This week, I'm all about violets.
When I was growing up, I marked the beginning of every spring with the appearance of wild violets that peppered the lawn around my parents' house. Purple was my favorite color for years when I was a kid, and if I had to pick a particular shade, it would be the color of those violets. I especially liked the contrast between those little purple flowers and the bold, yellow dandelions that sprouted at about the same time. There's a patch of lawn by DeBartolo Hall at Youngstown State University that's a riot of violets and dandelions in spring, and it never ceased to bring a smile to my face when I was working on my master's degree there.
I was still in college when I decided to decorate my dorm room with potted African violets on my windowsill. I took those plants with me to my first apartment in Meadville, Pa., and adopted a few more that one of my aunts was having trouble with. I had a knack for African violets by that point; I could coax plants that were nearly dead back into bloom again. (African violets are not considered "true" violets, but I like them nonetheless.)
Tribune Chronicle / Mary Beth Wyko
This week, the cottage garden is abloom with “Johnny-Jump Up” violets.
I haven't had houseplants since I got married - I've had cats instead - but when I began planning my cottage garden, I knew at once that I wanted violets.
I went with "Johnny-Jump Ups," which are easily recognizable by the yellow and white at the throat of the flowers, and started the seeds in my basement. This past week, they burst into flower, and every plant is blooming.
Violets always make me think of the Victorian era and fairy tales, and surprisingly, they are nearly as common in literature as the ubiquitous rose. Shakespeare, of course, deemed that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," but in "Hamlet," Laertes' wish at his sister Ophelia's burial is that violets spring from her grave. The poet William Wordsworth's immortal Lucy is described as "A violet by a mossy stone / Half hidden from the eye!" And we can't forget the traditional "Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you!"
The violet is the flower of the month of February, and in the language of flowers, violets represent modesty (think "shy violets" or "shrinking violets"), faithfulness and love. According to the American Violet Society, dreaming of violets means that good fortune is on your way.
I just grow them because they're a pretty and friendly addition to my cottage garden, and it makes me smile to see them in full bloom.
Share your gardening stories and tips with me at firstname.lastname@example.org