by Kusuma Sachs
I love plants! You get to know that pretty quickly if you have spent any time at the Ashram or in the Exton Studio. I have plants that have moved from Rehoboth Beach to 3 different living locations in PA, and they are still thriving. One of the sevas I do at the Ashram is taking care of the plants.
Because of this seva, the Gardening Team asked me to make African violet babies for a project later in the year! Until they asked, I had never considered propagating anything besides a few stands of philodendron. In addition, I have always felt intimidated by African violets and really had no idea how they grew or what kind of care they needed. The ones I have bought over the years have thrived by watering when dry and not letting water get on the leaves. Despite being intimidated, every time I go to the local plant store and see African violets that are in the ‘marked down section’ (what I call the ‘infirmary” which really means they are on their way to being compost if someone doesn’t save them soon!), I buy them and save them. Periodically, when I need a plant fix, I come home with a few slightly sickly-looking African violets, which flourish beautifully in the Shakti-filled Ashram, even when I forget to water them or when they dry out in the sunroom quicker than I expected.
At first I was reluctant: Really?…all you have to do is plant a leaf and it will propagate into a whole new plant? I was an intimidated yet curious indoor gardener. I went online and found a plethora of YouTube videos on propagating African violets. You can propagate not just from leaves, but also by splitting the plants up; they grow babies all by themselves if left to their own devices. In one video, there was a pathetic-looking 3-inch pot of straggly African violet, but it turned out to be 7 separate plants growing in that one container. I was fascinated and motivated!
I excitedly took on the challenge, bought supplies and happily collected leaves from the 15 or more plants around the Ashram. I made up special potting soil and filled plastic serving cups gifted by the Ashram cooks. I stuck one leaf in each of 60 cups, adding a bit of rooting compound before planting them. They looked just like the YouTube videos!
The baby nursery continued to grow over the next few days until I ran out of African violet potting soil. Then I remembered that the second part of the memo from the Gardening Team was about making jade plant babies. We had one jade plant in the Ashram, so now there are about 20 potentials. I went on YouTube for these guys, too. You can propagate jade plants from the stem, or a leaf, putting it halfway in or even on top of the soil. I tried a bit of each.
The original plan was to set up grow-lights and a timer in the basement, for the babies to incubate, so I bought the supplies. The day I planned to set it up, Swamiji walked by the nursery on one of the dining room tables (my workstation) and said, “Let’s keep them here so we can see them and let them fill with Shakti from the Ashram.” Yea! They get natural light here, and we stop by and visit them throughout the day. They are doing well so far. The African violet leaves have not withered, and the jade looks healthy, although the leaves on top of the soil don’t seem to be doing anything.
You will be able to buy these Shakti-filled African violet and jade Ashram babies at the Svaroopa® Yoga Conference in October. By then, I expect many miracles will have happened with these babies. Ashram guests, residents and staff stop by and spend time with them many times a day. When I stop I feel just like a parent looking at their kid through the nursery window. These babies are in their own yogic way very fascinating and full of potential!