Often thought of as the smaller, less dashing cousin to the flamboyant Pansy, Violas are well worth a closer look. I am always taken with the fineness of their blooms, their rich colours and their hardiness in wet windy conditions.
They are easy to grow from seed and can be started at different times of year for an almost continuous display year round (under cover in the winter). Original varieties were more of a cool weather plant but the newer varieties are bred to withstand the warmer weather as it heats up in the spring and summer and they continue to bloom heartily.
Violas are edible and can be used as an addition to drinks, desserts and salads. As the flowers are small they can be served whole and remain in good condition. They are the most colourful of the edible flower families and have a lovely fresh pollen flavor.
I have been growing violas from seed and nursery purchased plants for many years.
A current favourite is Viola odorata “Delft Blue”. It is named for its fine blue and white colouring as in Delft blue china. It has a compact habit and flowers abundantly for long periods of time, even after the weather warms up.
Another long time favourite is today tomorrow yesterday. This variety changes colour in the days after it begins to bloom and all of the variations are delightful. They look especially nice planted en masse as the colours can be truly viewed this way.
I re-seeded Delft Blue Violas in September and now have them growing in my full size SunPod greenhouse. These Violas growing under cover have kept blooming, even through the freezing temperatures outside. I continue to add them to salads and so appreciate the especially colourful fresh addition during the winter months.
Copy and photos 2018 By Rachel Lloyd