The Not So Humble Viola

Flower Study - Viola

August compote captured by Holes in the World Photography

August compote captured by Holes in the World Photography

This year has been about trialing some new varieties as I’m now the proud owner of a rather large tunnel. One flower that I’ve fallen in love with a lot over the years is the humble viola. This little flower makes up for it’s size in personality and believe me when I add it to a compote arrangement I can honestly feel my heart sing!

So, here I’m going to share with you a few things that I did to get these violas to a stem length that was really useful in my floristry. John of Holes in the World has captured this little beauty through the season for me - so big thanks to him.

In The Beginning

I brought my seed from Floret Flowers it was the Pansy Nature Antique Shades variety. I refer to them as Violas but maybe the technical term is a Pansy…I always think of a pansy as bigger and these are definitely viola head size!

Due to the move from the farm I couldn’t really get much autumn sowing underway so this seed was set in late February in a propagator. Germination rate was good and when they were ready we (the Royal we…Geoff from Grow Park Nursery) potted on the seedlings and kept them in a warm tunnel until the risk of frost had passed. However, it does say that they can take a bit of frost but I didn’t risk it…the seed came from America after all!

Their Home

Home for my violas, once they were ready to be planted out, was inside the tunnel which isn’t heated. My outdoor beds are too cramped to add a delicate flower like this and I wanted to keep a real eye on them! So, my plan was to try and draw them as tall as possible. Therefore I planted them amongst the bearded irises. In doing this they didn’t compete with fluffy full foliage but they did have to grow tall amongst the straight leaves. It worked really well as the irises almost provided a support network for them. I also kept them to the edge of a raised bed which meant harvesting was a little easier!

Violas in June - Indoor tunnel in raised bed.

Earning Their Keep

It was around late June, early July having thought honestly that it was all a total waste of time growing them, that these beauties started to get taller. I remember doing a ‘live stories’ on Instagram moaning about them and how short the stem length was and my friend from Field of Roses told me to hold my nerve and be patient. That’s the wonderful thing about our Southern Hemisphere friends, if you aren't already following them, go now and follow, they are year ahead (if you get me!!) and have felt all our pain already!! Sure enough these little beauties made their way into my wedding work which was pretty special.

Viola’s early July

The Important Pinch

Deadheading these beauties has been key to the continuous flowering and I think given how small they are it’s often overlooked. Every once in a while I’ll just sit down alongside them and pinch out the seed pods. Be cautious on overwatering and equally don’t let them dry out. I’ve kept their bed well watered through hot weather and I’ve not feed them - I wonder if a feed now might be of some benefit, a boost which may well keep them going into September, so I might just give that a go. Gardening is all about trying things out and not being too worried.

August & Still Going Strong

Now, as we reach the last full week in August I can report that the viola’s are still very much part of my wedding work. Granted the flowering has slowed a little but what I’m getting now are really long stem lengths that are holding their own in large vessels and even in a bouquet!

Viola’s August

To Save Seed or Not to Save Seed

So, this, IS the question! I’m limited on my space even though I do have a huge tunnel and I do rather like having fresh seed, knowing that it’s true seed rather than crossed by our bee friends. However, I’ve just noticed a few pods I’ve missed in the pinching out and they have burst open to reveal little seeds which, I have to say I may just have a little go with! I will still order new seed as this crop has been fantastic but as I type this I can hear the popping of the seed which I’ve got drying next to the AGA…begging for a chance to be a flower…who can say no?!

Photography by Holes in the World Studio

Ribbons by Lancaster & Cornish

Pottery by Leach Pottery & John Webb Potter

Apron made by The Growing Better Garden