Posts tagged ‘Viola cornuta’

May 11, 2013

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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March 10, 2013

Viola cornuta and a toad

10 March 2013

I managed to hobble as far as the bench by the pond today – my ankle is getting better (though it’s a shade of purple not far off yesterday’s crocus) and it was so good to get outside. Willow, the cat, joined us and sat right on the edge of a wobbly edging stone and didn’t seem to realise that she was in imminent danger of tipping into the water, which she would have hated, not just because she had got wet, but because it would have been so undignified, especially with an audience. Chris decided to move the stone to render it less unstable, stood it up on edge, and underneath it was a very small toad – we regularly see frogs, but the only toads have been baby ones and up the far end of the garden, so it was great to see one enjoying the water facilities provided. There were also a couple of newts swimming around, and the first backswimmer of the year.

The other wildlife sighting of the day was a female blackbird gathering nesting material. She was particularly intent on pulling up last year’s lanky stems from some perennial viola cornuta – she was gripping a stem in her beak, then bouncing backwards to separate it from the main plant. This is an example of the books telling you one thing – they say give your violas a haircut at the end of the season – but the wildlife preferring you not to be so tidy.

Viola cornuta

Viola cornuta

Viola cornuta is a particular type of viola which is truly perennial, and tends to ramble gently, rather than being a clump. The one in the photo is either ‘Broughton Blue’ or ‘Icy but Spicy’ – I’ve taken cuttings off both and lost track of which is which: they aren’t very different. I’ll do a full post on them sometime, but one of the best plant nurseries I’ve found for a good range of viola cornuta is www.elizabethmacgregornursery.co.uk . They are in Scotland, so I purchased by mail order, and they arrived beautifully packed and in really good condition. I have to admit violas aren’t very good for wildlife, but they are wonderful “doers”, blooming for months on end and needing virtually no attention – especially if the blackbirds do it for you.