As we speak, the first violets of spring can be seen in backyards, front
lawns and woodlands. Personally, they never fail to remind me of a few
of its unabashed American lovers: Thomas Jefferson, First Gardener and
third president of the United States who grew them at Monticello, his
home estate in Virginia; Eleanor Roosevelt, the beloved First Lady who
wore violet bouquets at her husband's inaugurations, and the famous
Gibson Girl, who displayed them on her hat whenever she attended her
husband's trial for murder. Much has been written about these and other
celebrities' predilection for violets, including that of our own
mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, who grew them, and
delighted in giving their friends fresh, fragrant bouquets of violets,
and sending violet-themed postcards.
All that was then, you'd say. What
about violets now?
Well, I'm pleased to report what many of us already
know: violets are back. They're on the rebound, and triumphantly, after
years of neglect, omission from horticultural reviews, and virtual
disappearance from the marketplace. The catastrophes brought upon many
lands by the 20th century's two world wars, the high costs of
cultivation, the loss of expertise, the inevitable fashion shifts, etc.
they have all been cited as main reasons for the violet's demise.
Fortunately, the flower's allure has lingered and survived all the way
into our new millennium. A renewed interest in heirloom flowers and
wildflowers as well as a new focus on the arts of gardening, landscape
design and other related disciplines, have made violets the
"hot" flower to grow, research and incorporate in our gardens.
Case in point: in recent years several national and international
gardening magazines have discussed the "forgotten" violet and
praised the few, heroic (or stubborn) plantspeople dedicated to keep it
alive. Among the latest of such reviews I commend the February/March
2000 issue of the French Magazine Maisons Cote Sud for featuring Ellia
Ascheri's "Un amour de violettes." (A love for violets). This
beautifully illustrated article talks about the violet in Italy, brings
to light the country's historical methods of cultivation, and introduces
present-day violet growers in the area surrounding Udine. When reading
articles such as this one, I become acutely aware of how much has been
accomplished and in so few years, by the former International Violet
Association and its successors, The American Violet Society and the IVA
(Europe) through their hard work on behalf of violets. I'm proud to say
this work will continue in the future.
On this side of the Atlantic and
in the first quarter of this year, new developments connected with the
Violet bring us additional delight. Following AVS Board Member Kim
Blaxland's comprehensive and much expected review of Native Violets in
the March/April issue of The American Gardener--published by The
American Horticultural Society (Alexandria, Virginia)-the AHS Chief
Horticulturist and curator, Ms. Janet Walker, announced her next
project, that is, a National Collection of North American Violets to be
housed at the AHS' River Farm grounds, near Washington, D.C. This
collection will include cultivated and native varieties. Ms. Walker's
effort is the first of its kind in the United States. It deserves our
full cooperation and applause as it matches The American Violet
Society's mission and goals for 2000 and beyond: to restore the violet's
deserved role in the horticultural and environmental landscape.
Furthermore, The American Violet Society has extended its area of
interest to other popular members of the genus Viola: violas and
pansies. The AVS is also committed to offer its membership and general
public a website that is a true gateway to the world of violets, unique
and replete with archival and pictorial information provided both by
recognized experts in the field and the enthusiastic membership. The
Violet Gazette (in its online and offline versions) is a very important
part of this enterprise. As in the past, it will provide the best and
most accurate information available on the topic of violets, violas and
We hope you'll enjoy this Spring Issue and become part of the
Violet rebound movement!
Best wishes for a Happy and violet-filled