Monday, November 26, 2012

Viola tricolor, Heartsease

 The Violas go into panic mode at this time of year and put on a last hurrah of masses of flowers to ensure they leave enough seed behind to complete their life cycle. It is on dull cloudy days they look the best and the plants which grow in poorer soil in full sun have the most compact habit and more flowers. There are even tiny plants covered in flowers which grow through the cracks of pavement. However once the really hot days of December arrive it will be time to pull them out, though I usually scatter the spent plants around, as this most pleasant of 'weeds' is always welcome back in the garden. They usually don't make another appearance till winter, mainly in my vegetable garden. As soon as I see the young seedlings emerge I dig them up and nurture them in pots till big enough to plant out uncongested and where I want them to go. I love the many and varied common names given to this plant which include Johnny-Jump-Up, Call-me-to-You, Love-in-Idleness, Three-Faces-under-a-Hood as well as the most common one of Heartsease which may refer to use as a love- charm especially in a Midsummer Night's Dream. Good old Shakespeare loved his flowers.
The name Heartsease also refers to its many and varied uses in herbal medicine. These days the flowers are a favourite decoration on plates of food or added to salads. No episode of the series Masterchef was ever without these little beauties making an appearance and I assume that in the more temperate parts of the country they may just go on flowering for most of the year.

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