I will now have to study the other O's to see if they are also a mess of leaves or if they grow in whorls.)
I think when I said curly I meant blossoms. I decided not to get Everfloris due to its large size. Thanks for the tips on Whites and suggestions on what Fredette's to get and suggestions of where to order them. I did not know the vintages might be delicate, makes sense.
Let me know if you like the red PA. I got four different red O's at Christmas and gave away three. I kept Colorado II, which just started to bloom again.

Why is Milennia a paint grow? Leaves of discontinued or "legacy" violets can be requested from SG. If they still show it on their I.D. page, that means they most likely have leaves.

I guess you know to pass up those worn out "dusty pink" plants that have been neglected in the store. Seems the more worn out they are, the more likely to be carriers for thrips. Joanne

This post was edited by fortyseven on Thu, Feb 13, 14 at 2:39

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:55PM
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I would recommend Senks Neverland Dreams, Redoubled, Morgans Declan Duff, Ness Sno Fun, Ness Puppy Dreams and Sugar Crystals.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 10:22AM
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Thanks ! I will look for vendors in the spring. (I had bad luck with some, I don't want to name. So will look for new. ) J

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 1:43PM
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O. Colorado is described as "frilled" and it looks pretty. I confess that I've paid very little attention over the years to the red Optimaras; however, it makes sense that we would get Pennsylvania with some regularity. Looking at the Optimara site, there are quite a few!

Pennsylvania was a 6" plant and it has suffered from being cut down into a 5" pot and being quarantined, but it is coming along. The blossoms are rather small at the moment but I am hoping that they will get bigger as it adjusts. I like the dark foliage and it was a nicely shaped plant. It had a lot of blossoms, but I take all those off when I bring them home so I don't get any thrips. The blossoms kind of partially close at night. Maybe other ones do this and I just never paid any attention.

It's been a long time since I had Millennia - at least I think it was Millennia. There seems to be confusion between Rita and Millennia now. I'm not sure what all was fussy about it but I do know it went solid in summer and turned back into a thumbprint in winter.

It seems like a lot of the "box store" Optimaras have multiple crowns or suckers. There is a video on YouTube that is older of the Holtkamp Greenhouse and I think I see what happens. They just toss in a baby and then it gets shipped off somewhere and they don't worry about other ones forming. O. Pennsylvania had a bunch of tiny ones around it. I found one at a grocery store that I think is Harlequin. It looked like 3 crowns, but when I divided it, only one had a root system. The others are more like suckers and are in isolation with mom and should root. It may not make a nice plant but I get to try the variety for $2.00 and I can set a leaf if the others don't shape up.

For some reason, I tend to forget that "Tiger" is a Fredette hybrid. It's probably her most popular one and gets big. I'm going to try to get one this year. I had a large one several years ago.

I appreciate the recommendations too. I'm working on orders now since some places start accepting them early. I had been eyeing the Morgan's, but I don't think I've had the others. Ness's Crinkle Blue is one of my all-time favorites.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 6:07PM
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Hi Diana
thanks for the great info. I, too, had not paid a lot of attention to the O Reds in the past, until last Christmas. Then I made a study of them because there were so many different ones in the stores. I bought a bunch for gifts. I wanted to try to label each one with its possible name, so I looked at the ID on just to try to figure out which one was what. They are so similar was my final conclusion. (Just in case someone gives me a "pop quiz" (kidding)!)

I looked at my Cora I got from Sel Gardener, it is in a whorl and one crown, so it seems the ones that are raised and sold for direct mail are premium quality. The others that I got from Sel Gard are also with just one crown. However, the Cora I got from Sel G is not as deeply or richly hued or with as large flowers as the one I got locally that is all a mess with the leaves jumbled together. Once it stops blooming, I will take it apart. Most likely, I will discover what you described, as just looking at it, I cannot identify separate crowns, only partials. (I sound like a dentist.)

I watched that video on Optimara, they may have it up on their website. Or else, I found it on You Tube. The O's I buy locally are not grown in Tennessee at Holtkamp headquarters. They are grown at local California farms that have licenses to grow Optimara. They come in the optimara pots, peat formula, and in the optimara sleeve packaging, but also have the farm's own label on the pots. they are probably somewhat mass-produced also. but probably to a lesser extent. There is a fresh shipment each week of different colors. They sell for from $3 to $5

Now I am going to search on the internet for the AVs recommended by Cooks to see what I can find!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 9:41PM
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I will come to you if I have a red to ID :) I had the notion that the local growers still got something from Holtkamp - there is a growers catalog that offers plugs and unrooted babies. Still, you are right that there wouldn't be the same control over the finished plant as at the Holtkamp Greenhouse. At one time, I got some locally that came from Canada.

I've tossed my pots from the two Lowe's plants and the grocery store one. It came with a purple slipcover on the pot so it was from a different source. They "graded" the baby plants in that Holtkamp video so I wonder if the local growers get the smaller ones or the "seconds?" Of course, that doesn't always mean they are inferior.

Holtkamp stressed that they wanted each plant to look as much like the next in size as possible - that was their goal. It was very much a production line.

I already ordered too many leaves :o). It was a real blessing in disguise that Lowe's didn't have a single african violet today.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 5:24PM
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Hi It will be interesting to know what leaves you just acquired! I learned a lot from your interesting posts! Thanks! Jo

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 9:26PM
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