A Violet Invasion–A Gardening Blunder

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Each spring I adore seeing  purple and white violet blooms poking out of the lawn. The perky flowers of common blue violet (Viola sororia) and the delicate white flowers of Canadian white violet (Viola Canadensis) add a colorful touch to an otherwise sea of green. Since I tend to let nature help design my gardens, there are certain sections where I allow violets and other wildflowers to do their thing.

But encourage violets with caution – they are not a no-care perennial in perennial beds – a fact I learned after one spring with a broken foot that hindered my gardening routine. I share my tale of violet-woe as one of my gardening oops – GOOPs for short – a first of each month meme I started long ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s easy to fall under a violet spell. They pop up in dreary corners, at the base of a stone wall, and throughout the lawn. How cute is this little white violet growing between walkway pavers? Violets’ miniature blossoms stand above fresh, green heart-shaped leaves – a real spring mood-lifter. It’s breathtaking when they form a green and purple blanket at the base spring blooming bulbs. But violets spread … and spread … and spread, both by seed and rootlets.

Normally I keep violets in check by digging them up after their flowers have faded and before their seed pods form. Usually neighborhood deer help keep violets in check by browsing those growing among my more deer-resistant perennials. This also helps keep any remaining violets from going to seed. But the spring of my broken foot just happen to fall at the same time the neighborhood deer found fodder elsewhere. I missed my violet-thinning window of opportunity, the deer didn’t munch the flowers and tops – it was a violet-invading perfect storm.

That year, it was a chilly autumn weekend before I had the opportunity to go on a violet attack – to free my flower beds from the violet invasion. I spent most of a weekend draped in mud-covered rain gear digging violets from every corner of each bed. Bearded iris were so entwined with violet roots I had to dig up iris clumps, carefully tease out every violet rootlet, and replant the iris. I filled bucket after bucket with the violets I dug, and I had to go on a similar attack the following spring as new violets poked out of the ground.

Violet vigilance is usually a no-miss, no-excuse part of my spring routine. My season of violet abandon proved just how critical this routine is.

I want violets growing here among sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum). The combination creates a subtle ground cover at the rear of a perennial bed.


I don’t want violets growing among a lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) border. These violets will soon find a new home in the compost pile.



That’s my GOOPs. Ready to share one you’ve made? Leave a comment below or a teaser to entice a visit to a GOOPs post on your blog. Don’t be shy – we all make gardening blunders of some sort. Maybe by sharing we can help each other avoid, rather than repeat, a GOOPs.

Oh yeah … if anyone wants some common blue violets, I have plenty to share!

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8 comments for “A Violet Invasion–A Gardening Blunder

  1. May 1, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Oh no, violet violence in the garden! I just wish plants understood the roles we assign to them and didn’t have growing plans of their own all the time. Your little purple violets are pretty, though.

    My GOOPs this month is about bulb forgetfulness and the dismay of digging something up and saying “what the heck is this thing?” It’s on my blog today.

    Happy May!

    • joenesgarden
      May 3, 2011 at 7:43 am

      Laurrie, it seems that bulbs are on our minds … wonder why?!

  2. May 2, 2011 at 6:57 am

    I can never be harsh with the violets, so sweet this time of year, and I don’t mind them in the lawn. They are easy to pull though – you just find that little knob at the base and yank 🙂

    • joenesgarden
      May 2, 2011 at 9:37 am

      I don’t mind violets in the lawn either, Cyndy. It’s those that managed to establish in the perennial beds that become problematic. You are correct that young violets are easy to pull when the soil is moist. Larger clumbs require some digging.

  3. May 2, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    I also have a love/hate relationship with violets. I think they are so pretty when the bloom, and yet they seem to spread and infiltrate every area of my garden. I don’t pull all of them up…usually I end up thinning them out.

    • joenesgarden
      May 3, 2011 at 7:43 am

      I don’t pull all of the violets out either; I just cull the most aggressive bunches. It’s always good to know another gardener shares your feelings … thanks Sage Butterfly.

  4. May 3, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Joene, Like you, I try and allow violets to ‘do their thing’ in certain areas of the garden. But now that I know violets are larval host plants for certain butterflies I’m becoming a bit more forgiving. I’ll think twice before pulling them out. But an invasion like yours would certainly be most unwelcome.

    • joenesgarden
      May 3, 2011 at 8:42 am

      Debbie, I leave plenty for butterflies. Areas of my lawn are a sea of violet right now and I’m happy that white violets are spreading in my lawn. I even transplant violets to other, more favorable areas of my property. I have no intention of eradicating them, I just don’t want them taking over my perennial beds, which they were close to doing.

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