Newest Review: ... Many people are unaware that you can in fact eat the petals, and they certainly brighten up greenery all through the autumn and winter... more
Flower Petal Salads Brighten Up The Autumn!
Member Name: Machair1
Advantages: Easy to grow and inexpensive to purchase.
Most gardeners enjoy colour throughout the year, and violas in particular will provide this, and in my experience they often do slightly better than pansies, in terms of blooming, even through the depths of winter. I have found they are much more wind resistant as they have smaller flowers so will bloom constantly.
I first became interested in violas when I was a young child. My father always pointed out the faces of the flowers, and he used to say they were smiling at me. I can see what he meant all these years later; as if you look carefully at the flower petals they are like the features of a face. In fact the way they appear is magnificent with stunning colours and intricate patterns.
The reason I grow them now in my garden is for use in salads, and I have pots and pots of them in delightful colours which I pick daily to enhance my salad bowls providing colour and interest! Many people are unaware that you can in fact eat the petals, and they certainly brighten up greenery all through the autumn and winter months if you select the right varieties.
In my experience they will flower more prolifically if they have sunshine, but will tolerate a degree of shade. They dislike being fried though so watch south facing patios, especially in Indian summers and keep containers watered. Don't plant them in total shade though as they will not floursh or flower.
I find it hard to believe that Universal pansies only came commercially available in 1979 with their ability to flower during mild winters. I think more than anything it was this revolution which made gardeners even more aware of what you could grow to give colour on miserable autumnal days. The new varieties of violas, for over wintering have also introduced choice and variety, making endless possibilities for providing winter colour.
When you plant them bear in mind that they open with the sun and the light, so make sure the flowers face you when you look at them from your place of shelter. I have mine in tubs outside the lounge window. The most important aspect of their care in my opinion is to take off the flowers as soon as they have finished, because this encourages new growth. You just pinch with your finger and thumb and discard the dead petal. In my case I don't need to do this as I am constantly cropping for the table, which also acts as a catalyst for new growth. It isn't unusual for me to a strip a plant at dusk, only to find it festooned in blooms the next morning!
You should also ensure a well drained soil, as what they dislike is to have soggy roots. Lots of organic matter and good quality compost will ensure success.
The choice of colours is extensive. You can choose mixed varieties which incorporate yellow and purple, and there are also new varieties now which have pastel shades. These are gorgeous and their confetti like petals make a very tasteful display.
In my experience you can buy these plants inexpensively at places like B&Q, where I have been impressed by their choice. I also like to visit independent garden centres and markets, as these offer the best chance of finding unusual varieties and colours. Look out for "Ruby Lights" a lovely mixed variety with vibrant colours.
So what if you fancy growing your own from seed? Well it isn't difficult! I have even sown them outside as I don't currently have a greenhouse. You can be successful in spring and all through the summer until early September in the south of England. One variety I really love is called HEARTSEASE or WILD PANSY. These are really pretty violas and the flowers look beautiful in salads. I have purchased excellent seed for these from Suffolk Herbs at www.suffolkherbs.com. They have a lovely purple and yellow face and are easy to grow.
Thompson and Morgan sell beautiful plug plants ready to plant out in October over at www.thompson-morgan.com, where they have some really vibrant colours to choose from.
I love these flowers and feel they add something to my garden and my salads. They are a welcome sight on a sunny autumn morning. Sometimes they will flower less as winter approaches, but will have a second blooming period as spring begins. You really can get months of flowers for a small cost. In addition you can surprise the family with colourful salads adorned with petals!
Then you can plant different varieties in the spring which will bloom alongside these hardy plants, which often keep going much longer than winter's end.
You don't even need a garden to make a winter viola salad. Just buy a large pot and fill with winter lettuce, mizuna, or salad leaves, which are all available from garden centres and then pop in some viola plants. Not only will you have some autumn colour but you will have the joy of being able to pick your own tea!
Summary: A lovely garden plant which rewards you with edible petals!