She is small,and easy to ignore, but extremely stubborn. She may be old fashioned and seem demure, but you can't fob her off with a cup of tea, and scone and a quick goodbye. Once she arrives she tends to stay.
Her name is 'Violet'.
I'm not sure why the name 'Violet' has fallen out of fashion for babies, while Rose and Jasmine have remained. Violet's a pretty name, and a lovely flower. Possibly too many parents-to-be have heard their own parents swearing as they try to dig the violets out of their garden. You dig, and dig, then dig some more till the ground is completely violet-free, then after the next rain shower, there she is again, spreading through the flower bed and crowding out the leeks
My particular nemesis is the native violet, Viola banksii, which until recent was called Viola hederacea, unless it's had another name change since, or we happen to be growing another native violet entirely, like Viola betonicifolia, though I'm pretty sure our violets aren't that, as the leaves of our violets are kidney shaped, not upright like its relative. But there other native violets around, even if I don't know their names. Taxonomy is not my forte. I can't even reliably spell taxonomy.
In the right place native violets (whatever kind we have) are wonderful i.e. anywhere except in my small flower patch and much larger vegie gardens.
The patch of green out the front of our house, which I call 'the lawn' and the wombats and wallabies call 'dinner' contains at least 40 different ground covers, some thriving and some dormant, depending on the weather. In moist lush years native violet spreads in the dappled shade, though that is just about the whole place when you live in a deep valley. Our garden is mostly dappled shade except for possibly eight minutes at midday close to mid-summer when the sun is almost directly overhead. Unless there are clouds.
Native violets make an excellent and hardy 'lawn' for moist and shady spots. They don't need mowing. Wombats and wallabies find them an acceptable snack, but don't destroy them, and the violets are quite happy to be trimmed by wallaby teeth. You can run the lawn mower over native violets as long as it's a medium to high setting, which is necessary, as other ground covers including grasses or weeds will invade the bare patches when the violets die back in heat and drought.
That though is the trouble - if you want a lawn that doesn't fade away for a year or five in heat and drought, don't plant native violets. But as part of a mix that adapts to climatic extremes, native violets are perfect
But even after years of drought native violets will return again years later. They will return and return and return, and keep on returning. I am looking out at them as I write this. They are also creeping through the asparagus, and the broad beans.
Native violets form a dense mat, too. Asparagus will pop its spears up through light ground covers like alyssm or even pansies, but it doesn't like native violets. Gardening manuals advise keeping your native violets out of garden beds, but don't say how. Ours didn't get there by invading across the garden - there are no native violets growing next to the vegie gardens. They just appeared. The culprit may be wind-blown seed, or the droppings of the bower birds who also like to have a peck of native violets now and then before returning to eat our broccoli leaves. But once native violets arrive, they are extremely hard to get rid of.
Our violets begin to bloom in spring, then flower whenever they feel like it though summer and sometimes autumn. The 'lawn' blooms are pretty, but not really noticeable unless you look down at the right time, possibly with a magnifying glass. We also have violets growing in the crevices of the rocks that form our front steps, and the flowers are much more effective there, as they appear at eye level as you climb towards the house, a small and a quite lovely surprise each time they decide to offer some blooms.
Years, or possibly decades ago, I made several attempts to grow Viola odorata, the gloriously fragrant European cultivated for hundreds of years, like 'Lady Hume Campbell' with its double lavender-mauve, intensely fragrant flowers still used in perfumery. Other varieties have pink, white, blue multi-coloured and yes, violet colours. Parma vilet blooms are not just deliciously scented, but large and long-stemmed enough to pick a small bunch. I had a vision of climbing the stairs accompanied by their fragrance, picking a few for a nosegay in my study, the house freshened by their perfume.
It didn't work. I don't know why, as the native violets flourished in those years. The Parma violets didn't die - they simply vanished overnight. I suspect, but can't prove, that as well as being deliciously fragrant, Parma violets were also fragrantly delicious to the wallabies, who munched them as a pre-dinner snack. Half a dozen attempts later I realised that I am not destined to have Parma violets.
The native violets are just beginning their annual blooming. Just now I love them, a symbol of a lush spring to come, though I'll be swearing at them in a few weeks, when I try to weed the asparagus. And, probably in consequence, I never will call a baby Violet.
This week I am:
- Realising it is time to get early seedlings planted on the window sill or other warm sunny spots out of frost reach. NB 'Realising it's time to do it' doesn't mean I've got around to doing it, or even pulled out the packets of seeds that should go in early, like tomatoes and corn and watermelon.
- Picking the first tamarillo of the season, i.e. one that dangled green all winter and suddenly decided to ripen.
- Delighting in daffodils, genuine giant pure yellow ones, not just jonquils.
- Seeing springs appear in the hills that I haven't seen for over 20 years
- Trying to eat broccoli as fast as the plants produce it. I (temporarily) detest broccoli. (This will change by summer.)
- Waiting for the first spear of this year's asparagus. Next week, maybe?