'Governor Herrick' group of violets

helenaviolet(9b)June 13, 2012

I have been growing these for many years. Please, does anyone have detailed historic information about their origins and development in America around 1910? I believe 'Governor Herrick' is actually a hybrid; V.odorata crossed with V.sororia or V.cucullata. Well, that covers a big selection of actual cultivars. The end result is a lovely and interesting violet to grow. I think 'Governor Herrick' is worth cultivating and preserving as part of our violet heritage.

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I used to grow Governor Herrick and I was very fond of the large, dark hued flowers it produced even though they were unscented. I need to grow it again. Another reason I like this variety is that my favorite garden writer, the late Elizabeth Lawrence, mentioned in her book on winter gardens that it bloomed for her in winter. I know it is a hybrid of Viola odorata crossed probably with one of the species you mentioned. It's namesake was elected governor of Ohio in 1904. It has the advantage of being very resistant to red spider mites and its flowers also last longer in a vase than most other violets. Other related violets include Bournemouth Gem, Mrs. Pinchurst, Pamela Zambra, Frey's Fragrant, Explorateur Dybowski, Susan Chilcott, Royal Robe, and Royal Elk. They are certainly well worth growing if you can find them. Groves Nurseries in England offers many of them for sale but unfortunately they don't ship to the United States.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 10:09AM
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Thankyou for the information mlb86. I am curious about "Explorateur Dybowski" and wonder if anyone has a good description of it; if it is still in existence. It is springtime here in Australia and "Governor Herrick" violets are nearing the end of their flowering season. Although I have been observing them carefully I find it hard to see any difference between "Bournemouth Gem" and other violets in this group. However, some do send out long thick runners. Occasionally on a warm sunny day I have detected scent in the flowers. Surprisingly the plants are scented when you dig and divide them. V.sororias are presently in full bloom here. It is interesting to make comparisons & see the similarities with G.H.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 10:24AM
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According to English violet author Roy E. Coombs someone in Queensland may have rediscovered Explorateur Dybowski in 1996. He describes it as "giant-flowered, deep blue with metallic sheen 86A-90A. Rather narrow petals. Long stems. Rather compact habit. Resistant to red spider mite attack. Compact growth." It was introduced by Armand Millet in France in 1893. I found another description saying that it was "an unusual metallic violet colour". It is the seed parent of Pamela Zambra. Since it may have been rediscovered in your country, perhaps you can locate a source for it. I'm sorry that I can't find any more information about the possible rediscovery or the person responsible for it. Good luck, Mike

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 8:32AM
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Hello Mike,
Thankyou, your response is very much appreciated. I am familiar with the references you mentioned and wonder just where the relationship is with this group of violets. My impression is that, according to Millet's account, 'Explorateur Dybowski' was similar to 'Princesse de Galles' and similar violets he was growing. However, Roy E. Coombs places it in the 'Governor Herrick' group together with 'Pamela Zambra'. Also he describes 'Pamela Zambra' as having very long runners which adds to my curiosity because of the way some of my 'G.Herricks' do the same. The problem is that we really don't have clear accounts of violets in Australia. 'Explorateur Dybowski' may well exist somewhere in an old garden somewhere (although I doubt it) in the same way that many interesting violets have survived from early imports over a century ago. Many of the violets in my collection have been sourced from old gardens or people who have grown them as family heirlooms. My computer skills are a bit limited but at some stage I will attempt to post some pics here. Meanwhile, happy gardening and thanks again, H. :)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 12:23PM
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I wish that I could locate some more sweet violets from old gardens like you have done. Here in the U.S. John Whittlesy rediscovered Royal Elk in a California garden. I would love to find the old variety Winter Gem. I am especially interested in violets that are both fragrant and winter blooming. Tell us about the named varieties in your collection please, and I would love to see photos of any of your violets. This forum is often very quiet and it is good to see a little activity here of late. Do you happen do grow any of Carman's violets from New Zealand? I would love to find a source for Greyfriar's Bobby. Perhaps we can exchange seeds at some point in the future. I could well be wrong, but I think maybe Coombs placed Explorateur Dybowski in the Governor Herrick group just because it had large flowers and long stems that made it suitable for growing as a cut flower like Governor Herrick. I am thinking that it is their usage that links them together rather than any close genetic tie.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 3:22PM
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No idea if this will work but if it does there will be 2 pics. One, a flower, the other showing Governor Herrick leaves with a common garden variety of V.odorata. Point is that G.H. is distinct from V.odorata. The glossy dark green leaves of G.H. are easy to recognise. New varieties like 'Susan Chilcott' add to the charm of G.H. being special. I believe 'Royal Elk' and 'Royal Robe' have G.H in their make-up. Don't know but I wouldn't be surprised if 'Winter Gem' falls within this same group of violets. Sorry I don't know anything about violets from New Zealand. If you really want perfume and lovely plants look for the Parma Violets. Otherwise' old cottage garden varieties of V.odorata will turn up if you just keep asking everyone you meet. In time you will have a collection of violets which somebody's grandma grew; each one a precious thing and reminder of days gone by. If you source plants from commercial plant nurseries be prepared for a few surprises too with mistaken identities. I mail-ordered 'Princess of Wales' from a magazine advertisement once and received a neat crown of 'Governor Herrick'! Cheers, H :)

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 5:26AM
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Oops! Here's the 'Governor Herrick' flower.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 5:31AM
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Thank you so much for posting the pictures. I see what you mean about the dark glossy leaves of Governor Herrick. I knew that Royal Robe had V. sororia in it's background but I didn't know that it had Governor Herrick genes too. I love Parmas but they are not winter hardy here and my attempts to grow them indoors during the winter have not gone well. I'm not sure what the problem was. I never saw any pests, but the leaves just turned yellow and the plants died. Maybe I will have to try again. I ordered White Czar before and received what seems to be a white V. sororia hybrid with no fragrance and a later bloom season than what I am looking for. Please keep the pictures coming if possible.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 1:42PM
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I don't know why the pics look so big - I did take care to re-size them. See what happens next time. Meanwhile - 'White Czar'-? My understanding is that, for some peculiar reason, that particular white flowering form of Viola sororia has been mis-named. There was a white flowering form of the old famous 'Czar' called 'White Czar' which has been described as having lots of stringy runners and small flowers...an odorata type and not a sororia. Still, white flowering V. sororia is beautiful. Re- parmas, I have some questions about growing them which I will post separately.
As with all violets, good drainage is essential and parmas are fussy about their precious roots.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 8:33AM
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