If you've been reading my garden blog for a while you may know how much I like to start plants from seeds and how much I like black flowers and plants. At one time I wanted a completely Gothic garden, I still do actually, but that hasn't come to pass. This year I started Viola 'Blackjack' from a pack of Burpee seeds and eagerly anticipated having these beautiful "black" blooms decorate the container garden. Now, I should mention for all the budding black plants enthusiasts out there that "black" plants and flowers are usually just a deep purple or blue. Sometimes, as in the case of Viola 'Blackjack,' there will be some color in the bloom.
This week, after what seems to be an eternity, the Viola 'Blackjack' seedlings have bloomed and I'm a little more excited about flowers than one grown man should be. Not a completely black flower, but pretty close and good enough for this wannabe Gothic gardener.
A closer look at the velvety dark petals of 'Blackjack.' The center of the bloom is made up of blue, white and yellow.
The Burpee seed pack that my Viola 'Blackjack' seeds came in. Do the blooms on the package look like the blooms pictured above? Perhaps I'm just too persnickety when it comes to black flowers and plants, but the blooms on the picture don't look like the blooms I'm growing. First, the blooms on the Burpee seed pack look a lot darker than mine. Secondly, the blooms on the seed pack look larger and the plants, overall, more compact. Now the plants being more compact doesn't really bother me, I prefer flowers that extend beyond the foliage because they're easier to photograph. If you grow plants from seeds you should expect some variance from what's pictured on the seed pack. That being said, 'Blackjack' doesn't really look like the picture at all. 'Blackjack' looks surprisingly similar to the 'Bowles Black' viola I grew from seed a couple of years ago.
An internet search for Viola 'Blackjack' will lead you to Burpee's website where this viola is no longer available so the only reference I have is the seed pack art. Cook's Garden, also owned by Burpee, has a page for Viola 'Blackjack' but the picture is obviously Viola tricolor.
Growing Viola 'Blackjack'
I sowed my viola seeds in early April because viola seeds germinate better in cool conditions. The instructions on the seed pack say to sow them in full sun to part shade and sprinkle them with 1/4" of fine soil and to keep the seeds evenly moist. Instead of covering the seeds, which are tiny, with soil I covered them with a thin layer of coconut coir, which stayed moist longer.
Here is a photo of my Viola 'Blackjack' seeds after they sprouted. On the left is a lone cotyledon and on the right a row of violas showing their first set of true leaves. While the instructions say to sow the seeds in full sun, I don't think that's the best location for these seedlings as they develop. I sowed two pots of 'Blackjack' seeds and they remained pretty much as pictured above for about two months.
As the container garden on my deck grew this spring the seedlings found themselves shaded and all of a sudden they started to leaf out and are now in bloom.
Another photo with my index finger to provide scale so you can see how small the blooms are. Also, notice how the coloring is different than the blooms pictured above. Sometimes companies will Photoshop dark blooms to make them darker. I'm not saying that this is what Burpee did for the art on the cover of their seed packet, just a general observation. Blooms and plants will also look different depending on the amount of sunlight that is hitting a bloom or leaf. The pictures of the viola at the top of this post were taken on a sunny day while the photo of this bloom were taken on a cloudy day.
While Viola 'Blackjack' is not as dark as advertised the color is dark enough that I would recommend growing it in a garden of black plants and flowers.