Plant Heartsease For World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Heartsease, or Johnny Jump Up (Viola tricolor)

Heartsease, or Johnny Jump Up (Viola tricolor)

If subtropical gardeners sow seed of ‘Johnny Jump Up’ this week, they will be flowering just in time for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15th June 2014.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) recognises the work carried out by the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit and its Helpline 1300 651 192, which offers support, advice and referrals for elder people who are experiencing abuse from their children.

WEAAD has chosen the colour purple to represent their mission worldwide because ‘purple denotes wisdom, dignity, independence and creativity’, and they asked me to nominate an easycare, purple flowering plant that people can grow now to flower in winter in time for the 15th June to celebrate their international awareness day.

I nominate Heartsease (Viola tricolor), an old-fashioned, much loved annual. Also known as Heart’s delight, Tickle-my-fancy, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, and Come-and-cuddle-me, this flower has been much loved for brightening winter and spring gardens. Heartsease varieties which most resemble the wild European ancestor are sold in Australia as ‘Johnny Jump Up’, although there is a wide range of alternative colours, plus its modern large-flowered descendants, the pansy (first developed in 1839) come in a variety of colours, including many shades of purple.

Did you know?

Did you know Heartsease flowers are edible? The flowers have a long history in herbalism and for making dyes, but they can also be eaten. Carefully wash the flowers and remove the green sepals behind the flowers before adding them as a garnish to meals. Try adding Heartsease, Calendula and Nasturtium flowers to a mixed salad, it’ll be beautiful and even more nutritious.

The foliage is a different story, and potent extracts from leaves are used to treat a range of ailments, including cancer. No nibbling the leaves!

If you sow some Johnny Jump Up now, they will just start flowering in time for 15th June. Green Harvest sells Heartsease seed on line. You could also plant seedlings anytime between now and then, most garden centres sell seed, seedlings and flowering plants from now until spring.

Growing tips

Find a sunny spot that receives six hours of morning sunshine. Dig the soil to loosen it up. Fork in some well rotted compost, cow or sheep manure, or mushroom compost. Sprinkle half a handful of dolomite per square metre over the surface, lightly raking it in. Plant 10 – 15cm apart, mulching the soil thinly with a layer of chopped sugarcane, and water deeply.

I’ve managed to keep Heartsease flowering in my Brisbane garden for over a year. The most important cultural tips are:

* Protect from hot afternoon sunshine;

* Keep soil damp;

* Do not overfeed. A fortnightly application of seaweed solution is sufficient;

* Keep plants flowering, removing dead flowers twice weekly;

* Prune, shortening stems of leggy or straggly plants back by 2-6cm. This rejuvenates tired plants, encourages bushiness and further flowering. You can propagate new plants by rooting these cuttings in potting mix;

Name: Heartsease, or Johnny Jump Up (Viola tricolor);
Height: 10-30cm;
Sun/ Shade: prefer sun all morning;
Sow: March to May;
Plant: March to July;
Feed: fortnightly with seaweed solution;
Care: deadhead regularly, lightly clip back to rejuvenate plants;

Enjoy a little heart’s ease this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Jerry Coleby-Williams
27th April 2014