In Praise of Wood Violets

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I found my first wood violet with curled heart shaped leaves, a few days ago.  Some call them ‘common’ or ‘wild’ violets, a landscaper informed me once that they were invasive weeds…yet where would we be ~ as gardeners without Violet’s lovely cultivated cousins- the Pansies and Johnny Jump Ups?? I have a huge patch of white wood violets and while I believe that white is probably more rare, the deep purple ones with etched centers are my favorites. A mere snapshot cannot capture its charm.

One of the sweetest ladies I have ever known loved the color purple, my grandmother favored it too. Purple is the color of royalty. A ‘seller of purple’ is mentioned by the name of Lydia in the New Testament. Purple fabric commanded a high price, the dye most likely was extracted from purple flowers ~ knowing that, we dare not place a low value on wood violet, her ancestors may have robed Kings and Queens.

If you take wild violet flowers, brush them with egg whites and dip them in sugar- when left to dry they make the most charming decoration for cakes and petit fours. Forage for them, boil the flowers down with water ~strain and add to a simple syrup, you have the makings of a Spring Tonic which is high in vitamin C.

And there is also this… the sentimental value. The memories of southern ladies I have known who cherished violets. In season, my grandmother kept wild violets in a tiny pale pink McCoy vase beside her, she loved to pick them she said. A bouquet of wood violets will only last a few hours, in water maybe a day. So I must praise the tiny wood violet ~touched by the Hand of God~ On my woodland stroll I found a wild violet low to the ground nestled near the roots of a huge tree- she was without ambition to be seen or admired.  The lesson of the tiny purple flower is this ~we may tread on its innocent beauty and not a sound of protest will be heard ~ the priceless fragrance of the wood violet would bless the shoe instead.

Love y’all, Camellia

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