Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hunting for Violets

When I was 2 (my mom used to tell me), I announced that lavender was my favourite colour.
This was in the 60s, long before the pink-and-purple tidal wave of girly paraphernalia had swamped the shores of commercialism. In my violet-starved Southern California youth, there were very few lavender clothes to be had; even our garden sported only a small pop of purple here and there from a few Johnny-Jump-Ups (violas) planted by my rose-preferring mom. On our rare visits to Disneyland I would feast my eyes on the giant beds of bluey-lavendar ageratum, bordered with vivid yellow marigolds, that lay at the entrance of Torrowland. Lavendar and yellow remain a favourite colour combo to this day, thanks to those long-ago landscape designers of the Magic Kingdom.

Eventually I grew old enough to sew my own clothes, and could finally seek out the colour I loved. By then I loved all shades of purple, though lavender continued to hold center stage (even my wedding dress was trimmed with lavender ribbon, and I wore lavender shoes underneath). The purple-and-teal boom of the late 80s brought mixed feelings - it was delightful to have so many plummy-tinted things available, but a little frustrating that what had always been "my" colour had become so common. We humans are a discontented lot.

Now I'm old enough not to care about trends. I like what I like, and if other people happen to be liking it too, great. If not, no problem. It helps that I now live in Wisconsin, which turns all kinds of delightful shades of purple* every spring.

First to come are the violets. They show up just a few days after the dandelions appear (purple and yellow again!) to delight the heart of purple-lovers everywhere for a few precious weeks.

It's violet time right now, and last Sunday I went out on my bike to find some.

*For the purists out there: "violet" is a true colour with a place on the visible spectrum of light, while "purple" is a composite colour made by combining red and blue (thanks, Wikipedia). They are not identical, but they're close enough that many use the collective terms interchangeably, as do I.


It's a great day for a ride: sunny, mild, and as nearly windless as our part of Wisconsin can be. Today I am visiting my favourite wild-violet patches - the roadside spots where in past years they've bloomed most thickly. After months of grey-and-white winter, I'm ready for an orgy of purple.

So is Tallulah:

First unintentional bug photo of the year (bugs are always photo-bombing my wildflower photos):

The wild violets here come in all shades: medium to deep blue violet, rich reddish-purple, delicate lavender, bright white with streaks of violet at their hearts. I love them all.

It's a glorious day. The sun is warm on my back, and it feels great to be tooling around the countryside, stopping for photos whenever I like, peering into the marshes in search of watercress (no luck), and generally poking my nose into spring.

Birches shine white in the sun:

Wild honeysuckle is thinking about blossoming:

A field that has lain uncultivated for years has been unexpectedly plowed:

(What will be planted there? Enquiring minds want to know.)

Hardwood trees are shedding their blossom:

A favourite wild apple tree blushes, entertaining daring thoughts of an early bloom:

Another favourite tree, oak this time:

Iris gets parked against a handy gate...

...while prowl the verge snapping meadow anemone (A. canadensis), another of the earliest wildflowers.

What a treat to be out, both on bike and on foot, in the spring.


Four days later it snowed. The violets in the lawn shivered and hugged themselves, trying to stay warm while melting snowflakes clung to their curled-up petals. This too is spring in Wisconsin.

And the weather has stayed chilly and rainy ever since. This weekend I took only one short ride, to look for wild plum blossom. I think I'll save that for another post.

Are there violets blooming where you are?

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  1. Your spring is just beginning and it looks beautiful!
    I love that you love lavender and you knew it at the age of two, just shows your early appreciation for color!
    Not only are the violets blooming but also our Dutch irises that we have had for years, my brother gave them to us, he grew them from seed! :-)

  2. So pretty, I love violet/purple. When I got my first job after high school I got permission to paint my bedroom (I was still living at home as one did back then) and I bought lavender paint and my boyfriend, later to be husband and I painted it---it was beautiful. I've never had another lavender room.

  3. I love the colour lavender too and it often appears in the crochet work I do! It's such a gentle colour and just does something nice inside of me when I look at it! Love your header with the little violet and the ant! Violets are such sweet tiny flowers to look for in the early spring. Your collage is so pretty! Our violets are long gone. We had such an early and warm spring this year. Everything seemed to be happening two or three weeks early. Now we can see wisteria and lilac everywhere but the cold came back with wind and rain and the gorgeous tulips are not happy. May can be a very moody month some years and it rather often rains on my birthday in the middle of the month!

  4. Oh yes, purple is one of my favorite colors, too. Something so pretty about purple. Now I also like orange and purple together...not sure why, it just somehow appeals to me. I loved that even your water bottle on your bike is purple, too. Wishing you a most lovely day sweet friend. :) ((hugs)).

  5. It seems many of us have the same taste in color. As long as I can remember, lavender and purple's have been my favorite colors. But especially lavender. We don't have anything lavander blooming yet here. It's still too cold. Thank you for taking us along on your ride today.
    Blessings, Betsy

  6. We had all the colors of wild violet in our yard but they're already passed. Love the images you captured. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  7. I posted photos of our violets over a month ago and they sadly are done blooming. Your photos unlike mine are spectacular! I am very fond of purply blue and my youngest son bought me some purple and some gold Primroses for my birthday. Our high school colors were purple and gold! Thanks for another lovely post, Sue. xx

  8. Some violets bloom every year along our alley, they are sturdy little plants. I love those colors too. I grew up in Wisconsin and relatives tell me the state is blooming now.

  9. I also favour all shades of lilac, lavender and violet, sometimes with an accent of turquoise.

    Your pictures are lovely, as usual. Stay smiley! x

  10. Yes. I've seen them in the hedges in the lane where I live, for a few weeks. I keep meaning to stop & take a picture but then drive on.....if I'm not careful the moment will be lost. I feel lik e rushing out to the car to search out the violets!!


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