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Like love, violets gladden the heart

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Wenlock Edge Violets have a built-in nostalgia, a belonging to something that is always fleeting and longed for

A century and a half ago, when springs were different, the poet John Clare wrote: “All bleaching in the thin March air / the scattered violets lie.” (March Violet). He may have meant violets growing under withered and bleached nettle stems, but for me, today, there are shining white violets “bleaching” on the hedge bank in one of the last cold, grey, “thin” mornings in March.

Even though there are beautifully subtle violet violets scattered in the mossy shadows under trees and through the emerging leaves beneath hedges, the eye is drawn to the white ones. I wonder if bees prefer white violets to violet-coloured violets? The more common forms have ultraviolet markings on their petals called bee guides, which look like veins filled with iodine and must be as vivid as rope lights to insects.

Related: Senses stirred by blackthorn’s snow

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