The velocity viola: A versatile flower
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado This was a life-affirming transformation occurring about 20 years ago on the spring end of the long gray, tunnel that burrows through winters in Ohio. I was on about day 45 of a three-month stretch of all work and no play. It was probably early April and I was exhausted feeling more than a bit sorry about my chosen lot.The temperature was dropping like a fist-sized hailstone. A strong northwestern wind was pushing a panicked flock of clouds like black sheep running ahead of a certain sleet squall scarring the countenance of the first cerulean blue sky in months. All above me was turning into, as best described by my early mentor and owner of the wholesale greenhouse I then worked, a battle between heaven and hell. Golden rays of sunshine streamed down amongst the scattered black and gray clouds marking a spectacular last contest between winter and spring.Just that week we had set outside, at no small expense in effort, frost tolerant annuals to create room in the greenhouses for more tender annuals to get their jump on summer. Thats a common bottom-line boost, akin to a rolling dice game for money that large and small bedding plant operations play at yearly.I remember clearly, I was walking outside, head down, absently watching just ahead of my feet to avoid the puddled ruts and muddy spots in the gravel shipping lane, on my way to help the crews bring thousands of flats of flowers all back inside in a last minute save from the hail of ice that would surely scar the faces of the flowers. When I looked up to find the crews, I caught sight instead of a thousand flats of violas with their faces shining in a clear patch of sun purple, blue and yellow heads bobbing in the gusting wind like rollicking school-kids let out at recess to laugh and play on the first nice day of the year. Then I laughed too, at the weather, and the work, and with the fine prospects of sending these shining flowers out to people that hadnt seen bright colors in the landscape for dull weeks on end. At that moment I knew I couldnt improve upon my choice in occupation. All the work was worth it. Ive never forgotten that moment, looking back upon it at least once a year.This past year theyve improved upon violas. Theyve made them more tolerant of the weather. Although violas have always stood well against cold, inclement spring weather, Velocity violas are a new type bred to survive the heat of summer without yellowing or stretching into a limp mass of vegetative matter.Although our summers typically lack the heat of the lowlands, this is no wasted effort here because the breeding adds a strong measure of insurance for success against uncertain odds presented by the weather. I like strengthening the odds in my favor every time against weather that can lay to waste a lot of hard work and expense. Velocity violas are raised from rooted cuttings instead of seed. Because they require more hand labor to cut and root than does growing violas from seed, Velocity violas will be more expensive. But, I think theyll be worth it. I think you will, too, when you admire their resilience come the first snows of next winter.Tom Glass writes a weekly garden column for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments or questions about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.