Wild Violet, or

"For play I'd choose the jonquils,
For swimming, poppy cups,
For jokes & tricks & tiny naps,
The Johnny-jump-ups!"

-John Chipman Farrar


Johnny-jump-upsJohnny-Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor) come in many cultivated colors, but the basic wild form of this endearing little viola is scarsely anything that needs improving. 'Helen Mount' is essentially the traditional or wild johnny-jump-up, ornate little faces painted on a single flower in purple, lavender, yellow, & white.

They pop up in unexpected places from years of self-seeding, not usually as aggressive as those almost invasively self-seeding Labradore violets (Viola labridorica purpurea), but retiringly, restrainedly, & humbly reliable for March (first photo) & April (second photo).

Not everyone agrees they are restrained, as there are some people who just hate to see these tiny flowers appearing in lawns & unpredictable places year after year. I must admit I have never understood why anyone would want such a "perfect" single-species lawn that even beautiful flowers such as miniature wild English daisies, lawn veronica, or violas would cause fits of horror rather than cartwheels of delight.

Although they may prefer moist well-draining soil in a cool semi-shaded location, there is quite a patch of them that appeared practically on a packed-earth path in full afternoon sun. They're simply very adaptable & they do try to colonize areas that the weeds haven't gotten to first. Because they are so small, they are easily shoved aside by larger plants, so often have to settle for jumping up in places bigger plants avoid as too harsh.

The only time I had bad luck seeding them was when I bought Ed Hume seeds. One year I distributed seeds of Johnny-jump-ups & bachelor buttons only to have not a single one appear. The next year I scattered some mixed wildflower seeds from which the bachelor buttons did especially splendidly because they were not branded Ed Hume. But I alas wasted more money on Ed Hume Johnny-jump-up seeds, never to see any of those appear, nor the Hume scarlet & blue flax seeds. So I'm done with Ed Hume seeds. Other seed brands have done fine.

To get them started in the garden, get a mess of seeds (not from Ed Hume) & sew them right into landscaped areas in late summer or early autumn, dribbling about an eighth of an inch of soil over the seeds. They'll jump up in early spring. Because these cat-faced pretties are so tiny, they can even be sewn over the smallest early-spring bulbs.

As an edible flower, the little johnnies can be washed by floating the blossoms in a pan of water to make sure there are no aphids or little bugs on them, then whirled round about in a salad-leaf drier, & sprinkled atop salads or arranged neatly on puddings, as the most amazingly smile-worthy garnish.


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