pansies, heartsease, viola, violetta
There are about 500 species of violet around the world. Most are small perennial herbs, but there are some annuals and shrubs in the family as well. Most have heart-shaped, scalloped leaves (though some are palmate) and the flowers have four up-swept petals (like a sail) at the top and one forward-thrusting petal (like the keel of the boat) at the bottom. Flowers can be any shade of purple, yellow or white often with a contrasting throat. Pansies come in a huge variety of colors and are often multicolored.
Violas and pansies can be easily raised from seed, from cuttings or purchased as bedding plants from your local nursery. There are a huge variety available. Many people consider violets to be weeds in their yard and may let you come in and dig them up if you ask. Plant them in an area of dappled sunshine and mulch well to keep the roots cool.
Violets and pansies are very cold and shade tolerant, they don’t like heat much but will come back again after the heat has passed. Pansies are known for blooming in the spring and then again in the fall.
Violas are used as food by many caterpillars, so be sure to plant enough to share and enjoy the show when the butterflies come to lay their eggs.
Harvesting & Storage
Pinch off blooms as they appear and candy to preserve indefinitely.
Violets are affiliated with the planet Venus OR Pluto and are associated with the nymphs of ancient Greek myth as, in the Odyssey, Homer says that Ogygia is “beautiful land of parsley and violets.” Violets are also associated with death and rebirth through the story of Attis.
Also useful in spells for protection, wishes, peace and healing.
In the language of flowers, violets represent faithfulness.
Violas are rich in antioxidants and vitamins C and A. They also make a lovely, soothing tea that is used in Chinese medicine.
Violets and pansies taste floral and a bit celery-like. They are great additions to salads and lovely decorations on cookies and cakes. They can easily be candied by painting them with a bit of egg white and sprinkling them with sugar or dipping them in melted syrup.
Viola odorata is most often used for this, but any variety is suitable though they may not be as flavorful. Pansies are lovely candied and used as cake decorations.
Violet syrup is used to flavor violet scones and viola essence flavors many liquors. Both the ancient Greeks and the Romans used violets to make wine ”Vinum Violatum”
Don’t confuse true violets with African violets which are not edible.