Monday, 7 September 2015

Unsung heroes





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.


 At this stage, when the new bud is just beginning to unfurl, it is not possible to know what the bloom will look like, as they seem to be as individual as fingerprints. Patience is needed at this stage...


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 !













31 comments:

  1. '...they would be revered by gardeners...' I suspect you are right; the variety of colours and patterns to be found are worth a good deal of respect! I am planning to use plenty over our mild winter season this year though I'll be buying the plants as sets since my small seedstarting shelves will be otherwise occupied for awhile. What fabulous flowers! Even as a child I was enamoured of their sprightly faces and delicate beauty.

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    1. Hi Amy, I loved them as a child too - perhaps because of their 'faces'?I look forward to seeing photos of yours once they get established in your garden.

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  2. A very good point! They are lovely, and we probably underestimate their contribution to the garden because they're so easy to grow. Our native Wood Violets here in my part of the world are considered by some to be invasive weeds because they grow into the lawns. Personally, I enjoy them, and they provide a beneficial nectar source for early spring pollinators. When they fade, they can be mowed into the lawn.

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    1. I would love them to invade my lawn - I only seem to get daisies and clover here!

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  3. Nice write up Jane and that Bowles Black is beautiful!

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    1. Hi Mark & Gaz, it is a gorgeous colour ! Did you see the mention I gave you in my last post - 'Cunning plans' ? I was giving some sources of expertise for sub - tropical gardening.
      We were so sad to read of the death of Will Giles, who has done so much to inspire and educate.

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  4. Beautiful tribute to the violets Jane. Last few years I neglected sowing violets a bit, because in our country they sell them so cheap. But I used to sow every new variety on the market, sold by Thomson & Morgan. They are the most easy and beautiful plants.

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    1. Thank you Janneke. I bet you grew a huge variety of violas over the years. I have vowed to try new varieties every year from now on...

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  5. Dear Jane, lovely ode to the violas :-)! It is obvious that these little plant gems are very close to your heart. I think the first variety 'Bowles Black' is truly stunning. For some reason I have been buying only pansies in the recent years, but your post might have inspired me to get some violas for the garden this winter, too. Unfortunately, with the drought that we are having it is getting harder and harder to keep annuals like this alive in my Southern California garden, but there is some hope right now that we may have a little bit more rain this winter. The violas certainly would like this and so does this gardener!
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Hi Christina, is your drought still continuing ? Have you lost any plants because of it ? Violas cope well with harsh weather, but I haven't a clue how well they would cope with drought. Fingers crossed for rain for you all!

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  6. I love the humble viola. It may be small, but it's a mighty good do-er. I planted a handful to fill a gap last winter and they have flowered their socks off all summer long too and set seed, so I now have a lovely little colony developing. In another area of the garden, a different viola is colonising the lawn under the walnut tree. 'Bowles Black' looks fab. I am now going off to hunt for some seeds. What a wonderful post - the viola deserves our attention. Thanks for focussing our eyes on this little beauty.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Sarah. 'Bowles Black' is well worth growing, and would look stunning planted with violas of a contrasting colour. I love it when they establish themselves in colonies as it must mean that they are happy. I also love gathering viola seed when it is really ripe and the seed pod has popped wide open!

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  7. I haven't grown these in years and it's high time I did again. Love the black one. That's a good tip about facing the sun too. Thanks Jane.

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    1. A pleasure, Jessica! Apparently when it is not sunny they turn to follow the most intense light. So clever ...

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  8. I love violas too. I have only ever grown them from a mixed packet of seeds and I have had some beautiful colour combinations.

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    1. Hi Sue, I can imagine how lovely they were! There is something very old school about violas and pansies which is very reassuring!

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  9. I planted a big pot of pansies just because Richard has a sentimental attachment to them. I found myself enjoying them immensely. Down with plant snobbishness, up with pansies/violas. That black one is the cat's meow!

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    1. Hi Ricki, 'the cat's meow' is a saying I've not heard before ! Love it! Why do we dent ourselves lovely plants because of fashion. All those gorgeous chrysanthemums which no one ever grows anymore !

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  10. Hi Jane, Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. Gosh I wish we could grow violas this time of year. It is coming into fall now. We got some much needed rain this morning. The first measurable rain in 20days. UGH... It seems like our drought prone time of year is getting longer and hotter. This is the main reason that violas don't grow here very well. Happy fall sowing.

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    1. Hi Lisa , glad that at least a little rain has fallen!

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  11. I wouldn't wish to have a garden without violas, Jane. If I only grow one it is Heartsease in the herb garden.

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    1. Hi Brian, I know what you mean, I have some lovely little ones in shades of blue and white edging a border, and they are just fantastic. They germinate so easily and flower for such a long time.

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  12. So many pretty little faces there Jane. I tend to avoid both Violas and Pansies - slug fodder up here! I also find the Blue Tits are partial to the buds just as your fantail doves are.
    Bowles Black is a stunner isn't it?

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  13. Hi Angie, I love 'Bowles Black' but I would feel differently if it didn't have that bright little central eye! I am resigned to those pesky fantails treating them as a side salad!

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  14. I love them too, such cheery little faces and lovely in pots in winter.

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    1. Hi Chloris, they are just the best. Must grow more!

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  15. I love Violas, especially the scented ones, the dark ones and the unusual ones, your selection above is lovely, great idea to try new ones every year :)

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    1. Why thank you, Quirky Bird, I adore the dark ones too. I have not sniffed my little beauties, but will give it a go tomorrow to see if they hit the spot!

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  16. They are little beauties Jane and as Rona above mentions often have the bonus of scent too. I grow 'Bowles Black' but am struggling to make the plant more visible when it's in flower. Any suggestions for companions?

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    1. Hi Anna, I will give that some thought, as I can imagine that they need some contrasting companions to bring them to life.

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  17. I had the pansy version of the 'Black Velvet' grown by my Dad. They flowered for ages.

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