Native violets, Viola hederacea, are evergreen perennial ground covers that spread fairly slowly and grow to around 10cm high. They can be used to grow a pretty patch of lawn, instead of grasses, as they tolerate some light foot traffic.
How to grow
Plant tube stock plants around 20cm apart, into soil that’s been loosened to a depth of at least 15cm, as you would a lawn. There are also suppliers who grow native violets like a plant carpet, for an instant lawn effect.
Plants will grow in the shade but not flower prolifically, so if it’s flowers you want, make sure your plants get some sun, although try to find a spot that gets sun up until midday as they can wilt a bit in the hot afternoon sun.
If you buy your plants from a local indigenous nursery, chances are the flowers will be smaller and less showy than those on plants from a retail nursery, which may actually be Viola banksia, although labelled as V. hederacea. Either way, they are widely available. You can see native violets in the wild in Victoria and Tasmania, and in some parts of NSW and South Australia. Baby Blue is an attractive sky-blue coloured cultivar to ask for in your local nursery.
How to use in the kitchen
Native violets are delightful and don’t have a strong taste, so can be used with sweet or savoury foods. Enjoy their delicate beauty as a finishing touch on small cakes and friands, or if you have plenty, add them to a spring salad. You can add the small green leaves to your salad, too, as they’re also edible. Flowers are fairly prolific from spring to autumn, so these are a handy flower to have in your garden if you like to use edible flowers.
Karen Sutherland of Edible Eden Design is a regular contributor to OG, specialising in permaculture and native plants.
First published: November 2019