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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in Viola Etain (1)

Tuesday
Jun082010

Viola Etain

As I was loading the van with perennials, the owner of the greenhouse where I shop came over and asked if I had seen the new Viola Etain. I politely explained that I avoid Violas because they are aggressive self-seeders. The grower insisted that the news strain that she is introducing in our area this season is tame, as it does not set seed. With that statement, she rushed to a display table to bring me two pots of Viola Etain, as a gift.

“This is Etain”, she said “and everything about it special; the coloration of its petals, its aroma, and its long blooming period”. The moment I saw it a gasp emitted from my mouth and I was unable to speak. This was my first experience with actually having my breath taken away. It wasn’t a metaphor, it was a real physical experience.

What I saw first was the rare but awesome combination of two colors: pale lemon yellow and soft faded purple. When placed close to each other, yellow and purple usually create high energy. However, in this case the tones of the colors are delicate so that the energy is muted. Theatre students understand that nothing creates high drama better than understated energy. This plant is a demonstration of that principle. To this scene, add a soft but heady floral aroma combined with a diminutive but impressive looking plant and a spontaneous act of enchantment was born. Of course, I left the nursery with two trays of ready-to-plant pots of Etain.

Here is what we know about this plant:

  • low and compact, grows 6 inches high.
  • prolific bloomer with a long blooming season. Heaviest blooms are in spring to early summer with sporadic blooming throughout the summer. Flowers bloom best in cooler months of spring and fall. In areas where summers are cool, it will bloom all season.
  • petals are extra large, measuring 1.75 inches across.
  • delightful aroma.
  • unlike other Violas that are ground cover, Etain  grows as a clump of rooted shoots that are easily pulled apart for propagation.
  • short lived plant, must be propagated every September.
  • Sun to part shade
  • US Zone 3 to 11.

The fact that it is a one-season plant would have been sufficient to banish Etain from my repertoire. However, I have decided instead to treat it as an annual because it is too beautiful to exclude from the garden.