Violets have been popular in folklore as far back as ancient Greek society. There are numerous myths about their creation and their significance as gifts going back at least two thousand years.
Violets have been given as gifts of love for at least several hundred years. Once commonly given as tokens of affection from a suitor, violets are now also associated with fiftieth wedding anniversary celebrations.
There are as many as five hundred varieties in the Violaceae, or garden violet, family. These are the hardy varieties sold in nurseries that are suitable for outdoor planting in North America. The popular Valentine rhyme says
roses are red, violets are blue
. In fact, garden violets’ colors range from white to lavender and shades of indigo.
People in the Victorian era were expected to understand the language of flowers and their unspoken meanings. Much of this symbolism is still relevant today. White flowers represent innocence. Purple conveys thoughts of love from the giver to the recipient. The color purple can also be used to represent the future.
Aside from looking beautiful, wild violets, also called sweet violets, have long been used as a food source. Ancient peoples used the root to make soups. Today, the flowers are often candied and used as decoration on baked goods. If you plan to eat these delicate blossoms, please be sure they have not been exposed to any chemicals.
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Garden violets grow extensively throughout Canada and the United States. If left undisturbed they will multiply and make a lovely addition to the landscape in mid-spring.
Despite their name, African violets are not actually part of the Violaceae family. They are an unrelated species, but look rather similar to sweet violets. African violets also come in a broad range of colors including white, pinks, and many shades of purple.
African violets are popular flowers native to Tanzania and Kenya. In the US, they are grown as house plants, as they cannot live outdoors in cooler climates. These flowers symbolize friendship and loyalty. They are considered easy to grow and long-lived, making them an excellent gift for a loved one.
Thanks to hybridizing, there are well over ten thousand different varieties of African violets. There are countless variations in size, color and markings of the petals. They also exhibit numerous types of leaves, many of which are fuzzy. There is an African violet to suit every grower’s tastes.
Whether you choose sweet violets as a gift, or easy-going African violets, the recipient will surely appreciate this token of affection. In the garden or in the house, either is a wonderful choice to bring years of pleasure to someone you care about.