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Missing Violet

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Missing Violet: Princess Mary

            Everybody loves a mystery! And no one better than the violet fancier of the XXI century!  So, join the hunt.  See if you can find 'Princess Mary" hiding in some forgotten place.  Perhaps you help to rescue her from oblivion.

            John Whittlesey, AVS Horticultural Advisor (USA) and owner of Canyon Creek Nursery (California) has brought to our attention that spring is the right time of the year to continue our work tracking down 'lost" violets. With violets blooming everywhere, we have the opportunity to become observant gardeners and closely inspect, photograph and take notes about the violet varieties that show up in our gardens, our grandmother's, our neighbor's, the local, old public gardens and most particularly, the abandoned cemeteries.

             It's well known that a number of violet cultivars of years past have disappeared from the European market and beyond. It's also accepted that the two successive wars in the first fifty years of the century, in addition to high costs of cultivation, the scarcity of knowledgeable farmers, new fashions in the area of flowers and subsequent lack of demand have greatly contributed to this situation. There is, however, good reason to believe that many of these "lost" varieties might have survived in private, long forgotten gardens and collections.

             These days, thanks to a renewed interest in heirloom flowers in general and violets in particular, and the work of aficionados and developers, several "lost cultivars" have been located and brought forward as "heirloom violets.' Case in point is the 'King of the Doubles' rediscovered in Australia and once again available to us.

             Ladies and Gentlemen: there's a new challenge before us! Let's talk about:

The case of the Missing 'Princess Mary'

of Wales

             Named after Princess Mary of Wales who became Great Britain's beloved Queen Mary, this large, lovely semi-double violet was very popular in the early part of the 20th century and considered by many to be the finest of its type. Mrs. Grace L. Zambra, owner of the legendary Windward Violet Farm (Dawlish, Devon), and author of "Violets for Garden and Market" (1950) describes the 'Princess Mary' as:

"the best seedling raised from Princess of Wales. It has large, semi-double flowers, is a splendid grower...[it] has all the merits of its parent, with the extra little rosette of petals arranged round its pistils. It should be of intense violet-blue throughout, but the centre varies in some districts and becomes shaded. It is a beautiful flower with delicate perfume."

             As of press time, we are expecting and very shortly, a rare photographic rendition of 'Princess Mary'. In the meantime, and as a first phase of this investigation, we are featuring Miss Dora Ratman's lovely illustration of the 'Princess Mary' as Exhibit 1.

             It's our hope that through the efforts of all violet enthusiasts around the world we can locate this beautiful violet, and bring it forward to enjoy it once again!

             Should you have any clues, believe you have found this violet, or have any other comment to add to this review, please write us at: 

Thank you and happy violet sleuthing!

Leads From The Investigation!

Inspectors in the field have come up with the following leads

(09/12/2000)  Norma Beredjiklian sends the following report:

             Another good and reasonable hunting area for 'Princess Mary' would be the Rhinebeck area in New York state. In his "The Complete Book of Violets" Nelson Coon indicates that he himself brought the 'Princess Mary' over from England to America in 1927. The following year, this lovely violet received a gold medal at the New York Flower Show.

(06/03/2000)  Lorraine Lobb sends the following report:

             There is an old garden near Portloe in Cornwall, England that is gradually being restored. I think the garden name begins "Hel--". It was overgrown and neglected for years. Another, rather obvious and so possibly already checked source, would be the gardens belonging to the Queen. Surely the Princess was presented with plants named after her? In the meantime, I'll have fun checking out the old, neglected and moss covered cemeteries no longer in use in eastern Ontario. I love a mystery! Ah- to stir up my "little grey cells" L. Lobb.

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