In winter the gardener’s eye is scanning the landscape for anything and everything that will fill our enormous desire for the beauty to which we had been treated all summer and fall. Any sign of an emerging spring is trumpeted! And thus one is inclined to see what is ordinarily lost in the splendor of roses and hydrangea, of trumpet vine and forsythia. Attention now hungrily focuses on the humble wild violet. At least that’s how it is here.
I cherish this time of year as there is a large section of the front lawn that bursts with these tiny purple treasures and I delight in their beauty, fortitude, and resilience. But there was a time, I must admit when I had taken them for granted. Indeed, the only moment they really had placed themselves squarely on my inner radar was when I was researching butterfly habitat one summer, and made a mental note that the wild violet was hospitable to the eggs of the fritillary butterfly. I was glad to make note of their pragmatic presence, but a true appreciation certainly did not emerge. They remained in the background, lopped off when I cut the lawn. I did note they did resurface—and spread.
In the many years I have been on this property I have let the violets wander where they will. I actually welcomed them into the crevices between the flagstone pavers I’d put down in front of the rose arbor. I thanked them, and they obligingly spread their tentacles and took up even more room. Not a word of regret came from me. Hardly. My admiration only grew.
Charmingly, they kept a pinkish violet company which I’d purchased at a local nursery. (How did those escape the pot for which I paid good money, and become part of the natural landscape? You tell me!) Of course I assume the pink one is a hybrid. But the wild violet? How did it end up here? I have no idea. I only know it’s tenacious. I suppose that in itself answers many questions.
When at last the wild violets captured my curiosity sufficiently that I wanted to write about them, I began to research and was shocked and appalled and saddened to see how very many references were regarding how to get rid of them. “How to Remove Wild Violets from Your Lawn” was a common theme. They spoke of poisons, though even poisons apparently are not that effective. It apparently was more aggressive than even I anticipated. And the articles I found were discouragingly not what I was looking for. Not at all. My intention was only to praise their beauty and express my gratitude that they had chosen to live here and delight my days.
For violets suit when home birds build and sing,
Not when the outbound bird a passage cleaves;
Not with dry stubble of mown harvest sheaves,
But when the green world buds to blossoming.
~Christina Georgina Rossetti
Perhaps one reason violets so appeal to me is that I am completely enchanted by small bouquets. Violets lend themselves perfectly to this passion of mine.
When I finally wrote of wild violets and posted to the Net, I was amazed at how many people wrote to me around the country asking how to care for them, and where to buy them! Clearly there is far more interest in cultivating them than in destroying them.
With a growing emphasis in landscaping on varying our front yards to include far more than simply grasses, there is also a corresponding opportunity to introduce violets back into our environment. They are trouble free, lovely to see, beauteous additions to tiny bouquets, and if you mow them down, they don’t suffer, but simply return and continue on wherever they were going anyway.
What’s not to love?
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Kathryn Hall is the author of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden, available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and indie bookstores. For more information please visit her blog at plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com.