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E-Garden Almanac: A Virtuous Violet

E-Garden Almanac

The E-Garden Almanac is the push-button, real human journal of Kelly D. Norris. All errors, grammatic grievances, and opinions are that of the author. Kelly is a freelance writer and Master Gardener from southwest Iowa. His passion and obsession with horticulture, plants, and gardening embodies nearly every function of his life. The E-Garden Almanac serves as the web extension of his columns, articles, and lectures.
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Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Virtuous Violet

"This unusual and beautiful violet was the first of the American violets to awaken the admiration of the European botanists."--Viola Brainerd Baird in Wild Violets of North America1942.

A virtuous plant worth noting is the Bird's foot violet or Viola pedata. This little gem of dry prairies makes a spectacular garden plant not only for it's variable flowers (several selections have been made including, 'Eco Artist Palette' (shown here at the Plant Delights Nursery website) but its tight little mounds of dissected, feathery leaves. If the flowers in their varying shades of violet and blue aren't enough to woo you, it is good to note that these plants will continue to bloom throughout the entire summer growing season. From early May through frost (in Iowa), Viola pedata puts on a continual show of blossoms on short 4-5 inch stalks.

Now that you are surely convinced to try this plant you need be aware of one thing regarding its cultivation. OVERCARING FOR IT WILL KILL IT. This species hails from sandy soil prairies and favors sunny, dry, and often rocky climes in the wild. This is not to say that the plant cannot be grown in garden soil amended with a little pea gravel and won't do well with other plants. In the Norris garden this non-weedy violet grows alongside miniature dwarf bearded iris and a few young clumps of Appalachian sedge. Full sun is a must for this little dear making it the ideal new addition to your burgeoning collection of rock garden plants.

Being an outspoken supporter of the genus Viola I sometimes garner unwanted criticism for touting the purported garden benefits of what many consider woodland weeds. Whatever their opinions with regards to the genus, few would be able to admonish the charm and ease of cultivation of Viola pedata.


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