Monday, 16 March 2009


Viola odorata 'Amiral Avellan'

What an absolutely frabjuicilious spell of weather we're having!  My dear editor at the Daily Mail has forbidden me to use any more exclamation marks, ever, so I hope you'll forgive me for feeding my secret punctuation habits here on the blog.  No editors, you see!  Utter blissikins with choccy biccies thrown in!!!!!

You'll be hugely relieved to know that this post will be mercifully short.  Family arrangements for my father's funeral have tied me to the phone and a sudden spurt of work to my desk for longer than I like.  But during stolen moments outside, in the gentle sun with the occasional Brimstone butterfly fluttering by, I swear I could actually see the spring flowers opening.  Our first wood anemone is open, the snowdrops have shot their bolts, pretty well and a song thrush is nesting in the hedge.  Oh, and joy!  Two tree sparrows in my hedge - another bird first for our garden.
Viola odorata in my garden.

But among all this spring exuberance, I'd like to say a word for the  humble violet.  This is, surely, the most modest and secretive of all our spring wildlings.  We have only white ones growing in the hedge bottoms in our village lane but in the garden I grow several named varieties and am blessed annually with numerous seedlings which have amazing hybrid vigour.

The top one for picking is Viola 'Amiral Avellan' which has quite a sharp scent, and ruthless spreading qualities.  But for me, the wild white violet is tops.  A bunch of those, with some big purple ones mixed in – just to prove they really are violets – will win the heart of even the most unromantically minded lady.  The Victorians - and what romantic old sausages they were – were big on violets and in decent gardens, extra sweet-smelling, double-flowered Parma violets were grown strictly for cutting.

White violets in our fen lane.

When I had a tiny plant nursery, we used to sell sweet violets.  Few people do, nowadays, but Groves,  the old Bridport based nursery sells an interesting range.   

My top spring flar of the week is a superb cyclamineus hybrid daffodil known as 'Rapture.'  It stands 25 cms tall, with delectably swept back petals.

Narcissus 'Rapture'

That hedge again:  I'm all dug and dusted for the new yew hedge, even to the point of having spread the compost and tidied the site.  All I need now are the yew plants, due next week, DV.

I'm listening to Benjamin Britten's Serenade for Tenor Horn and Springs, the old recording with yer actual Peter Pears.

Happy spring to everyone.  May the frosts be gentle and the days continue in this vein until I've got the veg bed dug.   Toodle-ooh!


  1. How on Earth can one truly express oneself without the use of exclaimation marks!!!! It's like being told that every conversation you have must be free of gesticulation - impossible!!! Lovely post and great photos.

  2. I love the white violets! (And exclamation marks!)

    The secretive nature of violets is endearing - I like the way they peep up in places they're not really supposed to be.

  3. I was just adding Viola 'Amiral Avellan' to my shopping list on the basis of the photo alone when I read your 'ruthless' spreading qualities comment. How ruthless are we talking here? Tudor dynasty level ruthless or merely over-eager sales shoppers going for the same bargain level ruthless?

  4. Nige, exclamation marks help us to hear your voice! I love them!!

    I live near Groves, it is our local nursery and garden centre, so we visit often! It is so easy to want every violet they have but I love the purple and white ones I used to pick from the hedge rows as a child. I usually give my mother a new violet plant for mothers day.

    Best wishes Sylvia

  5. Wonderful to see your love Violas Nigel.
    I have plenty of wild violets in my garden although not yet, I have wait until May.

    I do wish you a happy spring too.

    Take Care/ Tyra

  6. 'Ruthless spreading qualities' - sounds like just the plant I need to add to the public land next door that I guerrilla garden to complement the snowdrops and primroses :)