“The sweetness of the Violets deep blue eyes,
Kissed by the breath of Heaven Seems color’d by its skies”
~~ Lord Byron
Is there any flower more cheery than the small bright faces of the viola or pansy? What is the difference, you ask? The pansies are larger than the delicate, usually one-color violas and though botanists might have more details, concerning technical terms like ‘blotches’, that is the general consensus. Both are flowering plants in the violet family and there are four to five hundred cultivars, including our small yellow native relative, Viola pedunculata, the California Golden violet.
Forever, I have loved the tiny flowered Johnny Jump Ups, Viola tricolor, which seed themselves happily around the garden. The distinctive colors for them are dark and light violet, and pale yellow, with short contrasting lines radiating from the centers. The flowers are not much bigger then your thumb and they will reseed in the same pots year after year once planted and their cheery flowers will multiply as well.
From the Viola tricolor, all of the other cultivars were hybridized. The flat faces of violas have five heart-shaped and scalloped petals either with different color patterns or completely solid one color. White, yellow, orange, peach, brick red, magenta, and purple of every shade are mixed in wild or pale combinations.
Considered annuals, they can behave as perennials, but are actually biennials! Confused? Don’t be,…just plant them when you see them in nurseries, as borders or in pots and they’ll bloom spring and fall, usually in the cooler seasons.
Now, Pansies and Violas are easily available in many different color combinations and here in the Sierra Foothills can be planted in flower beds or in pots and containers. Deer don’t seem to bother them if planted near the house, although recently the flowers of two pony-paks, left out on the bench by the front door, were neatly nipped off and a courteous ‘Thank you’ note left.
Did you know that when newly opened, Viola flowers may be used to decorate salads and to brighten and surprise on cupcakes and other desserts? They can be dipped in egg white and sugared.
Did you also know that snow and frost don’t bother them at all? That is why I like them so and plant them every fall….this time in all my patio pots. Ready for snow now, but we’ll have sun for another week, looks like.
The Viola and The Daffodil – a Poem
A daffodil on a moor inWales,
Gazed a viola one early Spring.
He wondered if she’d be his wife,
And wear his wedding ring.
The daffodil would shiver and shake,
As iced-winds blew so strong,
While she dwelled south, in warmer climes,
Where a Songthrush trilled its song.
He called her name out loud one day,
With his trumpet open wide,
She heard his voice, she came to him,
Down by the riverside.
With snowdrop bridesmaids, they were wed,
In a clearing, the very next day.
They lived together near a cabin of logs,
Until their dying day…
~~Richard Peej 2011