A Violet Love Affair

Photography by Kindra Clineff

The French never really lost their affection for violets. They are known for their violet syrup, still wear violet perfume, bath in violet soap, and delight in violet candies. The perfume sometimes is a chemical smell-alike of the original eau de violet. Based on the aroma of orris root, the synthesized perfume lacks the subtle nuances of the true violet scent. To relish that scent, gardeners can plant and grow the true hardy blue Viola odorata or pink Viola odorata rosea. Even more aromatic are the tender, ultra-sweet double Parma violets—‘Marie Louise’ (dark blue), ‘Swanley White’ (white), ‘Duchesse de Parme’ (lavender), and ‘Lady Hume Campbell’ (pale blue). The demure flowers of violets blossom only in cool weather and last only a few days before fading. Then they nod their heads before setting seed (a trait that earned them the “shrinking violet” designation). But for the few days when they are prime, the sweet scent is unparalleled. Find a true fragrant French violet, inhale, and discover a fleeting scent unlike any other perfume you’ve ever experienced. Little wonder the French have been captivated throughout history by the timid flower with a rich past.