Some unbelievably coloured violas have come on the market in recent years with little notice. Most gardeners pass up these rugged, cool-season performers in favour of their larger cousins, the pansies. But don't be in too much of a hurry to overlook these exquisitely coloured violas.
Viola 'F1 Sorbet' are a unique miniature hybrid that combines the charm of violas with the explosive colours of pansies. The flower colour palette is unsurpassed, offering beautiful pastels and sparkling jewel tones. Some flowers have two, even three colors. Many have unique patterns and markings, some with a central blotch and some with clear cut whiskers.
Early-blooming Sorbet has been bred to have more blooms on each plant and to have less stretching, Sorbet remains compact in both heat and cold, making it a standout performer in spring and autumn. Hardy to minus 23°C (-10°F), the free-flowering plants perform across a wide range of climatic conditions and have excellent overwintering.
The compact, mound shaped plants grow 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) tall and up to 30cm (12in) wide. They are very tolerant of heat and cold, Viola Sorbet will flower all winter in climates with mild weather
With bright faces that seem to bask in the spring or autumn sunshine, they keep flowering abundantly throughout the season. In the winter they are a wonderful addition to an otherwise bleak winter landscape.
Many colours are designed to be mixed and matched, they are ideally suited for spring and autumn use in garden beds, pot and patio containers and baskets. Pure joy in the form of a flower.
Violas are perennial plants but are often treated as an annual. 60 days from seed. They can be sown practically all year if at temperatures of around 15 to 20°C (60 to 68°F) can be provided.
They can be sown in December to February for May blooms. Sow before July for flowering in autumn, or sow September to December for larger spring blooms.
Use a good quality seed starting mix (John Innes or similar) or make a mixture of compost, a little vermiculite and a little sand to give drainage. Sieve the compost into pots or cell packs and press it down lightly. Add a little more compost if necessary. Make a small indentation with your finger and pop one seed into each indentation.
Light is not required for germination. A medium covering of coarse grade vermiculite is recommended to help maintain high humidity around the germinating seed, if you do not have vermiculite, cover lightly with sieved soil.
Place the containers in a cold greenhouse or outside in a cold frame, ideally at temperatures of around 15 to 20°C (60 to 68°F) Avoid temperatures above 21°C (70°F) to prevent seedling stretch. Maintain the soil at fairly wet moisture levels, i.e., the media is glistening, but water will not ooze out from the bottom of the tray and will penetrate only slightly from the top around the fingertip.
When seedlings have their first pair of true leaves and are large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots. Grow on in well ventilated conditions before planting outside permanently. Optimal outside growing temperatures are 60 to 70°F (15 to 21°C) days, and nights in the low 50s°F (11 to 15°C) for the first few weeks. Violas can also tolerate lower night temperatures – in the 40s°F (5 to 9°C). Fertilise with a balanced fertiliser in the growing media mix to encourage good foliar growth before flowering.
Violas will thrive in any good soil and, although they will do well in part shade, they appreciate plenty of sunshine. Viola flowers follow the sun, or, on dull days, they follow the best light. Plant them where you look at them with the sun or light behind you - then their flowers will face you.
Plant plain-faced types en masse in beds and borders, and bicolours and whiskered types along paths and in containers where you can appreciate the delicacy of their pretty patterns.
Viola are best grown in a position with full sun to light shade. They are ideal for growing in the dappled shade of deciduous trees thus allowing full winter and spring sunshine. They like well-drained, fairly rich soil, so work in a spadeful or two of compost at planting time for best results. Plant the seedlings outside in spring, 10 to 20cm (4 to 8in) apart and water moderately until established.
Viola love cool conditions, and although they don't need huge amounts of water they may need to receive extra moisture in dry weather. Violas have few pests and diseases, but in summer heat, Red Spider Mite is liable to attack if they are allowed to get parched. Spraying with a hose is helpful.
Remove spent flowers to prolong the flowering season. If the plants are cut back after flowering they will flower again in late summer. Occasional feeding with liquid manure and even a top dressing of blood or bone is helpful for good blooms.
Mulch annually with leaf mould to help prevent the tubers from drying out in the summer and from winter cold.
Divide plants in the autumn or just after flowering. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are established. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring.
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Violas can be slipped into almost any gaps where you need a little brightness. Choose appropriate colours to tuck around dwarf shrubs and conifers, hellebores and bergenias. They also make splendid companions for the shorter bulbs, create instantly colourful containers by choosing pots of dwarf tulips or small-flowered daffodils and match them with violas or pansies in just the right shades.
The prolific blooms of violas and pansies offer a welcome splash of colour, but many gardeners don’t think of using them as cut flowers. These delicate flowers work best in small bottles and vases. And when you bring them into the warmth of your house you’ll notice, perhaps for the first time, their sweet fragrance.
Violas are among the most popular edible flowers, and with good reason. All flowers are beautiful, but violas are easy to grow and are among the few flowers that actually taste good.
Both the flowers and leaves in fresh and dried forms have been standard fare in Europe since before the 14th century. The simple addition of a few brilliant blooms transforms any dish into an elegant presentation.
Fresh flowers are most often used for garnishing and crystallizing. Culinary uses include jams and jellies, teas, garnishes and salads. Candied violas are easy to make and look stunning atop cakes, ice cream, cookies, or other desserts.
The pungent perfume of Viola odorata adds inimitable sweetness to desserts, fruit salads and teas while the mild pea flavour of most other viola varieties and species combines equally well with sweet or savory foods, like grilled meats and steamed vegetables.
The heart-shaped leaves of the v. odorata provide a free source of greens throughout a long growing season. They add texture to green salads when young and tender. Later in the season, slightly tougher, older leaves are cooked with other potted herbs and greens in soups, stews and stir-fry’s.
Viola is the largest genus in the family Violaceae, containing between 525 and 600 species. Violets are native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere and are also distributed in Hawaii, Australasia, and the Andes in South America. Violets are found in moist and slightly shaded conditions such as hedgerows.
Viola cornuta are native to Spain and the Pyrenees mountains, and grow in temperate regions of the world. The low mounded plants have evergreen rosettes of heart-shaped leaves at the base and are often perennial in all but the coldest climates. The flowers come in all colours, may have contrasting lines of colour, and often a light scent. The shape of the petals defines many species, for example, some Violets have a spur at the end of each petal.
Known for centuries, the ancient Greeks cultivated them about 500 BC or earlier. Both the Greeks and the Romans used Violets for all sorts of things such as herbal remedies, wine ('Vinum Violatum'), to sweeten food and for festivals.
So popular is this group of flowers that it is under constant development by seed breeders. Many have the black central blotch, or 'face', that caused such a stir in sentimental Victorian hearts.
Seed merchants also sell some splendid single-colour varieties in blues, ambers, wonderful leather- reds, and even pitch black.
The genus name Violet is the diminutive form of the Latin Viola, the Latin form of the Greek name Ione. There is a legend that when Jupiter changed his beloved Io into a white heifer for fear of Juno's jealousy, he caused these modest flowers to spring forth from the earth to be fitting food for her, and he gave them her name.
The species name hybrida simply means it is a hybrid of a number of species.
‘Sorbet’ is an excellent hybrid variety that comes in more than thirty colours including beautiful pastel and two-tone colours. Bred to have more blooms on each plant, they are compact and reach 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) tall.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 25 Seeds Family Violaceae Genus Viola Species hybrida Cultivar Sorbet series Synonym Sorbet XP, F1 Sorbet Select Mix Other Common Names Viola, Horned Violet. Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to minus 23°C (-10°F) Foliage Evergreen. Heart shaped leaves. Mounded Habit. Height 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) Spread 25 to 30cm (10 to 12in) Spacing 20 to 25cm (8 to 10in) Position Full sun to part shade. Time to Sow Sow anytime at temperature of 15 to 20°C (60 to 68°F) Growing Period 60 days.