February 22, 2011

The Last 'Scented Violet'


A pot of scented violets currently in bloom in my greenhouse. The powerful scent is all you can smell, when you first enter.


A Violet grower in Hudson Valley New York, circa 1898



 As a cut-flower, scented violets were as essential as orchids or camellia blossoms.


Viola odorata - the classic 'scented violet'

 If this blog was scratch 'n sniff, you would know what the greenhouse smells like this morning. The scent of violet is one which few people experience, but one hundred years ago, it was a common scent as well as flavoring for chewing gum, perfume and for pastry. Today, it is a rare and beguiling scent. Here, a the uncommon true scented violet, Viola odorata looks exactly like the garden violets we have growing in the garden in spring, but these are indeed different. Hard-to-find today, look for them at specialty catalogs like Logee's and others for the ultimate authenticity in 'old-fashioned', heirloom arrangements and gardens.




Viola odorata, when grown under cold glass, blooms in February in cold pit houses and greenhouses where winters are cold. New York State's Hudson Valley was once the United States' epicenter for scented violets where they were grown for the New York City market until the 1920's. A posh winter wedding or a trip to the opera required a proper nosegay of violets, but today, they are grown by no commercial nursery, and are lost forever as a cut-flowers. Winter weddings are no longer the same.

Images from PRACTICAL VIOLET CULTURE, 1910





4 comments :

  1. Anonymous4:08 PM

    Interesting post on one of my garden favorites - thanks!

    Side Note - your new font is somewhat hard to read, FYI. I have to highlight the entire text block to read it. Perhaps if you bold it?

    ReplyDelete
  2. There were tiny cut flower violet nosegays in the Boston Flower Exchange this Valentine's Day. I sniffed, but no scent. :-(

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous12:48 PM

    Wish I could smell those violets! If you haven't read a book called 'A Violet Season' by K. L. Czepiel - please do so! You will really enjoy the insights it gives into the turn-of-the-century violet growing business of the Hudson Valley.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I grow a few down in my glasshouse in NC (parma & odorata) but never get as many blooms as you do here...could it be the warmer temps or possibly not enough feeding..any insights?

    ReplyDelete

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