Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Things to look out for in March around Preuilly

The white form of Sweet Violet, growing at the base of
one of our white table grape vines.
The Violet family is the floral star of this month, with both Sweet Violet Viola odorata (Violette odorante) and Wild Pansy V. tricolor (Pensée sauvage) flowering profusely.

The purple form of Sweet Violet, growing in the grass on
the track up to the potager.
The Sweet Violets are so scented you can smell them in the air as you walk along rural tracks. They are the only wild scented violet you will encounter here (and one of the few species of violet that is scented at all). They occur naturally in both white and purple flowering forms. Although they are often garden escapees nowadays, they are native to the calcareous soil of this area.

A Wild Pansy in the potager, in classic tricolor form
and showing its narrower more spread petals.
The Wild Pansies will continue to bloom in increasing numbers right through April and beyond. The flowers are often tricolor (purple, yellow and cream), but can be any mixture of the three. They can be distinguished from Garden Pansies V. x wittrockiana by their petals, which do not overlap as much. The escaped garden pansies self-seed, and each subsequent generation has smaller flowers, until they are much the same size as the little wild species. The wild species is the caterpillar food plant of the Queen of Spain Fritillary butterfly, which we had breeding in the potager last year.

A garden escapee pansy, also growing in the potager,
with rounder, more overlapping petals

Susan

7 comments:

  1. Hope you'll give us frequent
    nature news now that the
    warm-up is underway.
    Orchids popping through
    soon?

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  2. I love pansies! I've seen viola lutea here as well, in uncultivated pasture. That's the creamy yellow one - though some of the wild pansies are mostly yellow. I think they're much nicer than a lot of garden pansies.

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  3. Sheila: Orchids already popped. Hundreds of leaf rosettes all over the place.

    Polly: They are certainly very obliging, and come up reliably year after year here.

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  4. In our neighborhood there are many escapee violets purported to be viola odorata just the same as those sold in nurseries. Their scent is so minimal I often wonder if it's wishful thinking on my part.
    Why ?

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  5. Jocelyn: there is something in violet scent that temporarily numbs your sense of smell, so after the first whiff you can't smell them for several minutes. Perhaps that has something to do with it?

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  6. Hi Susan,
    We were interested in your Violet blog. Particularly your comment about Viola odorata being the only wild scented Viola. If my memory is correct this is the Violet which goes under the English name of "Princess of Whales", the Princess Mary became Queen of England early last century. These are the Violets grown commercialy by your Great Grandfather Hedley John Walter at Eastcott Violet farm near Geelong Victoria and later by your Granfather John Lewis Walter from stock saved by your Aunt Poss when she supplied Jack with about 10,000 runners from her garden. Wally

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  7. Wally: There are a few other scented species, but V. odorata is the only native to here. V. odorata is the original garden violet and PoW is just one garden cultivar of V. odorata. Thanks for the snippet of family history.

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