If this natural order presented nothing except the Sweet Violet for our admiration, it would have a very strong claim on the consideration of all lovers of sweet and beautiful flowers. But there are many other species of Violets which add, by their beauty or fragrance, or both combined, to the floricultural value of the order; and those with a turn for deeper sifting than colour and odour will find in the structural peculiarities that characterise the group and determine its affinities much to interest and admire. Viola itself forms the greater bulk of the order, and I am not aware that any of the other genera furnish worthier hardy herbaceous subjects. Erpetion is sometimes included in lists of hardy plants, but it is not hardy in the broader sense, although in a few favoured localities in the south and west of England it has survived mild winters; and Solea, another offset of Viola, though undoubtedly hardy, is of no ornamental value. Erpetion may be noticed here because of its great beauty and its usefulness for out-of-doors work in the summer, in any part of the country. Violas are all plants of the easiest requirements as regards culture. They thrive best in a good rich gritty loam, but do very well in various kinds of soils.

A very important point in the culture of these plants is an abundant supply of moisture during the growing season. They are much better adapted for growing in naturally damp soils than in dry ones, and if a choice can be made, this should be remembered, otherwise ample artificial supplies must be provided. More particular remarks regarding culture will be made, when necessary, under the species, and all that need be noted here in a general way is, that Violas may all be increased by means of division and cuttings; and in all cases, where practicable, the latter is the best, because productive of the most vigorous plants; and it is so simple an operation, and requires so few ordinary facilities, that it may be practised everywhere. Cuttings may be taken any time early or late in the summer as they can be got, inserted in sandy soil under a hand-glass in a shady place, and kept close for some time, or until they begin making roots, when a little air may be given by degrees, increasing daily. They are all easily raised from seeds also, and by this means varieties of interest and value are obtained, especially of the more variable species, such as the Pansy. The seeds may be sown in spring in pots in a cold frame, or in a bed or border in a warm spot of the garden, afterwards nursing them on by pricking the seedlings out from the seed-bed into rich soil in a somewhat shady but warm position, where they must be abundantly supplied with moisture.

Violaceae Odorata - Sweet Violet

It would be superfluous to describe this universally known and cherished plant. In one or more of its varieties it is to be seen in every garden, large or small; all love it, and well they may, for its modest beauty and sweetness are unrivalled. The immense demand for it about the large cities, such as London, Manchester, and Liverpool, throughout the spring, has rendered its culture a profitable branch of market-gardening, and acres of Violets are to be met with in the neighbourhood of such places: and the gardener in private establishments must have a long season of Violets by whatever means, or he fails to please the ladies by a good many points; for Violets, in season and out of season, are indispensable in many establishments. The Sweet Violet is a British plant, common in many parts in hedgerows, open woods, and pastures, and very generally affecting clayey districts; while in many widespread parts, where the soil is gravelly, or hot and dry, it is rarely if ever seen. The plant, in fact, prefers moderate shade and considerable moisture, and strong rich loam to grow in; and the nearer we can attain to these conditions in cultivation, the greater will be our success.

Many have written on the culture of the Violet, and the writers have by no means been harmonious in the practice they inculcated, though each has stoutly enough maintained that his, and his only, was correct and likely to be attended with success - as indeed it may really have been in his circumstances, but not therefore the best for one differently situated as regards climate, soil, and choice of aspect. A moderately heavy rich soil is that in which they thrive best, and sustain the most continuous and abundant bloom; and if the natural soil is in any point short of this, the best means at command should be adopted to bring it up to the desired condition. If it is light and gravelly, clay and manure should be added to it, in requisite quantity; or if a poor hard clay, sharp gritty matter, with no stint of old manure, would be the proper correctives. As regards the aspect of the spot on which they are to be grown, it is a point of some importance, especially if no natural means of affording the plants a little shade are available. Whether it is open to the east, the west, or the south, is of less importance than the necessity of placing them where they will enjoy slight shade either in the morning or afternoon.

My own experience is most favourable to placing them on a west border, where they will be sheltered from the rays of the sun during the earlier hours of the day. It is well, however, to have the stock designed to bloom out of doors, growing in different aspects, as by that means there will be less danger, in exceptional seasons, of total failure. A very important point in their culture, by the practice of which I have always been rewarded with good results, is to lift and divide the plants annually, cutting away all old and weak crowns and runners and trimming the roots, trenching and manuring the ground, and replanting them. The best time for doing this is immediately after the flowers are over, about the middle or end of April or the beginning of May. It is bad practice to leave them undisturbed for several years in the same place; the ground becomes exhausted, and the plants too; and it is always difficult, often impossible, to get a vigorous stock from plants so treated. The Neapolitan, a more tender variety of the Sweet Violet, is best adapted for culture in pots, to be sheltered in cold frames, in a sunny airy place in winter, or forced according to requirements.