Sweet Violet (Viola odorata)
Key facts about the sweet violet
- Height: 3-6cm
- Flowering Time: February – April
- Flower colour: Deep Purple. White flowered forms appear occasionally
- Growth habit: Leaves form a rosette close to the ground. Grows in small clumps (not drifts). Reproduction is by seed and rooting stolons. Perennial – plants last for many years.
- Habitat: Widespread across UK but rare in Scotand. Likes light shade and chalky soils. Commonly seen on road verges and railway embankments.
- Appears in: Cottage Garden Meadowmat
One of the prettiest and most commonly overlooked wildflowers in the UK. The sweet violet is shy and undemanding yet, if ever you do spot one blooming amongst the grasses, you cannot help but smile.
Hairy, heart shaped leaves sit close to the ground and emerging from the centre of the plant are the long flower stalks. The flower stalks are leafless and sitting at their very end is a single, delicate flower.
The word “sweet” refers not to the very attractive flowers, but to their gorgeous scent. Out of the 10 species of violet that grow wild in the UK, this is the only one that smells.
Uses for Sweet Violet
Historically, the oils have been distilled to make perfume and flavour sweets for thousands of years. Allegedly since the time of Cleopatra. In more recent times, Sweet violet flowers were spread on the floors of cottages and churches to disguise bad smells. If you find these little flowers growing beneath trees there’s a strong chance that you are in ancient woodland.
Bees love these little flowers, not least because they bloom beautifully early in the year. In a mild winter, they’ll appear from February onwards. From a conservation point of view, these little beauties are a key food source for some fritillary butterflies.
Folklore, myths and legends
Humans have been fascinated by plants and flowers for centuries. Myth has it that the Goddess Diana hanged one of her nymph companions into a violet to protect her from the amorous advances of Apollo. From then on, we have associated violets with modesty.
Because it is linked to modesty, faithfulness and humility, it is traditional to give violets as a 50th wedding anniversary present. Dreaming of violets is supposed to indicate that good fortune is on its way. It’s also supposed to mean that your future spouse will be younger than you.
This tiny flower, that we’re so proud to have included in the seedmix for Cottage Garden Meadowmat, will hopefully bring you happiness for many reasons and for many years.