Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Viola Denim is a stunning purple flower

When gardening for food, green-fingered enthusiasts typically turn to the obvious choices – herbs and vegetables, for instance.

However, why not be a little more adventurous and try and hunt down something a little more unusual? Not only will this make your greenhouse stand out a little bit more, but it could also impress dinner guests when you serve up some food.

One strong option could be the Viola Denim. Violas are a genus of flowering plants that boast somewhere between 400 and 500 unique species throughout the world.

They are typically used as bedding plants, while some varieties even have uses in alternative medicine or perfume.

However, the Viola Denim produces deep purple flowers that are edible. Furthermore, this rich color ensures that it looks stunning when gathered together in numbers.

In an article for the Guardian across the pond in the UK, organic garden blogger and author of The Allotment Keeper's Handbook Jane Perrone explained that it is a versatile and jolly-looking ground-hugging flower.

She described its hue as being a kind of inky blue-black, with flecks of purple, white and a yellow eye.

This ensures it is vibrant enough to avoid appearing gaudy and excessive, like many viola cultivars can, but vibrant enough to cheer up overcast days in the winter and spring – as it blooms in the first part of the year – between January and May.

It is useful for plugging some of the gaps that can appear in borders, as well as being effective at filling containers and lining paths without being particularly difficult to manage.

Furthermore, it also produces edible flowers – and looks very pretty in a salad.

"Dotted about singly, they can look lost, but the effect of the massed flowers is stunning, so stuff them into every available pot," Ms Perrone commented, adding: "Add one of the smaller daffodil varieties for a stylish display come spring – tete-a-tete is often chosen for pots, but I like the lemon yellow Pipit."

The expert continued: "Or plant with cut-and-come-again oriental salad leaves in a window box – with some protection, they will thrive on a sheltered balcony or urban sun trap."

It should be noted that the plant requires to be placed somewhere where it is either fully shaded or can at least enjoy partly-shaded locations. Fertile and well-drained soil is also a necessity – and they will need plenty of room to spread their roots out.