Many of us use Violas as an annual in our winter and summer containers and baskets. They are however strictly a short lived hardy perennial. They are suitable for rockeries (hence they are often sold from the alpine section of the nursery), containers, gravel gardens and border and path edges. They prefer moist but well drained soil. They will tolerate full sun, but thrive in a partially shaded spot in the garden. Their plentiful flowers appear and reappear from late spring to late summer or early autumn, drawing in the bees and butterflies. They bloom in a large array of different colours and are often scented. They are simplicity itself to grow and give a cottage garden effect. Their tiny flowers sit above heart shaped evergreen leaves. They have an advantage over their larger flowered relatives the pansies in that they are more weather resistant. Their many hybrids are bred from the species Viola Lutea and Viola Cornuta, whereas the pansies were bred from our native Viola Tricolour. The plants dimensions are around fifteen centimetres or six inches by twenty centimetres or eight inches and they form mounds.
Deadhead the plants regularly to ensure a continuous stream of blooms. Give the plants a trim back in autumn to prevent legginess. Feed annually with a slow release fertiliser. Slugs, snails and aphids can be a problem so keep an eye out for these and treat accordingly. Regular watering is essential in warm periods.
Below are some of my favourite varieties which have season long blooms on my partially shaded decking area.
Viola Columbine is a stunning variety which has scented rich mauve flowers streaked white and violet. It blooms from late spring to mid summer.
Viola Etain is a beautiful scented variety bearing flowers of yellow and lilac from mid spring to mid autumn.
Viola Rebecca has creamy white, mauve-streaked, scented flowers continuously from late spring to early autumn.
Viola Blackout is a great favourite of mine, but its near black, Yellow-eyed, scented flowers from late spring to mid summer are perhaps more of an acquired taste for some.
Just maybe this article may inspire a few of you to experiment with these versatile plants and perhaps even to collect a few of their many varieties. Just don’t get addicted!
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