Do not expect the Perennial Violas to produce the large and colourful blooms associated with the Pansies and Violas grown in parks and gardens as bedding plants. The old-fashioned Violets, once so popular and now uncommon, produce blooms which are V2 in. or 1 in. in diameter. Use them for ground cover or edging at the front of the border – they will flourish in most soils but they do need good drainage and some shade. Mulch in spring and water when the weather is dry in summer. Dead-head regularly and every three years lift and divide the clumps.

VARIETIES: V. odorata is the Sweet Violet which was so adored by the Victorians. The basic details are height 4-6 in., spacing 1 ft.

Flowering period: February-April and again in autumn. The leaves are heart-shaped and the flowers blue or violet. Other colours are available – ‘Christmas’ (white) and ‘Coeur d’Alsace’ (pink). ‘Czar’ (purple) has the reputation for being the most fragrant. V. cornuta is the Horned Violet – height 6 in. – 1 ft. Spacing 1 ft.

Flowering period: May-July. Named varieties include Alba’ (white), ‘Jersey Gem’ (purple) and ‘Lilacica’ (lilac).

SITE AND SOIL: Any well-drained soil will do – thrives best in light shade.

PROPAGATION: Divide clumps in autumn or plant basal cuttings in a cold frame in summer.

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