February – Violet/ Pansy
Violets are small plants; they grow only six inches tall. The leaves are heart shaped and form a basal rosette from which the flowers rise on long stalks.
There are three common varieties of violet. The sweet violet has fragrant white or purple flowers and blooms in the early spring. The scent of the sweet violet is the strongest of the common violets. The wood violet is slightly larger than the sweet violet and is very similar to the common dog violet which blooms later in the season.
Pansy (Victorian): “to think,” particularly of love.
If a maiden found a honey flower and a pansy left for her by an admirer, it would mean "I am thinking of our forbidden love" in symbol rather than in writing.
However, it is considered a bad-luck gift to man.
Violet (Victorian): “modesty” hence the term "shrinking violet." However, based on color:
Blue violets - "I'll always be true" and signify constancy, faithfulness, watchfulness
White violets- depict modesty and the desire to "take a chance on happiness"
Yellow violets - convey modest worth.
Mythology: According to one legend it was Venus who made the violet blue. She had been disputing with her son Cupid as to which was more beautiful... herself or a bevy of girls, and Cupid, with no fear of his mother, declared for the girls. This sent Venus into such a rage that she beat her rivals till they turned blue and turned into violets.
Greek legend tells of a nymph named Lo, who was beloved by Zeus. To hide her from his wife Hera, Zeus changed Lo into a white cow. When Lo wept over the taste of the coarse grass she was forced to eat, Zeus changed her tears into sweet-smelling violets that only she was permitted to eat.
Ancient Times: The Greeks treasured violets and the Athenians considered them as the symbols of their city. It is said that Ion, the legendary founder of Athens, was leading his people to Attica and was welcomed by water nymphs, who gave him violets as signs of their good wishes. The flower became the city's emblem and one could not find an Athenian house, altars or weddings without violets.
Like the Greeks, Romans would decorate banquet tables with violets in the belief that the flowers could prevent drunkenness.
Christian Symbolism: In Christianity the violet is associated with Mary and with modesty. One tale tells that all violets were originally white, but Mary's despair over watching her son suffer upon the cross turned them all purple as a symbol of her mourning.
Medieval Christians believed violets were once strong, upright flowers until the day, the shadow of the cross fell upon them on Mount Calvary. Forever after they bowed in shame at what man had done. In connection with this legend, violets were often used in Good Friday ceremonies.
FRANCE: Napoleon Bonaparte loved the violets. When he married Josephine, she wore violets and on each anniversary Napoleon sent her a violet bouquet. Josephine maintained an extensive garden of violets which became the rage in France. In 1814, Napoleon asked to visit Josephine's tomb, before being exiled to the Island of St. Helena. There he picked the violets that were found in a locket around his neck after he died.
The French thus chose the violet as their emblem, and Napoleon was nicknamed ~Corporal Violet~ or ~Le Pere Violet~ meaning ~the little flower that returns with spring.
Later Napoleon III adopted the violet as the symbol of his regime. The day he met his future wife, Eugenie, she expressed her favor of him by wearing a violet gown and violets in her hair at a ball. She carried violets at her wedding and received bouquets of them at her anniversaries.
Because of all the Napoleonic interest in violets, France became a leader in developing and cultivating new varieties of violets and pansies.
Mohammed considered them his favorite flower.
BRITISH ISLES: A 10th Century English herbal said the blossoms could chase away evil spirits. Ancient Britons used the flowers as a cosmetic, and Celtic women mixed violets and goat's milk to concoct a beauty lotion. It is also believed to encourage fleas to move into the home.
Pansies were fortune tellers for King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. Plucking a pansy petal, the knights would look for secret signs. If the petal had four lines, this meant hope. If the lines were thick and leaned toward the left, this meant a life of trouble. Lines leaning toward the right signified prosperity until the end. Seven lines meant constancy in love (and if the center streak were the longest, Sunday would be the wedding day). Eight streaks meant fickleness, nine meant a changing of heart, and eleven signified disappointment in love and an early grave.
Funeral Flowers: At one time because of their association with death, violets became a flower of ill omen.
It was thrown in graves for remembrance in rural England. The mourners also carried violets to protect themselves against poisonous exhalations while in the cemetery.
In ancient Greece, so many violets were placed in a grave that they almost completed concealed the body, and they were also scattered about tombs.
Josephine had them showered on her coffin when she died. Napoleon the Little was buried under a pall of woven violets.
State flower: Rhode Island, Illinois, New Jersey (common blue violet), Wisconsin (wood violet)
City flower: Osaka, Japan (pansy).
Sororities: Kappa Alpha Theta, Delta Delta Delta
Symbol of Free-thought: American Secular Union, Humanism, Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Sweet violets are the only medicinal violets. The violet's use as a medicine was extensive from the 16th Century onwards. Among the few plants to contain salicylic acid, the chief ingredient in aspirin, certain violets have found use as pain relievers.
The Celts made a tea from the dried leaves and used it as love potion.
It’s most interesting medicinal use was for a treatment of cancers, such as those of the tongue, skin, and colon.
They are a useful herb with both expectorant and diuretic properties. Violets can be taken in a tea for coughs, colds, and rheumatism. Sweet violets make a soothing poultice for external usage.
The bands of invading Tartars were often forced to live off the land as they moved across central Russia. According to the 17th century Russian traveler Gmelin, they ate the roots of violets which were cooked down into a thick soup which aided in keeping their stomachs full as they migrated westward.
Violets, which contain sugar, have found their way into the culinary world. The flowers have been popular crystallized and served as a candy or a cake decoration.
The flowers have also been used as a food dye, in candy-making.
The French are also known for their violet syrup, most commonly made from an extract of violets. In the United States, this French violet syrup is used to make violet scones and marshmallows.
Add blossoms to fresh salads and desserts for a decorative touch.
Some suggest that violets make good vinegars and oils.
REMEMBER: You also should NEVER use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms you plan to eat. * Never harvest flowers growing by the roadside.
Violets are easy plants to grow. They thrive in moderately heavy, rich soil but will do well in most locations unless drainage is poor. Once established they are self-maintaining, even invasive. Some violets spread through runners and others self-seed. Self-seeding violets have an unusual method of fertilization known as cleistogamy. In cleistogamy, flowers that never fully open will self-fertilize and produce seeds.
One of my favorite artists, Georgia O'Keeffe created a famous painting of a black pansy called simply, *Pansy* in 1926. The next year she painted *White Pansy*.
“Violet is for faithfulness,
Which in me shall abide,
Hoping likewise that from your heart
You will not let it hide”