I once knew a young woman who, planning to wed in April, chose only violets for her bouquet and the trimmings on her wedding table. While I know others similarly inclined who have picked wildflowers as well, I'd support her choice rather than, say, daisies or day lilies.
I was happily surprised to find this lovely flower growing wild throughout the yard on the north side of the house. It wasn't here when I first arrived. They've spread to the most unlikely spots without any encouragement on my part beyond sharing my glee. I imagine, were I to live that long, they might become a nuisance. They are wildflowers after all. Then again, I should be absolutely delighted to live where my entire yard was filled with their special color.
I have only one problem with violets.
I find it extremely difficult to pin an accurate name on any of those growing near my home. Peterson lists 40 in just the Northeastern and North-central states, Newcomb does little better while Audubon limits my choices to 19. The variety seems to lie more in small variations in the leaf or how hairy the stems are, violets looking pretty much as I think they should.
My album contains only two: the common blue violet, a pretty safe bet based on the name alone, and the ovate-leafed violet which is downy with egg-shaped leaves and is also alas! "common."
Turning to Lawrence Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, my book of choice, I learn again that the most common violets have only basal leaves, meaning they sprout separately from the ground. If you find flower and leaf on the same stalk . . . well, that's a different section of the book entirely and can be ignored until such is actually discovered.
My album of photographs tells me (I no longer know the source) that flowers may also form nearer the ground on these plants. Those do not open but produce "vast quantities" of seeds. So that's where the babies come from!
They have uses extending beyond the pleasure of a bouquet to admire. The leaves are high in vitamins A and C (who figures these things out?) so use them in salads or cook as one would any green. And the flowers can be used for candy or jelly. (Pretty is OK too.)
Obviously, I could never have too many of these valuable delights.
I began this with a quote from a song my friends and I loved to bellow as kids. (I'm presuming MCMLI dates me correctly and doesn't add a century or so to my age.) Funny, I'd remembered Coben and Grean's title and what was a very simple chorus, the part above which ends "Covered all over from head to toe with . . ." You got it. (My sheet music has ukulele tunings. Could this be before the day of the ubiquitous guitar? Yes, child, I did grow up with automobiles, refrigerators and indoor plumbing . . . well, for the most part.)
Funny, when I went searching for the music (not quite crumbling yet), I had to see it to remember the verses which, of course, is what we all enjoyed with its slight hint of suggestiveness: "There once was a farmer who took a young miss in back of the barn where he gave her a lecture, and told her that she had such beautiful manners that suited a girl of her charms, a girl that he wanted to take in his washing and ironing" and so it went, seeming riotously funny when one was of that age.
I'll be humming it when I stop to admire my next violet and look a little harder for some of those I've missed.
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org