Thursday, 20 February 2014

Are you a Shrinking Violet?

The Violet is one of the Birth Month Flowers for February.

Poems about violets often refer to them as blooming in April and Yardley even have a range by the name of "April Violets". I shall keep a close eye on my front garden this year and notice when the violets start to bloom. 

What is the word that we most often hear in connection with violets? 

There’s the African Violet, the Dog Violet and the Parma Violet – the one that is sometimes used in confectionery and cake decoration - 

And of course there’s the ‘Shrinking Violet’.

Not because it can literally shrink – though when exposed to too much sun, it may shrivel up and die.

‘Shrinking’ in this case is another way of expressing modesty, humility or even shyness, human traits that have often been associated with violets because of their habit of hiding away in woodlands, close to the ground and often hidden by leaves.

Violet motif for the
repeating pattern.
Poems suggesting these qualities in the pretty little wild wood violets abound! Here's a selection.

While modesty and humility are surely positive qualities, shyness isn’t necessarily a good thing. It has been suggested that shyness is the result of too much preoccupation with oneself and how one appears to the rest of the world. And it can certainly hold us back from becoming all that we’re capable of becoming.

I’ve been a ‘Shrinking Violet’ in my time – until a very wise elderly relative pointed out to me that my ‘walking small in order that others may walk tall’ was not serving any good purpose!

But when I was looking up quotes about violets I came across one that stood out from the rest and I think it’s my favourite. It doesn’t deny that violets are not particularly showy; they don’t grab our attention like the daffodils and tulips that flower around the same time.

But they are tenacious! And there's power in that tenacity – as I discovered when I first dug over the ground beneath my Magnolia tree. 

'Tile' for the
repeating pattern.
When I moved into my house, there was grass beneath the tree but it wasn’t a pretty sight. It didn’t get enough light and it was impossible to mow because of the roots of the tree, even though I bought a strimmer especially for the purpose. Hence my decision to dig it all up and make a wild, woodland area of my front garden.

As I dug out the grass and the dandelions, I began to see the violets hiding closer to the ground. I was planning to scatter wild flower seeds in the soil so I dug out the violets as well – with some difficulty because of their long, enormously strong roots! 

But now, ten years later, the ground is covered in violets again! 

So whenever I have time in the autumn, I plant daffodils and irises around the tree, removing just a few of the violets to make room for them. As the tree has grown over the years, it has become harder and harder for anything else to grow beneath it – except for the violets! 

So maybe the violets are telling us something, especially those of us who are introverts by nature. Perhaps their lesson is that we don’t need to put on a show, to draw attention to ourselves in order to be purposeful. 

As the quotation suggests – and as I discovered in my front garden! – tenacity and modesty, strength and humility can happily rub along together!

Please feel free to pin or download and print
 this 300 dpi image (for your personal use only).

PS I recently discovered that the Violet is associated with Mother's Day.

Originally known as Mothering Sunday, it fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and in the 16th Century, it was the occasion for everyone to visit their 'Mother Church', ie their nearest large church of cathedral, for a special 'Mothering Sunday' service.

Later, the idea of honoring all mothers on that same date meant that domestic servants were given a rare day-off to visit their mother church or, more often, to go home to visit their mothers, whom they probably hadn't seen for months or even as long ago as the previous Mothering Sunday. The servants would gather a posy of wild flowers along the way and the most prevalent wild flower at that time of year was, yes, you've guessed it - the violet!

This year, Mothering Sunday (or Mother's Day) falls on Sunday, 30th March in the UK.

There are plenty of Mother's Day greeting cards and gifts to choose from in my Zazzle stores but here's a link to the cards that feature the Violets.


Boriana Giormova said...

Lovely post and fantastic designs, Judy!

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you so much, Boriana - glad you like them! :)