growing inspiration: violas

In my first Growing Inspiration post I wrote about nasturtiums. If there’s a flower I’ve drawn and painted more than the nasturtium, it might be the viola.

They always have a place in my garden.

A Self Seeded Viola in My Garden

And then also my studio.

I think I love them so much because they’re unassuming. Quiet and low to the ground. To truly appreciate their charms you need to get down at their eye level.

This little painting is currently on display at the McIntosh Memorial Library in Viroqua, Wisconsin

This little painting is currently on display at the McIntosh Memorial Library in Viroqua, Wisconsin

It’s easy to imagine eyes in flowers that look like faces. Another reason I can’t resist them. They tap into my imagination. They bring me a child-like joy.

Johnny Jump Ups. Heartsease. Even their names are joyful.

Like nasturtiums, violas are edible and they make a pretty addition to all sorts of food, including these spring rolls Matthias made earlier this summer.

Violas are edible and fun to use in food like these spring rolls

Violas self seed in the garden and sometimes they show up in surprising places. I never know what colors those volunteers will be.

A Surprise White Viola Popped Up in My Pot of Lavender

Sometimes I think they cross with pansies, too. I’ve found some flowers that are larger than violas but smaller than pansies.

Self-Seeded Violas Growing in the Holes of My Cinder Block Raised Beds

Again, they ask that I slow down and get down on the ground. That I pay attention. Observe.

Something I’m always happy to do with paint (or pen or pencil or ink on a carved block).

This painting is  available in my shop

This painting is available in my shop

Their colors and patterns are perfect for capturing with watercolor. (It’s such a joy I even teach how to do it here).

This painting is also  available in my shop

This painting is also available in my shop

Because they’re some of the first flowers to show up at garden centers in the spring, they’re usually one of the first flowers I get to paint, too. Perhaps that’s one reason I’ve painted them so many times. By the end of winter I’m more than ready to paint from real flowers again.

This painting is also currently on display.

This painting is also currently on display.

Sometimes I’ll even bring the cells of seedlings to my studio to paint before the plants make it to the garden.

My self seeded babies show up a little later. And I’m always impatient for flowers and end up planting some new ones each year, too. I can never have enough. It’s fun to transplant the babies to other spots in the garden (they inevitably end up in the middle of my vegetables), spreading the joy so they’re just about everywhere.

Viola Flowers Come in So Many Color Combinations and When They Self Seed You Get Some Surprises

Violas are so easy to grow. I plant them and then let them do their thing. Sometimes sprinkling the seeds around the garden where I want more plants and sometimes just letting them go where they want.

A Self Seeded Viola Hiding Among the Strawberry Plants in My Garden

Late in the summer some of the plants are a little tired-looking, but I leave them to broadcast their seeds, looking forward to next year’s flowers.

How can you resist their charms? Do you grow violas, too?