When I got to high school I was amazed to find one of Shakespeare’s brave and passionate heroines named Viola. During a shipwreck she is separated from her twin Sebastian, and unbeknownst to both they wash up on the shores of Illyria. And what could a maiden do when alone in a strange country? She must disguise herself as a boy for her own safety.
Then follows the comedy of errors. Eventually the wins and their lovers sort themselves out for a happy ending and Viola is once again her delightful self. So it was that I gained a different appreciation for the name, but I still did not know about the existence of a flower named viola.
I was familiar with Johnny jump ups of course, which I always thought of as a kind of wild pansy. Like a pansy it loves cool weather and has a similar arrangement of petals. However, it was not until I learned that Johnny jump ups and pansies are both violas, members of the same genus, that I could picture a mother holding her baby girl, and looking into that tiny face with its blue eyes. Then I could imagine my grandmother finding Viola a suitable name for a beautiful baby, her first daughter, whose future she hoped would be as blessed as any flower garden.
Violas for the garden are always being improved and I was happy to get this photo and information about Skippy KL Plum Gold, an All America Selection winner for 2008. It’s a bit more delicate than the johnny jump ups that seed themselves all over my garden, but I cannot imagine that it is any less hardy.
You can find out all about all the AAS winners at their website.