Wildflower Wednesday: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

If you can’t beat ’em, best leave them be, is the Fairegarden philosophy regarding the wild violets, Viola ssp. that abound on the property here. These could be several species, or even a mix. The local gardeners call them dog violets. Some are solid blue, some are more violet blue, some are white with blue/violet veins. All are scentless.

The battle was waged for many years, beginning in 1996 when this house was purchased as a home for offspring Semi and Chickenpoet while they attended college here. Easy care shrubs were planted along the sloping portion of the front yard in between the grass and weed lawn of the lower part and the weed section around the concrete stoop front door entrance. Mulch was added and it looked neat and clean.

With each visit to check on, see the girls, there would be gardening done, mostly the pulling of the huge clumps of violets that threatened to choke out everything in their path, including the one gallon sticks passing as shrubbery. It was a losing proposition for me. Enlightenment came later, after we moved into this house ourselves in 2000.

The shrubs had finally grown large enough to fend off most colonization efforts by the violets and could now live side by side with them in harmony. This is in the front garden. In the back, where there is still some effort made to grow small ephemerals and specialty bulbs, the violets need to be kept at bay lest they become a monoculture. Seeding into the very center of the crown of weaker plants, the rhizome of the violet will grow, with roots reaching across the host plant to find soil and smother its benefactor in the process.

In the end, we have given up, raised the white flag of surrender and only pull the worst and most flagrant offenders. The garden denizens must co-exist, for the gardener only has so much time and energy to perform her duties and besides, she would rather simply enjoy just being out there.


This story is part of Wildflower Wednesday, hosted by my dear friend Gail of Clay And Limestone, seen here on the left. Please check out the other posts presented, you’ll be glad you did. (Above photo credit to JJ.)


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20 Responses to Wildflower Wednesday: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Aren’t you girls cute. Violets rule here too despite trying to keep them at bay. Sigh~~ This time of year I do like to see those pretty various shades of purple peeking up out of the green clumps. They don’t give up easily. So cheery though I don’t begrudge their existence for the most part. Happy WW.

    HA Lisa, thanks. We were being silly! We cannot beat the violets, and believe me, I have tried. They have that secret weapon of beautiful flowers in spring, oh how pretty. Then as soon as our backs are turned, they fling billions of seeds out into the garden. We are helpless against them. Happy WW to you.

  2. gail says:

    Frances, They look so exotic in their close ups~Of course, you know I mean the violets…We look stunning! Happy Wildflower Wednesday. xxoogail ps Wouldn’t it be nice if the violets that grew in our gardens had a sweet scent!

    HA Gail, exotic R-us! Oh, yes, the violets, you were speaking of the violets. I do wish they had a sweet scent, but they are still so pretty in bloom. There are worse weeds out there, like crabgrass. Happy WW to you.

  3. Frances, many years ago as a novice gardener I was so excited to see all these little green leaves popping up everywhere that first spring. The garden was a sea of violets and nothing else. Pretty for a week or so, then nothing. I later learned that they were originally planted in one little clump on the neighbours property some 85 years earlier. I gave up as you have. Some things are worth fighting, this is not one of them.

    Hi Heather, I know exactly what you mean! All those wonderful seedlings, maybe they were something pretty, and they were. We learned the hard way how to identfy those babies, they pop up even in containers far away from any violets. This is a battle we cannot win.

  4. I wage selective war on those adorable seducers since they can be so aggressive in claiming territory. At first, I regarded them as a happy bonus but then when they started crowding out my daylilies, I realized that there can be too much of a good thing. It is absolutely amazing to see the great multitude of seedlings that can result from overlooking just one parent in areas I hope to keep mostly violet free.

    Hi Michaele, thanks for joining in the conversation. For such a short plant, they can really be bullies to much larger plants in the garden. It is the prodigious seed flinging by the spent blooms that is their secret weapon. We cannot win.

  5. Leslie says:

    I have fought the wild violets here too and will continue to do do…the roots are so difficult to get out. The only difference is mine rarely bloom so there is no reason to like them.

    Hi Leslie, thanks for visiting. I remember our time living in California that we had those non-blooming violets, too. There were a slug’s best secret hiding place, but would live with no irrigation under large pine trees and so were grown as a ground cover. I wonder if those are the same as these…

  6. sandy lawrence says:

    So much for “shy violet” … Frances, indeed there’s a lot to be said for ‘enlightenment’ in choosing our battles, as you say. Gardeners complain here in TX hill country about the wild onion bulbs, driving some to obsession. I have 2 types – the white single ones and the clumps of pink ones. (Lucky me!) They are literally everywhere. I give a nod to them in the meadow and mow ’em down in the stepping stone pathway and, like you, when they come up right in the midst of a treasured planting. Otherwise: Coexistence!
    (What’s funny is that several non-gardeners in the neighborhood have commented that they enjoy seeing the little white stars all over the meadow as a sign that spring has arrived.)

    Hi Sandy, thanks for adding in here. Arghhhhh! I just came in from trying to dig those wild onions from the Dianthus paths. Talk about a losing battle. I don’t mind them in some places, like where it can be mowed or the surround plants are just as tall or taller. I don’t like to see them sticking up above the lower groundcovers. Ours seem to be the ones sold in catalogs as Allium ‘Hair’. Don’t buy them!

    Good grief, Frances; you mean people actually get money for these things? I had no idea. I’m glad to know what to *not* order!

    It just goes to show that a macro photo of anything can make it look pretty! Add some sweet talk and you have Marketing 101.

  7. Ah Frances I totally understand…I am a violet lover, but I do know when a wonderful native or wildflower can become so aggressive our garden seems lost and you must assert some control…your violets are lovely!

    Hi Donna, thanks for understanding. Some people might wonder why anyone would hold a grudge or try to rid their garden of such beautiful wildflowers. Aggressive is the word.

  8. Barbarapc says:

    My buddy Joan has purple grass. For a while like you, she spent weekends on her knees, pulling them out. When she realized how their beautiful their little faces were, not only did she have them in bud vases around the house, but she also decided to buy more. The best was the look on her husband’s face when he saw the new plants just waiting for transplant to the garden sitting in those square little pots. Adorable photo of you and Gail!

    Hi Barbara, thanks. What a sweet story you have shared! Husbands sometimes do not understand about waving the white flag, but mine will not see any pots of violets coming home from the nursery with me.

  9. Christina says:

    HI Frances, I really would enjoy to have some of your lovely violets in my garden! They are so beautiful, but of course I can understand that when a plant becomes invasive it creates problems no matter how pretty it is. Outstanding photography in this post again. I truly enjoyed reading it!

    Hi Christina, thanks. Sharing these violets would be like sharing dandelions, it could not be done in good conscience. I probably do share them whenever someone visits and I dig them plants, for the seeds and rhizomes are in every square inch of earth here. Sorry out there!

  10. Virginia Callicott says:

    I wish I could convince hubby to leave them be in the lawn. Of course, they were lovely in the spring in a neglected lawn area where common bermuda reigned in the summer so he poured herbicide last fall and did seem to stall both bermuda and violets for the moment…but now instead of fescue, we have only poanna. So I expect both will return when hot weather comes. And we also have some wonderful smaller white and yellow blooming violas from the river bank…not as invasive and more shade loving but so sweet. I have decided that the wild violas are a nice groundcover after fighting chickweed and henbit, which will die soon anyway. And in Georgia where we lived 40 + years ago the purple/white version was called a Confederate violet.!

    Hi Virginia, thanks so much for adding in here. I did not know about the white violets being called Confederates, but it makes sense. My husband also needs convincing about things like violets, dandelions and especially white clover. I am working on him. We have found the violets to not be affected by glyphosate, they laugh in the face of sprays and chemicals. A violet lawn is sweet. Those little native violets are precious.

  11. Frances your violets look lovely but I do understand there can be too much of a good thing, perhaps you need the loan of a rabbit, I had bought some violas and they greww well for 2 years then started the rabbit problem the violas were among the first plants to disappear never to return, love the photo of you and Gail, another Frances

    Hi Island Threads, thanks so much. The rabbits here seem to prefer the white flowered Dutch clover that also wants to rule the world. They need to eat more of it! The sweet violas are purchased here every year. I wish they did as well as these wildlings. Gail and I, when we first met at the blogger fling in Austin in 2008, decided we were seperated at birth! HA

  12. Linda says:

    I wish I could have such a sweet invader…….instead I have a rhizome which stands taller than me, is consuming everything on a quarter of my acre lot (so many roses) and is pretty doggone ugly. Oh yeah…..none of the locals, know what it is, either…ugh! I guess I’m the only knucklehead curse with this affliction. Perhaps an alien experiment. I did some research…….hmmmmm….solarization seems to be the trick to eliminating nuisance rhizomes. Have you tried this? Any suggestions? For whatever it’s worth…the wild violet is so sweet looking. I’d smile everytime I’d see them (of course if they were consuming my other precious plants, I might think differently) Nice post, Frances.

    Hi Linda, thanks. Your rhizome sounds scary! In my garden, nothing kills the violets, including covering them with thick rubber pond liner for over a year. Once removed, there is nothing alive, but soon the telltale violet leaves start showing up. I hope your giant intruder gets zapped! It makes my little violets seem quite benign.

    • Linda says:

      From what I’ve read…very clear, very thin, plastic which allows maximum sunrays in for about 3-4 months, very simply fries the subterrainian beast……..I have 2 quadrants I’m doing this to. I’ll let you know what happens. (Un fortunately,this may nix my veggie garden, this year. : ( Looks like a container summer………

      Thanks, Linda. I will keep that in mind and hope others will, too. I have some paths that want to be garden beds full of violets and other wildlings, growing right through old carpet even. The clear plastic has not been tried. Yet!

  13. RobinL says:

    Yes, sometimes it is better to give up on a useless battle. Wild violets are pretty, you must admit. I don’t have any here, but in my former garden, they were allowed to live on.

    Hi Robin, thanks for dropping in. We might as well give up, there are much worse weeds to attack than these little violets.

  14. Greggo says:

    I suppose it’s still too early for the violets to take over in my gardens as I’ve only planted them for two year. Will have to see however. I planted a supposed perennial variety, however they did not return. Oh well.

    Hi Greggo, thanks for visiting. I cannot imagine planting this type of violet in a garden, pretty as they are. I too have planted other types, including the yellow and the sweet scented ones. They perished within days of planting.

  15. Lea says:

    The lovely little things are growing here in Mississippi, too. I had forgotten they were called dog violets. And yes, they are enlarging their territory! As soon as they finish blooming, we mow them down, but it doesn’t seem to bother them.
    Your photos are lovely!
    Happy gardening!
    Lea’s Menagerie

    Hi Lea, thanks for adding in here. Mowing the violets sounds like a good strategy, keep those seeds from forming. Happy Gardening to you!

  16. Got violets? Make JAM, KIR, COOKIES! Seriously, we’re in Antibes and a favorite new thing here is confiture violette (violet jam). It is so delicious! We also ate violet macarons, French cookies. There is a village, Tourettes sur Loop, near here where the violets are grown and harvested.

    Thanks Freda, that sounds delicious! I seem to remember making sugared violets one time. It was so labor intensive for such a tiny thing, it didn’t seem worth the effort. Just using the flowers as flavoring sounds like a good idea. I have used lavender before, in cookies. I envy your time in France!

    • Linda says:

      Hi Freda….this is Linda Sherly …….One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had, was violet sugar cookies. WOAH!!! and in the center of the cookie, was a full violet, so they were very pretty, too. This was at a wedding, so it suits special occasions, quite well…………thanks for reminding me of that! Lavender is another special sweet “enhancer”…….

  17. Rose says:

    Aw, love the photo of you and Gail! I’ve pretty much given up on pulling violets, too. Yesterday, my gardening granddaughter walked around with me to see all the tulips and daffodils. But what did she like the most?–yup, the violets growing among the shrubs and in the lawn:)

    Hi Rose, thanks. Gail and I had so much fun when she and her friend visited. The violets are so sweet, and your granddaughter has good taste!

  18. Love the violets! They’re one of the first things to bloom up here in Wisconsin.

    Hi Ramona, thanks. The violets have lots of things going for them, for sure.

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