This year Southern Arizona is experiencing one of those dreary winters – often rainy and cold, and February has been especially dreary. All hearts need some easing in this shortest of months. Luckily, we can easily grow one of the most heart-easing and cheerful flowers on the face of the earth – heartease. Heartease is the common name for Viola tricolor, best known as one of the mothers of the pansy. The simple beauty and delightfully friendly tricolored faces of heartease, pansies, and violets have long been admired by poets, artists, and lovers.
Heartease, pansies and violets all grow well in Southern Arizona from seed sown in October. At this time of year it is best to plant the all ready grown bedding plants. Plant in partial to full sun, in the ground or in containers. These plants prefer a rich, moist soil with good drainage. Since they like good soil, growing them in containers is ideal.
February is also the month with Valentine’s Day in it. Rather than giving your loved one a fattening box of chocolates, why not give a pretty pot of these beautiful flowers? Such a potted bouquet will live longer than cut flowers! Make sure it is a nice pot, because after the flowers are gone, you want to have the pot around for more flowers for your beloved.
Historically, heartease, pansies and violets have been used to treat health problems ranging from epilepsy to depression. A tea made from the leaves was prescribed for quelling anger and inducing sleep. Roman revelers wore wreaths of violets in hopes of preventing hangovers.
Many flowers are safe to eat, including pansies. (Read more about edible flower safety in my post on SWGardening here.) Violet and pansy flowers, fresh or candied, were a favorite edible decoration at medieval banquets. Heartease flowers can be used to flavor and color salads, herbal butters, jams, jellies, syrups, desserts, herbal vinegars, and even wines. Studies indicate that flowers contain appreciable amounts of vitamins A and C. Read more about preparing heartease in my post on Savor the Southwest blog here.
It’s February! Ease your heart, and please your sweetheart, with some lovely heartease.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to the Tucson Festival of Books – I’ll be in the Science of Food tent where I will be selling and signing copies of my books, including
“Month-by-Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada” (Cool Springs Press). Note- this link is to Amazon and if you buy my book I get a few pennies.
© Article is copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos courtesy of Pan American Seeds and may not be used.