These deep, lush violas are my favourite variety of the season. I bought this plant from Colette at Urban Harvest. They weren’t cheap, but they were worth it. They seem to be healthier than my other violas with very dark green leaves and lots of flowers that keep coming.
I generally don’t grow violas from seed since they’re so affordable, but am going to try to save these and see what I get next year.
So here’s what I did. First, I shelled out $3.99 for a viola. We’re not talking your typical 4-pack of cells for a buck here. No, we’re talking one plant. One plant that cost $3.99. One plant whose tag bragged its rareness and specialness and three dollars and ninety nine cents worthiness. There was also something about how the variety was popular 150 years ago. There was other information too but I didn’t get that far. I was sold at “popular over 150 years ago.” Because if it was popular 150 years ago then by gum that is a plant I have got to grow! I could care less about the botanical trends of the day, but the plants trends of yesteryear, I’m all over it. Next I’ll be up on the popular plants grown 200 years ago! 250! When I eventually learn the Latin names of plants listed in the 16th-century Aztec Codex there will be no stopping me!
In truth, I was also sold at “pretty flower” and “Psst. Hey you sucker. Here’s an over-priced flower you’re sure to want. Buy me!”
Not surprisingly the rare and popular one hundred and fifty year old, costing three dollars and ninety nine cents viola was found next to the wildly expensive $18.99 echeveria. This particular region of the garden centre forever to be known as the place to be avoided and the place where they put the fancy expensive shit that suckers like me are sure to buy.
So… skip ahead to the waiting in line and the exchange of money. All that time I had in which to reconsider the purchase but I went ahead anyways. Next, I placed the Most Expensive Viola There Ever Was into my bike basket along with several other plants. And somewhere between a long and precarious downhill bike ride balancing an overflowing bag on my left shoulder and a basket full of plants with my right arm, the tag came loose and sailed away never to be seen again. I have spent the last hour fruitlessly Googling search terms such as “rare pansy”, “150 year old viola variety”, “wildly expensive violas purchased by total suckers” and other search terms with no luck of unearthing the name of this plant. I’d let it go if this were your average dollar viola. However, since I paid three dollars above market value for this sucker I have got to know its name! For that kind of dough I want to be able to cuddle, hold hands, and watch movies with this thing. Without the formality there will be no opportunity to get better acquainted. How will we bond when there are only nicknames and pseudonyms between us?
In looking around the flowers look a lot like the ‘Terra Cotta’ viola but I’m just not sure. Any guesses? I will happily send a couple of big buttons to the reader who can identify this variety and end my suffering.
Update: I went back to the store this afternoon and they were all gone and the main person wasn’t there so I wasn’t even able to find out the name of the grower. To be continued….
This was going to be a much better post wherein I was going to tell you all about the goings-on in my little community garden plot, however I started writing it ten days ago and then…. well… clearly that ball was dropped. But I didn’t want to leave it, stuck forever in the drafts folder with 20 other half-written posts that are so far past their due date that they will never see the light of day. Obviously much has changed in ten days but regardless, here’s what was happening just over a week ago.
Parkdale Community Beer Garden (facing north). My plot is the one to the forward right of the frame. The big leafy thing in front is my ever-expanding patch of white valerian (Valeriana officinalis). This is a gorgeous plant that grows to be taller than me producing massive sprays of fragrant white flowers. Some cats like valerian and go crazy for it like catnip. Mine does not so the only personal use I get from it are the flowers that I snip to put in vases on occasion. But the real reason I keep valerian in the garden is because the plant is known to be an immune system boost to the plants that live around it and it makes a good addition to the compost heap. It also attracts a lot of beneficial insects becoming a little microcosm onto itself by mid-summer.
My plot (facing west). I keep an assortment of perennial herbs in that corner leaning towards a mix of bright green and chartreuse plants. I added some black pansies to the mix this year which made a nice colour combination.
Most of plot (view facing north)
Harvested that day. Lots of herbs, onions, and garlic mustard roots (later made into horseradish).
Plot (Facing north east). There’s that valerian again. The spiky leaves sticking up all over the place are mostly garlic and onions.
The mint corner. They’re coming up strong including last year’s over-priced purchase, Mojito mint. This is one of the mints I intend to propagate this year. They say growing an assortment of mints together is a bad idea as it can dilute the quality of each variety over time. But I’ve only got so much space and there are too many interesting mint varieties to grow so what can one do except break some rules.
Pansies amongst the onions. I’ve got violas and pansies all over the place as spots of colour until the self-seeding calendula, borage and other edible flowers mature.
The sage corner. I’ve got 4 different varieties living here. I think we’re pretty much set for sage into the next millennium. Since I took this picture the plants have EXPLODED with buds forming that will soon bring that corner alive with colour. Thankfully there are lots of interesting things to be done with sage and it dries very well. Here’s a yummy sage and walnut pesto recipe. I’m also growing white sage on the roof.
The onion sets I planted 2 weeks prior are already growing. How’s that for fast service?
I bought another box of pansies yesterday. This new batch falls primarily within a blacks, dark purples and reds colour palette. Some are frilly.
In case you are interested they are as follows: ‘Panola Fire,’ ‘Imperial Antique Shades,’ ‘Frizzle Sizzle Mix’ (for shizzle!), and ‘Accord Black Beauty.’
To catch you up, that makes my forth purchase within the span of a week. At the very least we should be enjoying an abundance of colourful salads this season.
And that is all I have to say about that. As you were.
The weather here in Toronto these past few days has been unreasonably beautiful prompting a flurry of gardening activity on my part. My gardens never seem large enough until I have to clean them up. I have spent the last few days rediscovering all over again that, yes, gardening is a physical activity, working muscle groups that have been ignored over the long winter.
On Thursday afternoon, I detoured over to a couple of seasonal garden centres to check out where they are at with spring stock and was delighted to discover pansies and violas in new and beautiful colourways. The one that excited me most was ‘Gem Antique Shades’ a viola mix in subtle gold, lavender, and pinkish tones with some deep reds thrown in (see photo above).
I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but stocking up on these old-fashioned flowers is one of my favourite spring-time activities. While they have a reputation for being old-school cheesy I find they are the best and cheapest way to insert instant colour into a bland early spring garden. Besides the very earliest bulbs and perennials, pansies and violas are one of the very first flowers to go in the soil when the weather is still chilly at night and prone to unpredictable, random acts of snow.
And they’re edible too! I start pansies alongside other early edibles like greens and radishes, throwing them all into a bowl for the first homegrown salads of the year. While the bubblegum flavoured pansy is not your best choice in a salad, most varieties tend to have a slightly sweet, hint-o’violet flavour.
I was forced to limit my purchases to one small box since I was walking and still had to make a stop at the farmers market for produce. However, I’ve already been strategizing ways to get back for another box or two before they sell out. The box I purchased was just enough for the roof but both my community garden plot and the street garden could use a colour splash.