[The ancient Latin name.]
"Violets, sweet tenants of the shade, In purple's richest pride arrayed,
Your errand here fulfil; Go bid the artist's simple stain Your lustre imitate in vain,
And match your Maker's skill."
This is an extensive genus of plants, of dwarf habit, suitable for the border or rock-work. There are many indigenous species which flourish well in the garden, and will repay the trouble of collecting them from the woods, meadows, and pastures.
Viola odorata, the Sweet-scented Violet, should not be wanting in any collection of plants, on account of its fragrance and early appearance. A single flower will perfume a large room. The flowers appear in April, and continue through May. There are the single white and single blue, and the double blue and white varieties; the double sorts are the most desirable; they succeed best in a shady, sheltered place, and are rapidly multiplied by divisions of the plant.
The double Neapolitan Violet is a variety with pale-blue flowers, extensively grown for small hand bouquets, and much admired on account of its exquisite scent. The Sweet-scented Violet is a native of every part of Europe, in woods, amongst bushes, in hedges, and on warm b:mks.
The Violet is said to be an emblem of faithfulness.
"Violet is for faithfulness Which in me shall abide; Hoping likewise from your heart You will not let it slide."
It is a pity that our American species do not possess the fragrance, which is so characteristic of the European Violet. We have some beautiful species, however, well worthy the attention of the lovers of flowers.
This is a large-flowered and handsome species, very distinct from the other American Violets. Flowers pale-purple, white or yellowish at the base of the petals. It is often found in large masses, in woods and dry soils, the beginning of June; perennial. This will succeed well in the flower-garden, in a light, sandy soil, and in a shady place. We have many other indigenous species, all interesting on account of their early appearance in the spring, but not very remarkable for beauty or show.
"And as proud as all of them Bound in one, the garden's gem, Heart's ease, like a gallant bold In his cloth of purple and gold."
This interesting and beautiful flower is a native of Siberia, Japan, and many parts of Europe. A traveler, speaking of the forests of Sweden, says; - "Innumerable flowers of the liveliest colors peeped out between the masses of brown rock, enamelled with various kinds of lichens, and huge fragments were variegated with beds of the Pansy or Heart's-ease, displaying its different hues, relieved by the darkness of the sweeping pines."
The Pansy, or Heart's-ease, now so generally cultivated and so much admired, is an improvement on the original species, and is known to florists as V. grandiflora. It is frequently called the Pansy-Violet, or Pansy, a corruption of the French name penses, thought, alluding to keep in mind, or forget me not. It is a general favorite, as we may well suppose, from the numerous names that have been bestowed upon it abroad; as for instance the following:-
Love in idleness,
Live in idleness,
Call me to you.
Three faces under a hood,
Jump up and kiss me, Look up anu kiss me, Kiss me ere I rise, Kiss me behind the garden gate, Pink of my John,
Flower of Jove.
Hunt, in his enumeration of the flowers in blossom, in his history of the months, too fond of the Heart's-ease even to name it without a passing commendation, he calls it the Sparkler, a name which it so truly deserves, that it might well he added to those it now hears. Herrick plays upon its name of Heart's-ease:-
"Ah cruel love, must I endure, Thy many scorns, and find no cure? Say, are thy medicines made to be Help, to all others but to. me?
"I'll leave thee and to Pansys come, Comforts you'll afford me some; You can ease my heart, and do What love could ne'er be brought unto."
Pansies recommend themselves to notice not only by the brilliancy and variety of their colors, and the profusion of flowers they produce, but also for their durability in bloom, which, by attention to culture, will extend from April to December, including a portion of nine months of the year; and in warm, sheltered places, straggling flowers may be gathered through the winter. The facility with which all the kinds can be propagated, and the very little attention they require afterwards in culture, are additional recommendations.
The flowers ought to be planted in clumps or beds, and then the rich mass of bloom, so mixed and so many colored, produces a very pleasing effect. The most prevailing colors are plain purple and violet, of many shades; red, brown, white, yellow, etc., as well as purple and violet variegated, with white or yellow, etc., freaked with stripes and spots, in every diversity of coloring. One of the most remarkable varieties is one, called the King of the Blacks; the color, a plain jet-black.
The largest flowers are generally found on young vigorous plants, and in the earliest part of the season have been known to measure two and one-half inches in length, and two inches across the tipper petals; the colors, variegation and penciling, are then more uniform and regular than they are in the summer season. Flowers, having only one color, are called selfs; these are not so common as the varieties in which two, three, or more colors are combined and distinctly marked in the same flower. The first fine imported variety of Viola grandiflora which I beheld, was a self; color a deep-purple, with a very small yellow eye, and soon after a plain white or cream-colored variety. This was about 40 years since, probably among the first of the kind imported from England. I obtained very small plants of each sort from my old friend Wm. E. Carter, from the Cambridge Botanic Garden, and considered myself rich. They like a cool moist situation in the garden, particularly in hot summers, and ought, therefore, to be planted, not on raised beds, but in such as are upon a level with the alleys. They produce seed freely, which may be sowed early in spring, in cold frames to forward; and where the young plants are sheltered from the cold wind and storms, until the weather gets settled, when they may be planted in the open ground. Seed collected during the summer months, may be sown early in September. The plants will then have sufficient time to be firmly rooted before winter, and not be liable to be cast out by frost, nor to damp off. The seed should be sown in a shady situation, upon a bed of light finely sifted soil. After sowing the seed, sift a little mould over, so as to cover it and no more; then gently press the surface with a flat board, to bring the seed and soil together, by which means they will more certainly vegetate. The plants will generally appear in a week or ten days. When an inch high, transplant to where they are to flower, four or five inches apart. Choose an open sheltered situation. The plants will flower the following spring.
It sometimes happens, that, if the seed be left on too long, the pods are apt to burst open, and scatter on the ground, when numerous young plants will spring up in the autumn, particularly if a little fine mould be strewed on the surface around the old plants. These seedlings may be taken up any time in September or the beginning of October, and planted out in beds to flower in the following spring, when the finest may be selected for keeping, and the inferior ones cast away. Several will, of course, resemble the mother plant; but there is no doubt that the same pod of seed will produce many different varieties, both in color and shade, as well as in the form and size of the petal. Pansies grow very readily, and soon spread widely. When the plants thus extend, the soil being exhausted, and the stems smothering each other, the overgrown roots produce only small flowers. It is therefore necessary, in order to have fine flowers, frequently to renew the plants.
Propagation by Cuttings, to be successful, ought to take place at the end of May or early in June. If left till July or August, the success will be doubtful, because the flower-stems get hollow and pithy. The cuttings may be placed singly in thumb-pots, in a little light sandy loam and well-rotten dung, and set in a frame with a moderate bottom heat, to be kept rather moist and shaded; or they may be stuck in the ground under a common hand-glass, with coal ashes under to prevent the worms casting them up; but if placed on gentle bottom heat, the glass ought by no means to be shut down close, or they will be liable to damp off.
Propagation by Dividing the Hoots, may be done in moist weather, any time from July to September. The readiest and most certain way is by layers, which may be made in either of the above named months. Make an incision in the joint near the top of the stem, which pin down gently and cover half an inch deep with rich, light mould; if dry weather follows, water moderately, and the layers will soon take root. The plants thrive best in well manured loam, in a shady situation, and preserve their flowers longer; though they will grow and flower abundantly in almost any situation. A Pansy, to be perfect, should stand up well above the foliage; the petals should be flat without any curl or wrinkle, the edges without notch or serrature; the upper, lower, and middle petals so arranged, as to form as near as possible a perfect circle or oval.