Violets: Love Them Or Hate Them?
It is the season when the Common Violets (Viola sororia Willd.) are blooming. People have a complicated relationship with wild violets. We see them as charming and petite wildflowers, but also as voracious invasive weeds.
Personally, I think that violets are fine in their place, which is anywhere other than my flower beds. I welcome violets into my lawn, where I would love to see them do battle with the Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea). Despite this, few violets have established themselves there.
I do allow them to form a nice ground cover in a couple of areas, most notably the very informal Thicket Corner in the southeast part of the back garden. Rather than the Common Violet, here it is the white Canada Violet (Viola canadensis) that grows, and I find the flowers very attractive.
Common Violets do have many virtues. They have sweet little blue flowers. They are native to North America, and have significant wildlife value. For example, they are host plants to many species of Fritillary butterflies. What’s more, mourning doves and wild turkeys eat the seeds.
Virtually no one objects to the Common Violet’s domesticated cousins, Johnny Jump Up (Viola tricolor – is that a great common name or what?) and Pansies (Viola wittrockiana). In spring I love to fill my back garden containers with both, and I leave them there until the summer heat starts wearing them down.
This year I also planted them in my raised Driveway Border, for additional early color and to cover up some of the bare earth. This experiment has been a modest success, though it takes a heck of a lot of Violas to fill in a large bed. I think I’ve decided I actually prefer the smaller but profuse flowers of Viola tricolor to the bigger, sometimes floppy blooms of the Pansies.
Having said all that, I do find Common Violas to be a problem in flower beds (the Canada Violets are better behaved and never intrude where they are not wanted). It’s not the prolific self-sowing (young seedlings are easy to remove), but the rapidly expanding colonies of rhizomes that push back everything in their path. I regularly have to pull hunks of these fleshy roots from my flower beds. This doesn’t bother me especially, but I know that if I neglect this task for very long I will have myself a Violet plantation.
Are you a lover or hater of wild violets?