"Violets, sweet tenants of the shade, In purple's richest pride arrayed,
Your errand here fulfil; Go hid 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 habits, 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, - or 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.
Viola tricolor, - Pansy; Lady's Delight. - The Heart's Ease, or Pansy, is a general favorite, - an old acquaintance with every one who has had anything to do with a flower-garden. It begins to open its modest but lively flowers as soon as the snow clears off in the spring, and continues to enliven the garden till the snow comes again. The flowers are in the greatest perfection in May and June. The burning sun of summer is unfavorable for their greatest beauty; but in autumn they are fine again. The Pansy is properly a biennial, but can be perpetuated by cuttings or divisions of the root.
Viola grandiflora is an improvement of V. tricolor, or on a larger scale, and this has now become a florist's flower. The following directions for its cultivation are from the Gardener's Chronicle :"I know of no plant so easy to cultivate, and at the same time so difficult to keep from year to year, as the Pansy. It may be raised from seeds and bloomed in a few months, and an endless variety of color, marking, and texture, may thus be produced. Choice kinds, either selected from the seed-beds or procured from the florists, are seldom bloomed more than once, unless by some expert amateur, or in some favorable locality. In winter, the Pansy is extremely liable to damp off, although protected in frames; and we all know, to our mortification, the ill effect of a summer's sun on it. It is scarcely possible to point to another tribe of plants so peculiarly the amateur's as this, or one that puzzles him to cultivate more. The following hints may assist him.
"Seeds sown in August, in the open border, will come up readily in a few weeks. The seeds should be slightly covered with fine soil, if covered at all, as half the seeds sown rot in the ground, from being covered too deeply. As soon as they expand the second set of leaves, they should be planted out into beds, in lines, from eight to ten inches asunder. If the seed has been carefully saved from good kinds, an interesting display will be the result; and the raising of new varieties is a labor of peculiar interest. As spring advances, the plants so treated will commence flowering. The next point will be to select those which possess good qualities, with a view to perpetuate them. There are many singular and pleasing varieties that do not come within the arbitrary rules by which florist's flowers are judged, which nevertheless are worth retaining for common border decoration; but if a rigid adherence to these rules is determined upon, then the flowers must be as nearly round as possible, expanding their petals flatly; crumpled petals, with ragged edges, are points that will justify their being cast aside. Round flowers, with flat petals, must also have firmness of texture to recommend them; a flimsy flower in the fancy, although possessing other properties, is universally discarded. The eye should be concentrated, and not starry; the colors soft and c early defined. These instructions will enable the amateur to select the right kinds from his seedling beds. As soon as he has determined upon those worth retaining, propagation should be commenced, and this is a simple matter. Cuttings taken off at the second and third joints will root readily, placed behind a hedge, or wall, on the north side, without any protection whatever. Insert them two inches apart, and one inch deep, in soil of a light sandy texture, and they will root in a few weeks. Take care that all damp leaves are removed as soon as they appear.
"To produce a bed of choice Pansies, select a north aspect, with a cool bottom. Soil of medium texture, and moderately enriched, should be preferred for the production of large flowers. Keep the soil frequently stirred around them, and be careful that the border is free from wireworm. If the plants are put out in September, they will be established before winter; and I have frequently found that plants so treated, get through the winter quite as well as those coddled in frames. As their propagation is easy, depend exclusively upon young plants for the following season's bloom. Seeds should only be saved from beds of selected flowers possessing the best qualities; for it is only by following this up, that improved kinds to any extent can be obtained; and, as seed is readily produced, it is not worth while saving that from doubtful or indifferent sorts."