We're having another rainy day in Pittsburgh today, and I traveled to my basement upon arising this morning, to find some sunshine under the lights. As I looked around, I decided to pick a bouquet of my favorite flowers to bring upstairs for my desk, where I knew, later in the day, I had to get some work done. As I realized how great it is to have enough Petrocosmeas to be able to pick a bouquet of them, I began to think back to how my journey of love with these simple little purple flowers began. And when I think of Petrocosmeas, I always think of one person in particular....Mary Bozoian.
It is important to have people in our lives who inspire us. Mary has been just such a person for me in my devotion to knowing all that I can learn about Pets, and growing Petrocosmeas more skillfully. In 1998, when I first stumbled across a photograph of a Petrocosmea, I was immediately fascinated with them. In trying to learn more about them, I was led to the American Gloxinia and Gesneriad Society, now "the Gesneriad Society". And, in referencing Petrocosmeas there, one name kept coming up in association with them.... Mary Bozoian. Everytime one was listed, it was always noted as being grown by Mary. When reading about the annual Conventions, and all fo the exciting new species being introduced and offered in the auctions...again, Mary Bozoian was the person attributed to the Pets. Mary was "the Petrocosmea lady". So, in 2000, when I traveled to Tampa, FL for my first convention, I had to see for myself who this person was. What a delight it was to finally meet Mary!
Me, with my hero the "Petrocosmea Lady", Mary Bozoian at the Gesneriad Society Convention in Silver Spring, MD this past July.
Meeting Mary for the first time, I found her to be a warm, gentle soul with a giving nature. She was generous with her knowledge, and her plants, and we became great friends. When I returned home from that convention, I was honored to receive a box containing several Petrocosmea species, all tenderly wrapped and labeled, and of course, expertly grown. I still have those same plants in my collection nearly ten years later. I was struck by how warm and generous Mary was with a newby such as myself, and by how patient she was with my thousands of questions about growing Petrocosmeas. Over the next couple of years, Mary gave me lots of hints and instructions during the many phonecalls we shared to keep in touch.
A plant of Petrocosmea forrestii, propagated from the original plant sent to me by Mary Bozoian in 2000. I entered the plant in convention this year, and have used it as a parent in many of my hybrid crosses.
Seedpods forming last year on P. forrestii, a plant given to me nine years ago by Mary. It turned out to be a prolific pod parent in a number of my hybrids last year.
Mary provided much inspiration to me over the years. She always enters immaculately grown show plants and was almost always the first person to enter a new Petrocosmea species in a show. I always try to follow her example whenever I enter a plant for show....especially if it is a Petrocosmea. Mary grows her plants in her basement. Basements often offer ideal conditions for gesneriads as they are often cool and more humid than the rest of the house. Gesneriads that prefer cooler conditions, such as Streptocarpus, Chirita, alpines, and Petrocosmea often thrive in a basement. I grow most of my Pets in my basement, where they are quite happy, but find that they do fine upstairs too.
A tray of seedlings on my basement lightstands, a cross between P. forrestii and P. duclouxii. Several of these are forming buds now! The foliage on these is exceptionally soft and furry. I always have to touch them when I am in the plant room.....
Ten years later, the inspiration and encouragement, not to mention the plants, that Mary provided, continues to fuel my love of Petrocosmea. It is important to have heros and inspirational people in our lives, particularly with regard to our hobbies and passions. I got the opportunity this past July to visit again with Mary and her daughter, and to thank her for the passion for learning about Petrocosmeas that she inspired in me. Gesneriad devotees are wonderful people, as are plant people in general. The generosity of these people with their time, their knowledge, their plants, and their friendship touches many peoples lives and betters them in the process. The best tribute I feel we can make for such people is to continue to share our plants and our knowledge with those who are new to our hobby. I hope all of you have a "Mary Bozoian"... AND a Petrocosmea, in your lives.