The Sweet Violet or Wood Violet is one of our earliest native plants to bloom and loves the dappled shade and rich leaf-mould of the orchard floor and hedgerow. We sometimes find them as early as January.
The flowers are usually deep purple, but occasionally white, lilac, or pink. They are held above the dark, heart-shaped leaves on two to four inch stems.
The Sweet Violet spreads using both seed and underground runners.
Flowers and leaves are edible and have for centuries been used in salads. The flowers can be crystallised for cake-decorating.
The Sweet Violet was a favourite in ancient Greece and became the symbol of Athens.
The beautiful scent of violets is distinctive, with only a few other flowers having a remotely similar odour. References to the Sweet Violet's fragrance go back to classical sources such as Pliny and Horace and both flowers and leaves were widely used in the perfume industry until the mid 20th century. The chemical constituents which create the fragrance are called ionones. They have an unusual property in that they quickly anaesthetise our scent receptors, making the Sweet Violet's fragrance appear fleeting.
Some of our gardeners also grow cultivated variants, such as The Czar, Lianne and Princess of Wales, which have more intense scent, along with larger flowers on longer stems.
To Learn More
This explains how to differentiate Sweet Violets from near relatives, such as Dog Violets.
Many gorgeous, cultivated forms of Sweet Violet can be purchased online from Groves Dorset Violets. Groves Nurseries also holds the National collection of viola odorata.
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018