Viola odorata (Parma) ‘Alba Plena’

This cool cultivar of Parma violet can be difficult to stumble upon. We love the plush double white flowers that sends its sweet perfume on the breeze in late winter to mid-spring. Parma violets are basically the Sicilian version of the common sweet violet (Viola odorata). They are not nearly as cold hardy or pernicious as the species and they tend to have much larger more opulent and fragrant flowers. Also, their leaves are distinctively glossy as opposed to matte. This little sweetie forms spreading patches and the long stems are a bit weak for the large double white flowers- they tend to bend. Excellent for small bouquets that you can sniff and sniff. In the garden they need a sheltered position away from the freeze and thaw and harsh conditions in the open. Instead coset them under large shrubs and among ephemeral early perennials such as Anemones, and small bulbs like species Crocus. Part shade- they bloom best with a bit of sun. Regular summer water encourages them to spread. This form seldom sets seed- I don’t think I’ve ever seen seed in fact. Pity. Rare plant.

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Viola odorata (Parma) ‘Duchess du Parme’

There’s nothing like the smell of sweet violets in late winter and early spring. But the regular species in our climate is nothing less than a thug. It seeds and grows where you really would rather not have it. Well, forget that. Enter this exquisite fully double flowering Parma Violet. The rich violet blue flowers appear on long stems from January to April. Parma violets are the Mediterranean form of V. odorata and they are less hardy to cold and not so rampant. This form we have never seen set seed- but there are always exceptions. Very glossy green foliage frames the flowers well. Excellent in containers in an unheated greenhouse, conservatory. In the garden choose a protected spot (under evergreen shrubs for example) and give this violet rich soil with regular summer moisture. Tolerates full sun but looks better with some shade. Flowers tend to lean horizontally, they are great for cutting and making little fragrant winter posies. Spreads by runners to form a nice patch in time. Tolerates summer drought when established.

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Viola corsica

One of the parents of modern violas this perennial is short lived but while its around its never out of bloom- year round. Slender indigo blue flowers are small but profuse on a compact plant to just 6″ tall and barely wider than that. Seeds itself around prolifically…how the seeds find their way so far from the parent plant is natures mystery. It will germinate anywhere – cracks, beneath rocks. Sun, Shade. Very hardy to way, way below 0ºF. Light summer water during the hottest weather. Part shade in nearly any texture soil. Mediterranean wild flower.

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