Violas of the perennial sort

11 May 2013

I’ve only got into violas in the last few years. They aren’t hugely good for insects, though some of the smaller ones will use them, but they are very colourful and wonderful for just blooming for months on end with no need for human intervention, except perhaps a bit of an autumn haircut; they also propagate easily from cuttings and quite well from seed, though if you’ve got several varieties I don’t know if they come true from seed. I look on it as a way of having a pretty garden and simultaneously allowing me more time to cultivate insect-friendly plants in the other bits.

Before I get deeply into this article, we’d better define “viola”. The violacae family includes what we think of as violas, pansies and violets. I’m talking about violas.

The sorts of violas you see for sale as winter or spring bedding plants aren’t what I mean: I’m talking about truly perennial violas. For example, the photo below (taken today) is of Viola Ivory Queen – it’s one plant that I bought in 2011 and it’s just been getting bigger each year.

Viola Ivory Queen

Viola Ivory Queen

My knowledge of violas mainly comes from the nursery www.elizabethmacgregornursery.co.uk who do a very wide range of the perennial viola. From them I also had viola ‘Glenholme’, shown below – another photo taken very recently, so you can see they are early flowerers.

Left: close up of Viola Ivory Queen. Right: Viola Glenholme

Left: close up of Viola Ivory Queen. Right: Viola Glenholme (with forget-me-nots)

There is a particular strain of viola called viola cornuta which is also perennial. I haven’t named the photos below as I’m losing track of what I’ve got. The one on the left is either Maiden’s Blush or Victoria’s Blush. The centre on is definitely Viola Cornuta Minor Alba. On the right is either Broughton Blue or Icy but Spicy: I find it hard to tell the difference; if you look towards the top left of the picture there is a small hoverfly. The photos were taken in May, May and July last year respectively.

Various viola cornuta

Various viola cornuta

 The plants from Elizabeth Macgregor are currently £3.45 each (plus postage) – and each of my photos is of just a single plant. So if you want a good do-er and very good value for money, go perennial if you like violas.

PS I have no links with this nursery, I just think they are good. The plants are packaged beautifully and arrive in very good condition.

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