On the case with Grandma’s violets (subtitled: it is hard to find the perfect groundcover).

I see it was only a little over two years ago that I gave the death sentence to Rubus pentalobus (commonly called the orangeberry plant because few of us can recall its proper name) and chose Grandma’s violets as a ground cover instead. In fact they are more likely to Mark’s great grandma’s violets because they date back to the 1880s house site and have gently survived paddock conditions there ever since. Once divided and planted into the garden, they have taken off with alarming vigour. Sweetly scented and charming though they are in flower, they were starting to overwhelm everything in their path.

Last year we tried thinning the patch and it was a surprisingly difficult task because the violets had formed an impenetrable mat. I figured this year it would be easier to dig the entire patch and replant small divisions. Digging is only difficult when the ground is heavily compacted or with a blunt spade. Using a sharp spade, I cut the violets into squares as one does with turf. Each square was easy enough to lift.

I raked over the bare soil to level it. Some of the clumps I had dug fell apart quite readily, giving me small divisions to replant immediately. Others, I pulled apart as required, spacing at around 15cm intervals.

There was a large surplus of violets. Not every plant is precious. This barrowload (one of several) is destined for the compost heap.

A final topdressing of compost feeds the soil, reduces water loss from the poor stressed plants and makes the whole area look more attractive. There is an open verdict here as to whether I want to persist with a groundcover that looks as if it will need drastic digging and dividing every year. I will make the call next spring.