Violets, Pansies, Heartsease
• Legend and Lore • In the Garden

Viola odorata, wittrockiama, tricolor


  • Native to North Africa, Europe and Asia, naturalized in North Africa
  • Perennial, annual
  • Zone 3-7
  • Partial Shade
  • Spring to early summer blooms

Legend and Lore

Ancient Greeks and Romans used violets to cure their ills, from insomnia, gout, headaches and even to calm anger. The violet according to legends sprouted from the blood of Ajax. Zeus fell in love with Io while married to Juno; to protect Io from his jealous wife Zeus turned Io into a cow and the earth provided violets for her survival. During the French Revolution violets where sold on the markets. By the XIX century most of Europe was under its charm. Ring around the rosy is a children’s nursery rhyme about the Black Plague, the worst pandemic in the middle Ages. The scent was used to mask the smell of death.

In Victorian times the intended message varied with the colour:

  • Blue - faithfulness
  • Purple - ever on my mind
  • White – modesty
  • Yellow – happiness 

Flowers are sweetly scented but they are reluctant to release their scent.

Bring the flower up to your nose – your olfactory glands are numb! Repeat the action a few times and your senses will reawaken!

In the Garden

Violets grow best in partial shade, poor soil and thrive well in well fertilized lawns, anywhere really. They spread by stolons (rooting runners). Easiest to propagate by division: dig up a clump and divide, best done in spring or the fall. By seed: place the seeds in the fridge for several days. This is referred to as stratification, then sow the seed outside. They need darkness to germinate, cover with enough soil to eliminate light. Takes about 3 weeks to germinate, must keep the soil moist, plant 5-6” apart

In the Kitchen