Perhaps you consider violets a weed, if you’ve ever had them take over your lawn or garden, but sweet violets used to be a mainstay of the floral industry. From the 1800s into the 1930s and ’40s, florists would grow their own violets in greenhouses attached to their shops. Violet sellers sold the little bundles on the street (think: Eliza Doolittle).
Varieties such as the Parma violet had longer stems, more suitable to flower arranging. With only one remaining commercial violet farm in the US, violets as cut flowers are incredibly rare to see in the United States these days. Their short vase life (from two to three days) makes them unviable for a commercial product.
But in Lisbon, Portugal where I live, old traditions linger. Seasonality dictates everything from menus to flower selections, and from December until February violets are still sporadically available in flower shops across the city. The violets are wild and and grow in forests and meadows on the outskirts of Lisbon, where they are picked by violet gatherers (an 80-year-old man rumored to be among them).
Having had an obsession with violets since I was young, I couldn’t be more thrilled to find them:
Photography and styling by Chelsea Fuss.
Incredibly fragile: handle the violets with care, and when arranging them, even after taking apart the bundle, use them in groups, to offer more support to the incredibly thin stems. (Keep them in a cool, ideally dark place for the longest-lasting bouquets.)
The vase echoes the organic shapes of the violets’ blossoms and stems.
N.B.: Here are more of our friendly woodland flowers to invite into your garden:
- Lily of the Valley: A Field Guide to Growing, Care & Design.
- Siberian Squill: A Carpet of Tiny Sapphire Stars for Your Garden.
- See more of our springtime favorites in our Garden Design 101 guide to Perennials: A Field Guide to Growing, Care & Design.
- And don’t miss the rest of our Rethinking Flowers series: see our recent posts on Anthuriums, Carnations, and Wisteria.
Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for violets with our Violets: A Field Guide.
Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various perennial plants with our Perennials: A Field Guide.