Mars Violet

"Amid the chilly halo nigh the west
Flickers a phantom violet bloom unfurled
Dim on the twilight's breast."

-George William Russell


Registered in 1998 & introduced to the retail market by Terra Nova right here in the Pacific Northwest, 'Mars' was widely touted in the garden magazines & became an instant garden success.

Its name is bound to lead to occasional confusion, because this is not the same as Viola hiemalis 'Mars' with blue flowers, nor should it be confused with what in France is called "Violette de Mars," or Violet of the Marsh (Viola odorata). This newest 'Mars' intends more to evoke the eerie alien gardens of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom.

Small fragrant very pale lavender or mauve flowers occur in late May & June, but are mostly hidden beneath the large heart-shaped leaves. This renders the blooms of only moderate interest compared to the largish fat pointed leaves clumping in colorful rosettes. It is grown primarily for the foliage which is green-edged with chocolate-purple veins & center.

It does not spread much, but can be propagated from leaf cuttings. Hardy down to USDA Zone 5, it is supposed to perennialize most reliably here in Zone 8. I will have to wait a year to see that for myself, as many violas are defacto annuals even if categorized as perennials. I do hope it proves indeed to be a permanent clump.

I'm not completely certain of the full hybrid history of this cultivar which the grower does not state. But it seems to have been hybridized from Korean Silverleaf or Cyclamen-leafed Violet (Viola koreana, but variously given as V. coreana var exilis,V. variegata & V. grypoceras var exilis). That species has wonderfully silvered leaf veins, but the leaves are much smaller than for 'Mars.'


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