Something for Everyone
Contrary to the nursery rhyme "roses are red, violets are blue…" violets come in many different colours and forms. Besides solids, there are two-toned and even speckled types. Some are sweetly scented. Some have variegated leaves with stunning patterns. There are circular and heart-shaped leaves. There’s even one with purple foliage.
Violets provide early colour, naturalize beautifully in woodland settings, and they pair very well with other spring bloomers like grape hyacinths. If you need an easy-care ground cover try Viola rotundifolia. Viola cucullata spreads quickly by underground runners and is an easy solution for a sloping area. Thanks to hybridization, there’s a size for every purpose, too. The shortest viola, rotundifolia, is a real ground-hugger. If it’s height you’re looking for, you want to try Canadensis, which often grows 25 cm tall.
Violets are virtually maintenance-free and when left alone they flourish almost anywhere. They’ll grow best in partial shade. They are not too particular about soil but will really thrive in a moist, well drained loam. Violets self-seed freely so they don’t need much help reproducing. They’re also easy to split and move in late spring after they have bloomed.
One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of these dainty flowers is to pot them up in containers for the deck or balcony. A small basket of violets on a patio table adds a touch of elegance to any al fresco meal.
The blossoms of the native Viola odorata are also known as sweet violet because of their sweet taste. They contain at least three times as much vitamin C as oranges. The leaves contain vitamin C too, as well as vitamin A and iron. Jazz up a salad by sprinkling them on top, or float them in a summer punch bowl to add an elegant touch. If you feel ambitious you might try candied violets as a charming garnish for cakes or desserts.
(Note: Sweet violets are edible, but other violets may not be, so make sure you know what you’re eating!)
Here is a list of some newer varieties that make a great addition to any garden:
Viola mandshurica Fuji Dawn
Eye catching, creamy-white/pink marbled foliage with dainty, violet blue flowers. As the season progresses the arrow shaped leaves change to green. Fuji Dawn is a real treasure for any garden border or rockery.
Viola grypoceras "Sylettas" (Korean Violet)
Gorgeous gray-green foliage, heart-shaped leaves overlaid with a beautiful silver pattern. Violet-blue flowers in the spring. Grows to 10 cm. This little miniature is perfect for a trough or container garden.
Viola labradorica (Labrador Violet)
Burgundy coloured foliage with purple blooms in spring, and then again in fall. Makes a great groundcover. It’s perfect for a dainty container planting too.
Gorgeous heart-shaped foliage with dark purple veins that run into a dark center. Has fragrant mauve-purple blooms in June.
Viola sororia "Freckles"
Light blue flowers with dark violet-blue speckles. Nice large rounded leaves and full clumps.