In the space of a page, may I just draw your attention to a few of the natural species of the genus and their immediate hybrids. All of them are perfectly hardy and bear flowers in great abundance, though much smaller that the show bench giants. Their diminutivehess is, I think, one of their greatest charms, and they may he grown as well in the rock garden as in the borde. A sandy or gritty loam with a cool root run suits them admirably. Over-rich soil is to be avoided, as this is likely to encourage gross and straggling growth, quite out of keeping with their naturally neat habit.
Viola cornuta, a native of pastures in the Alps and Pyrenees, with narrow petalled, long spurred flowers, has long been grown in British gardens, and played an important part in the creation of both violas and violettas. In its natural form, colouring is pale mauve or white. However, there is now a good selection of named hybrids available. Two particular favourites are 'Pat Kavanagh' with pale lemon petals and 'Victoria Cawthorne', a deep pink that flowers most profusely.
Viola gracilis, a native of Greece, is usually one of the earliest to be in flower. It produces a wealth of elegant velvet purple blooms, often so generous as to hide the mats of slender leaved foliage.
Viola lutea, found in most parts of central Europe, is a native British plant. It is to be found amongst short grass on northern upland pastures. Its half inch flowers are bright yellow. This is another species whose genes are undoubtedly to be found in our modern hybrids.
Viola soraria is to be found in the USA, the most common varieties available in this country are 'Freckles', a speckled variety; and 'The Confederate Violet', white with a purple centre.
All of the varieties mentioned have some garden merit, and it is worth remembering that all of our modern strains are the accumulated result of a long succession of slight advances from these natural beginnings.
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