Wednesday, September 7, 2011

V is for Viola

The violet family Vioaceae has around 500 species world-wide.  The viola species, commonly called violets, pansies and heartsease, are often seen in this area.  African violets and dogtooth violets are not of this species.

The spring flowering violets are either treasured by land owners or considered an invasive weed.  I tend to lean towards loving my wild violets and the little color changes in the batch within our woods.  When they pop up where I don't want them, they are easily pulled. 

There are others that can't get enough of our common blue violet Viola sororia; It's our Illinois state flower along as-well-as  Wisconsin, Rhode Island and New Jersey.  

Violas and pansies are among the top three bedding plants in the United States.  Another little tidbit is it is widely used in the culinary world.  Decorative when sugared and as a flavoring in such things as liquors, tea and desserts.  All parts are rich in vitamin A and C. 

The most obvious color is violet.  They also come in shades of blue, yellow, white and cream.  Some are bi colored.  As you have probably noticed in your nursery, cultivars and hybrids have been bred for many other colors.

Bouquets of violets have been treasured for centuries and one reason is the scent.  Along with terpenes, a major component of the scent is a ketone compound called ionone.  Ionone temporarily desensitizes the receptors of the nose, preventing any further scent being detected until the nerves recover.  This was why it was so widely used by women prior to such niceties as deodorants, clean streets, sewers and the like.

Violas are the topic of many artists and their little "faces" are tempting cartoons.  They look great planted in mass, in pots, hanging planters, window boxes, as edging, and in rock gardens.  They have an exceptionally long vase life and keep their color when pressed.

Viola and Violet have been popular girl names.  The ancient Romans consider the violet a sign of mourning.     In Christianity, it is said all violets were white until Mary saw her son suffering on the cross and they all turned to purple in mourning.  Medieval belief was viola was a protection against evil spirits.  The Victorians thought of it as a sign of modesty and innocence (a reason it was used by brides).  In modern time, if you dream of violets it's a signal of an upcoming marriage or a commitment.

Viola species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including the Giant Leopard Moth, some species of the Underwing and Fritillaries.

You may grow your violas from seed or from transplant sets.  Other than the native plants, most nursery grown violas are considered annuals.  Left to overwinter, many will reseed and surprise you with a little plant growing in unusual places. 

Plants do best in the cooler weather of spring or fall.  If your climate is very hot, it's recommended you plant in partial shade and water.  Deadheading prolongs blooming plus keeps the plant from getting leggy.
Now is the time to plant the fall blooming pansies.  Their beautiful faces and colors will help liven up a lagging perennial  garden.  Or - it may cause you to jot down a little poem about violets:

“The modest, lowly violet
In leaves of tender green is set;
So rich she cannot hide from view,
But covers all the bank with blue.”

Dora Read Goodale

No comments:

Post a Comment