The Violet Gazette

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Written by:  John Whittlesey.
© 1997, 2000 All Rights Reserved.

Volume 1, Number 2
Spring 2000
On line Version


Spring and Summer Chores in the Violet Garden

John Whittlesey is both owner of Canyon Creek Nursery and AVS Horticultural Advisor (USA)

Cream Violet IMAGE
Cream Violet
             Violets are rugged plants and can more often than not be left to their own devices to survive. However, if I were tending a very special violet, part of this extra attention would include mulching the plants after the flowering period. Mulching is beneficial to violets for several reasons, and they generally being woodland plants, appreciate. And mulch also helps in reducing infestations of red spider mites by raising the moisture level immediately around the plants. Red spider mites, which attack the underside of leaves, thrive in hot, dry conditions. The third reason for applying mulch is the side benefit of providing nutrients to the roots. This can only happen when using "live" mulch, one that is manure-based compost or some from the home compost pile. A mulch of peat moss or bark-based mulches will not add any nutrients. However, a slow release fertilizer could be mixed into the mulch prior to spreading around the plants.

             The rest of the late spring and summer season there is little required by the violets other than a good, deep soaking as needed through the hot summer months. Watch for any diseased-looking leaves or leaves curled by leaf roller caterpillars and particularly, watch for leaves which have curled or hardened. This is a sign of the Violet Gall Midge. These leaves should be removed and destroyed. It is also helpful to occasionally spray the underside of the violet leaves with a sharp spray of water. This helps reduce populations of red spider mites. Also watch for ripe seed from your favorite violet plants and save for our coming seed exchange!

             Despite the tender loving care one gives to the special violets, there can be unforeseen problems. Upon my return from a trip to England in 1998, I was anxious to closely examine my plant of Violet 'Double Russian' which had a number of plump buds when I left. This was planted in a raised bed with other stock plants of violets receiving special care. When I checked on it the first morning back I could find no sign of the plant. It was gone! I thought perhaps the chickens or the pet rabbits had dug it up. Then my son Reid investigated and found a gopher tunnel under where the plant had been. It was the only violet to disappear and my only plant left of 'Double Russian.' Where's the strychnine?

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