But, oddly enough, the red rose is not February’s birth month flower! If thought that it was I am afraid you are incorrect. The February birth month flower is the violet and the secondary birth flower for the month is the primrose.
True violets have been cultivated for centuries, with the earliest known use of the flowers dating back to Ancient Greece in 500 B.C., if not earlier. The Greeks used violets in their wines, foods and medicines, and they actually loved the flower so much that it became the symbol of Athens.
Violets were once considered indispensable perennials for the well-designed Texas garden. Although numerous native violet species occur in Texas, the violet of choice for most southern gardens was V. odorata, which is of European, Asian, and African origin. Dark blue or purple is the predominant color. Well into the early 20th century, violets were among the most popular florist cut flowers. Their fragrance, rich colors, and relatively easy culture contributed to nationwide popularity.
In Greek mythology Zeus had a lover named Ione (from which the word viola is derived). His wife, Hera was jealous and turned her into a white heifer. Zeus created violets to give her something lovely to graze upon. Wherever Venus and Adonis lay together a bed of violets was said to have sprung. Persephone, the daughter of the Earth Mother Demeter, was picking violets when Pluto kidnapped her to live with him in the underworld. Athens was once known as “the city of violets.”
The leaf and flower have been used for thousands of years by millions of people as an antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic agent.
Violets have been used to improve acne, anger, asthma, bronchitis, colds, eczema, fever, fibrocystic breast disease, grief, headache, heartbreak, lymphatic congestion, mastitis, mumps, psoriasis, scurvy, sore throat, ulcers, urinary tract infection, varicose veins, and whooping cough. Apply a cloth soaked in violet leaf and/or flower tea to the back of the neck to treat headaches. The flowers are eaten as a breath freshener. Violet flower essence helps those that feel lonely, despite being surrounded by others. It increases openness and helps shy aloof people that want to share but feel overwhelmed.
Ancient Greeks wore crowns of violets to promote serenity and sleep. Ancient Romans would plant violets upon the graves of children. Violets are regarded as a symbol of innocence and modesty. Violet is the state flower of Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. Violet flowers are carried to bring good fortune.Violet leaves and flowers contain beta-carotene, vitamin C, salicylates, the flavonoid rutin, mucilage, and the flowers contain essential oil.
Violets are pungent, bitter, and sweet, cool and moist and correspond to Venus, and the element of water. Viola odorata is native to western Asia and Europe but is widely cultivated and naturalized. This evergreen perennial grows to about 6 inches in height and has heart-shaped leaves. The flowers are self-pollinating and purple, pink, lavender, or white in color. They usually have five petals, two on the upper portion, two laterals, and one on the bottom. Though flowers appear in early spring, the true seed-producing flower is inconspicuous and appears in autumn.
In gardening, violet leaves are used as a fertilizer for leaf crops. Some Native Peoples have soaked corn seeds in cool violet tea to prevent insect damage during germination. In the garden, violet provides nectar for early butterflies. The plant prefers full to partial shade, soil that is rich in organic matter, and moderate to high amounts of water. There are over one hundred of the Viola genus. Most are perennial, though there are a few annuals in the genus. Viola. tricolor, also known as Pansy, also edible is one of the most recognized.
Place as many violet flowers as possible into a jar. Cover with white wine vinegar, cork and allow to steep for one month, shaking daily. Strain and refrigerate. Voila!
Make Violet Honey
In the spring, collect two cups violet flowers. Place in the blender with one cup raw unfiltered honey and the juice of one lemon and blend. Store in a glass jar in the freezer. Use as a spread on sprouted crackers.
Violets prefer a rich, moist but well drained soil high in organic content. Partially shaded locations are preferred. Though most violets prefer shady and cool areas with moist soil, the blooms are known for being hardy and able to adapt to most environments. That's because the flowers grow in many different climates and habitats worldwide, including woodlands, deserts and marshes. Their natural bloom period is late winter and early spring. Although evergreen, garden violets will become semi-dormant during our long, hot summers. But these little beauties are tough and they can endure considerable drought and heat stress, and usually become lush and healthy again with the onset of cooler and more moist fall and winter conditions.
Landscape uses include borders and ground covers. Large container shrubs can often be enhanced by a mass of violets at their base, providing attractive foliage, fragrance, and color at a season when few other plants are at their peak. Mature height for violets is usually around 8 to 10 inches. The rounded foliage stays green nearly all year so it is attractive even when the plants are not in bloom.
Borders of garden violets may still be found in some of the old gardens of East and Central Texas. They can be long-lived and relatively low-maintenance perennials. Few plants perform as well in shady areas and offer color and fragrance during January, February, and March. Availability in nurseries is often inconsistent for some strange reason, but garden centers specializing in perennials or native Texas plants usually offer violets.
Many people use violets in recipes for a variety of savory dishes, and the petals are commonly coated with sugar and used on cakes, chocolates and pastries as sweet garnishes. What many people don't know about the edible flowers is that they're actually fairly nutritious. The petals and stems of violets contain high amounts of vitamin C, an antioxidant that can improve the immune system and overall health. In fact, the flower has more vitamin C than most other vegetables.
One thing violets are known most for is the fact that they have a lovely scent that seems to go away after just one sniff. That's because the flowers contain a chemical called ionine which desensitizes the nose and sense of smell temporarily. Still, the scent is widely used in perfumes, lotions and oils because it's so well-liked.
Giving primroses as a gift conveys the message that you can’t live without the recipient; serious stuff for such a pretty little flower!
These Primrose normally only grow to about 8 to 12 inches tall and 15 inches wide in the landscape. But they can get much wider if given plenty of space. It spreads so easily that it makes a great ground cover, especially for large natural areas. As its name suggests, the flowers open in the evening but also during the day.
Of the two I am very partial to the pink evening primrose. But both of February’s birth flowers are all about the promise of the coming spring, aren’t they?
They may be small and unassuming, but after the long cold of winter months they feel very special – and they also give us an exciting little hint of what’s to come as the weather warms up.