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New Violas for 2004
by John Harmon
February 29, 2004

It’s an awkward time for gardeners here in the north. It’s still way to early to plant most things except maybe seed geraniums and some varieties of begonias. You should have most of them planted by now and that leaves a gap of time before you can think about putting other seeds in the dirt. You can put that time to good use looking through all the new seed catalogues and deciding what you are going to plant later. One of the plants you should have a look at is violas.

Violas have always been a favourite of mine. One reason is that they tend to survive here in the north and come back every spring. They are also easy to start from seed and will bloom all summer. If you are tired of the same old violas like “Johnny-Jump-Up” you will have more choices this year.

My favourite kind of hybrid viola is the Sorbet series. They come in a wide range of colours with snazzy names like Blueberry cream and Plum velvet to name just a couple of the 26 kinds listed by Stokes Seeds. This year there are a couple of new ones in the Stokes catalog. The first has a lemon yellow cap with a darker yellow centre and black “whiskers”. I think they look like the faces of little old men with moustaches. This one is called “Primrose Babyface”. The other new one for this year is called “Icy Blue” and is a light sky blue with a darker centre.

Not all varieties of violas are going to come back every year but even most of the annual varieties will re-seed themselves when they are planted outdoors in beds. The bonus is that you may get an entirely new variety from a planting of different types of violas in the same bed. The bees and other bugs will pollinate indiscriminately and can create some new colours for you.

The Dominion Seed House has a couple of violas you might want to add to your collection. The first is a hybrid called “Angel Tiger Eye” and is basically bright yellow with black pin stripes. The listing claims they are very cold tolerant so they may work out here. The other offering from Dominion that you might want to try is a viola for hanging baskets. It’s called the “Four Seasons Series” and is a new class of robust spreading violas. They are cascading and branching like the “Wave” petunias and need some shade unless you live where it’s very humid. They offer two colours this year, “Golden Yellow” and “Beaconsfield”. Beaconsfield is light blue with a slightly darker centre. They would look good planted together in the same hanging basket. Just make sure they don’t sit too long in direct sun. Great for that shady spot on the veranda!

Don’t overlook the offering from McFayden’s seed catalogue this year. It’s called “Woolly Blue” and is another good choice for a shady spot under taller plants. The pale cream to white flowers are covered with light to dark blue speckles. The center of the flower has a pale yellow tinge. They really are nice looking planted anywhere but are spectacular in massed beds.

With any of the violas remember that they need darkness to germinate. I start mine in flats with a good sterile starting mix and then cover the flats with a few layers of butcher’s paper. I like to use butcher’s paper because it’s waxed on one side and doesn’t absorb moisture as much as newspaper. Be sure to keep them moist and watch them carefully. The moment they start to break the surface of the soil they need to be uncovered and put where they will get good light but not direct sun. Expose them to full sun slowly as they grow.

With any of the violas you will get tons of flowers all summer long with the added bonus of the chance that many of them will come back the next year and you may even get some strange hybrid colour combinations to boot.


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