11 April 2016

The memory of violets...

O wind, where have you been, that you blow so sweet?
among the violets which blossom at your feet.
The honeysuckle waits for Summer and the heat.
But violets in the chilly Spring make the turf so sweet.
Christina Rossetti

The violet is one of my favourite flowers, I'm not sure why...
perhaps because I always associate them with my nanny whose garden was full of wild violets in Spring. When she died they were in season and I dropped a bunch of them down onto the coffin at her burial.
She was born in Victorian Times when flowers had powerful meanings and were often given as a way to express emotions, they were the language of love, each flower given a particular meaning;
the violet meant modesty, the blue violet; faithfulness, the white violet; let's take a chance on happiness.


I remember she wore a hat with violets and a veil...


 and a posy of velvet violets, which was also fashionable to wear when I was younger.


But one of my earliest memories of violets is of bringing back a bottle of violet scent from a Girl Guide's trip to Cornwall, my mother accepted it gracefully, as mums are supposed to do when given something from their children they would never buy themselves.

The scent of violets evokes nostalgic memories for many people, it reminds some of us of our grandparents. Sweet violet scented fragrances were highly popular during the 19th c but demand was far greater than manufacturers were able to supply, so the discovery of ionones in 1893 led to the substitution of violet toned synthetics for the extremely expensive violet flower oil. Up until the 1940's the violet note was derived from both the Parma violet leaf and flower, but yield of extraction from the flower was so poor it became more profitable to replace it with synthetic products and concentrate on the leaves. The violet leaf gives a 'cut grass' and 'sliced cucumber' note to fragrances, quite different to the sweet powdery scent of violet flowers.

The sweetness of the violet's deep blue eyes,
Kiss'd by the breath of heaven, seems coloured by it's skies

 Do you remember the delicate violet flavoured Parma Violets sweets of childhood? still made by the British Derbyshire company Swizzels Matlow who also produce Love Hearts, or violet iced gems?
An acquired taste perhaps... If you like them maybe you also like the dark chocolates with rose and violet flavoured fondant centres topped with sugared rose and violet petals, I love them.

A victim in an Agatha Christie story was poisoned by a box of violet creams, but which story?.

A violet by a mossy stone, half hidden from the eye,
fair as a star, when only one is shining in the sky.
William Wordsworth

There are a lot of things that can be made or decorated with violets...

carved amethyst violets, nephrite leaves and diamonds brooch
                                            jam                         macaroons                         honey

                                                  sugar                                 cake                           liqueur

                                           china                              chocolate                       hair                            glass   

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it
Mark Twain

My most romantic memory of violets is of being eighteen, stepping off of a bus in the rain to be met by my boyfriend, who shyly produced a bunch of violets from under his jacket where he had hidden them.
I reminded him of this only the other day... he just smiled

As violets so be I recluse and sweet, cheerful as daisies unaccounted rare,
still sunward - gazing from a lowly seat, still sweetening wintry air.
While half - awakened Spring lags incomplete,
while lofty forest trees tower bleak and bare,
daisies and violets own remotest heat and bloom and make them fair.
Christina Rossetti

Perhaps the loveliest thing about the violet is just the simplicity of the flower itself...


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