Viola is a member of the largest genus of the Violet (Violaceae) family, which includes between 550- 600 species. While the term “pansy” often covers the entire violet family, the Viola, also known as “heartsease or commonly as Johnny-jump-up, is considered the smallest member of this large species, that blooms in a diverse range of colors and sizes.
It is a familiar sight in spring gardens all over the world, yet mostly in the northern hemisphere, where the diminutive, heart-shaped flowers, are grown as a biennial or annual, yet sometimes perennials coming back each year.
Viola is typically among the first flowers to bloom in spring, from seed that was sown in the fall or early spring. Plants thrive in full sun, or part shade, and will bloom over a long period of time if plants are kept dead-headed. All violas are herbaceous, dying back to the ground once they have bloomed and done for the season, perhaps to resurface again the following year, or to grow from self-sown seed left behind to germinate naturally.
Viola blossoms are prized for their delicate, lightly aromatic blossoms, and have long been associated with romance, yet the term “shrinking violet”, was coined to describe the look of the blossom; head bowed, growing in a shady corner while the showier flowers in the summer garden dominate. The pattern of the blossoms, five rounded petals, can resemble a small face, thought to look like someone whose furrowed brow resembled a saddened face, therefor, made into herbal tinctures that can be used as a antidote to cure heartbreak – thus the name “hearts ease.”