Amazing annuals: viola

Annuals or biennials, big or small, everyone love violas

As we move, more rapidly, towards Z, the choice of annuals is understandably small. I am sorry now for not paying more attention at the start of the month and omitting blood red adonis, fluttering agrostemma, molucella, ursinia and a host of impossibly similar umbellifers. But we have a few days to go and today it is time for violas. There are no true annual violas, those that we treat as such are probably biennials and most are perennial anyway. Viola is a huge genus and, although the flowers are easy to recognise, the plants vary enormously. While most are rather straggly and not particularly interesting plants, many South American rosulate species, from high in the Andes, are astonishing plants, more like aeoniums than violas, with small but showy flowers forming rings between the overlapping leaves.

With 600 or so species, from most continents of the world including Australia, there is a lot of scope here but the flowers are remarkably similar with their three lower petals, often whiskery markings and two upper petals. The seed pod splits into three and as it dries out the two horny sides squeeze out the seeds, distributing them.

As garden annuals or biennials the parent species is most likely V. tricolor, a common annual weed of cultivated ground along with V. arvensis the field pansy and V. lutea. Perennial violas are also derived from V. cornuta and pansies are generally assigned to V. x wittrockiana. It is thought that garden pansies and violas started with the innovative little project carried out by Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennet (1785-1861) who, in her father’s Surrey garden, collected all the best violas she could find and crossed and selected them. she introduced them in 1812 and they were taken up by nurseries and developed into the garden plants we know today.

It is difficult to be precise about what makes a pansy and what is a viola (used as the common name). Pansies usually have larger flowers, ideally round, with a dark blotch while violas have whiskers and narrow flowers. In France pansies signified remembrance, hence ‘thought’ and ‘pensee’ easily imported to England and changed to pansy.

But on to practical matters. Apart from the perennial kinds which rarely set seed, they can be treated as annuals, sown in spring, or biennials, sown in late summer and planted out in autumn to bloom the next spring and summer. Because they are hardy and adaptable, some are grown as winter flowers, though winter-flowering pansies usually only have a smattering of blooms in winter. Pansies, with their large blooms, are more often damaged by winter weather than the smaller violas.

They all like cool growing conditions and can become straggly and exhausted in the heat of summer. They are best in part shade i warm climates or used for winter only. It is very important to deadhead plants and, as they age and get straggly they can be trimmed back and allowed to regrow.

Seed germinates readily and seedlings are not difficult to accommodate, and are frost hardy – though tiny seedlings should be pampered a bit!

They are frequently used in containers – for which they are ideal – but they need regular watering and feeding. If allowed to dry out they will get mildew and the leaves will become twisted as they become infested with aphids.

A really nice feature of all, but especially violas, is the pleasant fragrance, most pronounced in the yellow and orange colours. F1 hybrids are expensive but there is an almost infinite colour range now, from green to black and everything in between so it pays to splash out now and then.

 

 

3 Comments on “Amazing annuals: viola”

  1. tonytomeo
    January 30, 2021 at 5:50 pm #

    Pansies are among the few flowers that can be convincingly black. They can replace black petunias for winter.

  2. summercloud
    February 2, 2021 at 10:28 am #

    I’ve gotta be honest, after seeing these used everywhere for my entire life I don’t find them really exciting. EVERYONE puts them EVERYWHERE as bedding plants in the winter; they’re always scattered too far apart and overmulched. Ugh. But I should definitely look at a few seed companies and see if there are any interesting ones I could try! Give them a chance and all that~

    • thebikinggardener
      February 2, 2021 at 10:37 am #

      It is a shame that Violas have become the default bedding plant for winter, ousting wallflowers and forget-me-nots. I understand why – they can bloom through mild spells in winter and they are in flower in the pots when they are sold. On the other hand, this commercial success has encouraged breeders to create fantastic new varieties to try. Many of these are F1 hybrids and expensive but still very good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sweetgum and Pines

gardening in the North Carolina piedmont

Ravenscourt Gardens

Learning life's lessons in the garden!

RMW: the blog

Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life

Paddy Tobin, An Irish Gardener

Our garden, gardens visited, occasional thoughts and book reviews

AltroVerde

un altro blog sul giardinaggio...

vegetablurb

four decades of organic vegetable gardening and barely a clue

The Long Garden Path

A walk round the Estate!

Botanical Journey from the South

Photographic Journals from the South

Flowery Prose

Welcome to Flowery Prose! Growing words about gardening, writing, and outdoor pursuits in Alberta, Canada.

ontheedgegardening

Gardening on the edge of a cliff

Uprooted Magnolia

I'm Leah, a freelance Photographer born and raised in Macon, GA, USA. I spent 8 years in the wild west and this is my photo journal on life, love, and the spirit of Wyoming. Welcome to Uprooted Magnolia.

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Garden Variety

A Gardening, Outdoor Lifestyle and Organic Food & Drink Blog

For the Love of Iris

Articles, Tips and Notes from Schreiner's Iris Gardens

One Bean Row

Words and pictures from an Irish garden by Jane Powers

Plant Heritage

We are working to conserve the nations garden plants for people to use and enjoy today and tomorrow

HERITAGE IRISES

An English persons experience of living and gardening in Ireland

%d bloggers like this: