Living in a house full of string players I have to think how to pronounce viola. My musicians say vee-oh-la but gardeners generally say vy-oh-la! Either way it’s a wonderfully obliging little flower and so easy to grow.
Violas are a smaller-flowered version of a pansy but are more reliably perennial. They come in an amazingly wide range of colours and flower patterns. They are also incredibly easy to propagate.
To make more viola plants simply cut off 7-8cm / 3 inches of the shoot tips at any time of year. Remove the lower leaves and root them into sandy compost. When they take, repot the little plantlets into 7.5cm / 3 inch pots of multi-purpose compost until they become established. They can then be planted out in the garden. The whole process only takes a matter of a few weeks!
Violas are happy in sun, or dappled shade and prefer soil that doesn’t become too dry, so in fact they are the perfect plant for most British gardens and will provide masses of colour at ankle-height.
I have many favourites. There is a pretty purple and yellow one in my garden called Heartsease which migrated from a neighbour’s garden and has self-seeded everywhere. I added Grey Owl, which is pale blue and soft yellow, and I propagated one from my mother-in-law’s garden, called Irish Molly, which is various shades of subtle green, though I’ve seen other colours also being sold under that name! This year I have an exquisitely pretty fragrant variety called Sorbet ‘Yellow Frost’. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The thing is, they are so easy to grow that you can go to any garden centre and pick your favourite colour combination.
Whether you say vee-oh-la or vy-oh-la, this lovely little flower will add music to your garden display.
By Rachael Leverton