When we think of viola, what comes to mind? Perhaps a nuisance weed, growing aggressively in lawns and gardens, or the small, delicate blooms of the common blue violet. But what if we looked at these humble plants with fresh eyes, and explored the many different species of viola that exist, and how they could be used in garden design?
At Natchez Glen House, we've been experimenting with different viola species as underplantings for our perennials and shrubs, and the results have been stunning. Not only do the violas provide an early burst of color in spring, but they also act as a groundcover, suppressing weeds and creating a cohesive look throughout the garden.
But let's take a step back and look at the different species of viola that exist. Did you know that many viola species are native to North America? These include the aforementioned common blue violet (Viola sororia), as well as the downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens), the birdfoot violet (Viola pedata), and the marsh blue violet (Viola cucullata), to name a few.
And what about cultivated varieties of viola? While many garden centers may only offer the common blue violet, there are a plethora of different varieties available, from the dainty 'Heartsease' to the larger-flowered 'Sorbet' series. These cultivated varieties offer a range of colors and bloom times, from the early-blooming 'Johnny Jump-Up' to the mid-season 'Sorbet Coconut Swirl'.
But what about the issue of viola being too aggressive in some settings? It's true that in some gardens, viola can become a bit of a bully, spreading rapidly and smothering other plants. However, in the right setting, viola can coexist peacefully with other plants, as we've found at Natchez Glen House. It's all about finding the right balance and pairing viola with plants that can handle their enthusiastic growth.
So, why not take a cue from Alice in Wonderland and go down the rabbit hole with viola? Let's reimagine these humble plants as friends, not villains, and explore the many different species and varieties available. Who knows what magic we might uncover in the garden?