Welcome - Jim McKenney

Mike Hardman(Cyprus, 100m altitude)December 8, 2005

To save threads getting off-topic, I have copied the posting by Jim McKenney on another topic, where he intorduces himself so well.

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Posted by: Jim_McK (My Page) on Thu, Dec 8, 05 at 14:06

Dear Members of the Violet Society,

Please let me introduce myself. My name is Jim McKenney and I garden in the suburbs just north of Washington, D.C., USA. I discovered the Violet Society while Google-ing for information about Parma violets. You have no idea how happy I am to learn that so many others are working to keep violet culture alive and making sure that violets remain a well-loved part of our twenty-first-century gardens.

Although I grow some other violets (Viola pedata, V. dissecta, and of course pansies), I am currently in a very intense sweet violet phase with emphasis on Parma violets. I am trying Parma violets here for the third time. The last time I tried, over ten years ago, I grew fine plants but lost them during the winter to poor culture inside the house. Prior to that, I had tried some cultivars outside in the garden (Lady Hume Campbell, Marie Louise among others) and lost those during the winter.

This third trial has the Parma violets in a cold frame.

Although I have a fairly extensive personal horticultural library (including a copy of the first edition of the Allen-Browns' The Violet Book which was once owned by Henry Mitchell), until Google came along I was having trouble finding good information about Parma violet culture for my area. When I started to read the archives of the postings to the Violet Society, I was overjoyed to see that there are other members here in Maryland. I'm hoping that they can guide me to success with these plants.

Violets are only one of my many gardening interests. Two months ago, I put together a web site; please take a look at:


All of the images on that site are from my garden except for several of the animal images and one or two of local scenery.

I am looking forward to many enjoyable postings on this forum in the future.

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Mike Hardman(Cyprus, 100m altitude)

Yes, there's a wealth of violaphiles out here, spread around the world like a vast mycelium just below the surface, popping up fruiting bodies here and there, including Maryland/DC :)

Feel free to start a new subject any time.

Note that you can search this forum - and find out all sorts of good stuff. But old posts get progressively deleted, unfortunately. So some of the 'wisdom' is prone to disappear. Some of the search engines, however, cache pages, so even if you cannot find it by the GardenWeb search facility, google (eg) might succeed. I have found that very useful, because some of the questions I answer, I have already done so maybe a few years earlier - so I can find and repost them.

Best of luck with your Parmas.

Did you know that the Misses Allen-Brown published an earlier book? The first edition of 'The Violet Book' came out in 1913, but 'Violet Culture' came out around 1909 (not dated, but I have a copy inscribed 1909). It is also perhaps not apparent from their violet books, quite what a large range of goods they sold. My catalogue for 'The Violet Nurseries, Henfield, Sussex' for 1928-29 includes delphiniums, lavender, rosemary, carnations, sweet peas - mainly perfumed plants, you'll notice. And along the line of those scents, they sold all manner of gifts - perfumes, lavender water, violet paper, night cream, face powder, violet foam, pot pourri bowls and bags, soaps, bath sachets crystals and salts, talcum powder, hair wash, shaving stick soap and cream, liquid shampoo, brilliantine, mouthwash, dental cream, jumper holder, hose case, dress cover, dress hanger, soap and sponge bag, writing case, dress case, handkerchief holder, calendar note book, suede motor case, lingerie case, jewel case, boudoir cushion, glove box, hamper, hat stand, shopping list, and lavender sachets. Almost all of those were violet scented. Now there's industriousness for you!

I can imagine Natha and a few other folks in the shop at the nursery; what a shame it is no more...

Well, I have wandered a little, but the main point is: 'Welcome Jim'.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 6:43PM
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jim_mck(z7, MD USA)

Thanks, Mike, not only for the kind welcome but also for the generous post which accompanied it.

You've given me quite a bit of information about the Allen-Browns, their books and livelihood, all of which was new to me. My copy of their The Violet Book is dated 1913. I obtained it years ago when some items from the library of the late Henry Mitchell were sold at a local event. The book thus has a double value to me.
Although I became aware of the existence of something called sweet violet at an early age, I was in fact nearly thirty years old when I first held one in my fingers and inhaled for the first time the scent which has kept me faithful since.
And speaking of that scent, is it only the flowers which are scented? A few weeks ago I visited a garden where sweet violets grew in abundance. The night before temperatures had dropped into the low 20s F. As I approached the house, I detected the scent of violets. It was definitely there. But search as I might, I could not find even one flower. There were so many violet plants that perhaps there was a flower there which I missed. But the experience got me wondering if non-blooming plants emit the violet scent.
There are times when I am working in my garden and I catch a whiff of the violet scent. Yet when I inspect the plants, I don't always find a flower. Here again I can't be sure I have inspected every plant - they do have a way of getting around on their own and popping up in unexpected places!
Has anyone else ever detected the sweet violet scent around plants not in bloom?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 9:44PM
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Hi Jim and welcome! :-)
Yes I agree with you! Parmas are the most lovable of the violets! Anyone has experienced their perfume must be definitely conquered!And yes..I noticed that there is always a soft scent when it is not the flowering season...must be the kind of cleistogamous buds they make even if they don't make seeds..or so rarely! :-)

    Bookmark   December 11, 2005 at 1:36PM
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rob_peace(VIC Aust)

the scent of violets is pervasive and prehaps evasive, definitely presuasive! i know of one violet scented plant, though this can't have been the one you detected, jim. the white banksia roses, both double and single, are violet scented. the more commonly seen yellow variety is unscented. i knew a garden years ago where a white banksia rose had scrambled up into old apple trees. there was a paved sitting area under those trees and the smell of violets appeared and disappeared as the breeze wafted through the branches above while you were seated below. the season is wrong for this rose to be flowering for you, jim and i think it's not hardy in your region either. pity, as it's a lovely thing.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 10:29PM
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denisd_31(France 8)

Welcome Jim,
i have a few parma violets behind my windows, and now they have not any flowers because the cold temperatures, but theyre are smelling. i think the foliage is perfumed to, not only flowers.

Well Rob, unusual speaking about roses on the violet forum, but if they are violet smelling ... why not ?
Recently, I've prurchased a joung plant of Rosa X fortuniana, which is violet smelling to. Obviously it's closely related to Rosa banksia, actually it's an hybrid between R. banksia and Rosa laevigata ( Cherokee rose ).
i hope it will grow quickly and healthy, it's hardy enough in my region ( Toulouse, South-West France )


    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 4:13AM
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jim_mck(z7, MD USA)

Thanks for those comments, Rob and Denis.

Rob, you will perhaps be surprised to learn that Rosa banksiae is grown in this area. A friend grows the yellow-flowered (and scentless) form well, and he has a start of the fragrant white-flowered form, too.

Yes, many plants have violet-scented flowers. I know one plant which not only has the violet scent, but has it more than even sweet violets themselves: Sarracenia rubra. And with the Sarracenia, the violet scent is not evanescent. Check the link below to see my Sarracenia rubra plants.

Some seed pods of Viola dissecta chaerophylloides, another fragrant violet, are about to ripen here.


Here is a link that might be useful: Sarracenia Page of My Virtual Maryland Garden

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 1:36PM
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Mike Hardman(Cyprus, 100m altitude)


Glad to see you're settling in :)

Fascinating about the Sarracenias' scent!

I just remebered - there's a bit more about the Allen-Brown books at http://www.sweetviolets.net/Autumn2002/page5.html


    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 8:27PM
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jim_mck(z7, MD USA)

Thanks, Mike.

I've been reading the back numbers of the journal, and had already seen that one. Somewhere in my wanderings on the violet site I remember seeing (but where?) a photo of a book shelf full of violet books. I remember looking hard to pick out the Allen-Brown books, but now I don't remember if I saw it or not. That makes me sound a bit ditzy, but I was moving fast and went through several years worth of articles in that one sitting.

My copy of the Allen-Brown book, dated 1913, has the gold-embossed cover and spine, the rough-cut pages and the slivers, but not the advertisements.

Also, while checking my copy I noticed that the Allen-Browns list violets by the names Armadine Millet and Mlle. Armade Pages.
I have a violet received under the name Mme. Armadine Pages.
Evidently there is a naming problem here.
My Parmas will be put to the test tonight: temperatures are expected to be as low as 10 degrees F (= about -23 degrees C) tonight. Wish me (and my violets) luck!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 10:01PM
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Oh Jim!! -23° celcius!! Are your parmas still in your cold frame or are you expecting this temperature in your cold frame!?
I used to say that parmas are not so tender as stated by the ancient growers...(their main interest is that they can bloom during winter without too much heat so we are used to see them protected..)Crops did survive here during 1956 winter...but not all of them...I was told temperature were under 20°C...
The result of your test will be very interesting...Just hope this won't be a shock if they were placed in a temperate place just before...Hope they had time to get used slowly to low temperature... I know places in Italy near Udine ( cold place in winter) were the cultivar Marie Louise seems to be back to wild as it grows in a forgotten place for around 80 years...
Of course it all also depends if yours are grow in pot or in soil...
Good luck and fingers crossed!

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 4:55AM
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jim_mck(z7, MD USA)

What in the world was I thinking when I made that post about our low temperature last night!

The low was about +19 degrees F which corresponds to approximately - 7 degrees C - thank goodness not the - 23 degrees C I mistakenly cited.

The violets in the cold frame are huddled down; I won't know until things thaw out if they are OK or not. They look fine.


    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 11:04AM
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So that's OK!! I already experienced myself -8°C with my parmas..Pots just like a concrete block..and then later the most beautifull blooming season I've ever had!! ;-))

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 3:04PM
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