If Viola's were difficult to grow, and thus, expensive to buy, I think that they would be revered by gardeners, and plants would change hands with the same enthusiasm, and expenditure, as the tulip bulbs in Holland in 17th century. Because they are cheap to buy, plentiful and easy to propagate we tend to take them for granted, rather than appreciate their true beauty.
Viola 'Bowles Black' is truly black, a rich glorious black, lightening to a rich, deep purple at the edges and centre, contrasting strongly with the sun-like eye. The petals are very tactile as they are deeply ridged, with a velvet - like sheen.
They are so easy to grow, and will flower only a few weeks after sowing. Seed is sown thinly in a seed tray and covered with compost, as they germinate better in darkness. The tray should be kept watered but not too moist. Seeds germinate after 10 to 20 days, and seedlings can be pricked out when they have their first set of true leaves.
As well as 'Bowles Black' I also sowed a packet of Viola 'Bambini', a variety which I have never grown before, but am really enjoying.
'Bambini' is a mix of colours including yellow, maroon, purple, yellow, cream and mauve. All the flowers I have seen so far have all been bi-colours with fantastic 'whiskers', and faces, making them very distinctive.
Flowers are small, as the name suggests, but as there is a profusion of blooms on each plant, then individual flower size becomes less important.
Growing from seed has got to be the cheapest way to generate large numbers of new plants, but this can be frustrating with some plants, if their seed is difficult to germinate. Not the case with Violas as they germinate quickly, with a good success rate.
I grew my seeds in the greenhouse and sowed them in July. They germinated quickly in the heat and have grown on well. I have been hardening them off over the past few days, to prepare them for being planted out once the summer bedding goes over.
Seedlings and young plants are robust and healthy. They can cope with a certain degree of neglect and bounce back - a couple of days without water won't kill them off! They seem to remain healthy and free from pest damage.
Violas are said to be better at flowering in cold weather than pansies, due to their Alpine roots, and this is something I will be watching out for over the coming winter.
Violas and pansies follow the sun, and will turn their faces towards it. This is something to take into account when siting them, as , if they are wrongly positioned, then the backs of their heads will be the only thing on view!
The Viola in the photo above looks very vintage, with those subtle washed out colours, and lovely little blotches!
The flower above is, I believe a rogue, and not a 'Bambini'. It looks like a miniature version of Thompson & Morgan's 'Halo' which I grew last year. The markings are so beautiful and delicate that the parentage becomes inconsequential!
The bloom in the photo above looks quite Clarice Cliff - very deco in colour and facial pattern. there is something very old fashioned and nostalgic about it.
I intend to grow more and more of these lovely flowers in the years to come, and try lots of different varieties, as I do love them. There is, however, a real down side to Violas in that my fantail doves love them even more than I do, so I may just be left with a few pecked stalks !