Having found lists of obscure/obsolete color names and rounded out the alphabet with a few simply-charming-to-me colors, each day, I’ll introduce a color and a swatch I’ve painted and then write about whatever comes to mind as I muse about the day’s color. Fair warning, my mind is a non-linear traveler, so who knows where my contemplations will take us.
G is for… Gridelin – grayish violet (from the French, literally meaning flax gray)
I’m enchanted by flowers – I can hardly look at them enough, marveling at how they reach for the light, how they unfold their petals, how they produce such beautiful scents, how they invite bees and butterflies to drink deeply of their nectar and dust themselves in pollen. It all seems so magical and proof of the goodness of the universe.
I have a special love for violet-colored flowers. And what finer example than Violet herself? A perfect Spring-time harbinger.
There are over 400 varieties of violets in the Viola family, but the wild violets are my favorite. They’re curious creatures. They often produce flowers both in late winter/spring and again later. In Spring, they are fully formed and sweetly scented, and this is how we likely picture them. But these flowers are mostly barren. Later, they produce very small “insignificant” flowers, quite hidden among their leaves, and these produce lots of seeds. The Violet also propagates itself by sending out runners, and these, in turn, grow roots and become new plants without the necessity of seeding at all.
There are two suggestions as to how Violet got her name. The more mundane suggests it derives from Vias, meaning wayside, which is where the flowers often appear. But the Latin word viola derives from the Greek name Io. And it is said that Zeus, wary of Juno’s jealousy, turned his beloved lover Io into a white heifer. Because Io found it unpleasant to have to graze on what was available, Zeus created violets, especially for her.
I have always been amused by the expression, “Violets are God’s apology for February.” But it does make my heart happy knowing the violets will be coming.
Besides being delightful for their appearance and fragrance, violets also have long been important in the herbal arts. They were often thought to cure hangovers, and ancient Romans sometimes wore head wreaths made from violets for just such purposes. Greeks used the plants to induce sleep, calm anger, and strengthen the heart. With their typically heart-shaped leaves, the doctrine of signatures suggested they were useful in the treatment of heart conditions. Violets also contain a great deal of natural sugar and have earned a strong position in the culinary arts. They’re crystallized, made into syrups and marmalades, and of course, simply enjoyed as decorative additions to salads and confections.
In Victorian floriography, the language of flowers, violets connoted modesty, virtue, affection, and innocence. As one of the flowers that herald Spring, I think that’s a lovely association. We tend to think of Spring as bursting with vibrancy, but it’s always a gentle transition into that all-out exuberance, and violets are quiet and genial way-showers.
It’s not only the flowers I love. I can’t help but think that in the color spectrum, violet has the shortest wavelength and the highest frequency. There’s something very magical about that. The connection of violet to the spiritual realms and moving from the borders of seen to unseen are pronounced.
What about you? Do you love violets, or does your heart belong to another flower? Interested in the language of flowers? Ever eaten violets? Do tell – you know I’d love to hear.