English violets (Viola odorata) take me back to the most magical days of my early childhood. My mother dipped them in sugar and served them to me as candy. Violets were one of the first plants that I drew through careful observation as a child. They are also one of the most difficult plants to establish in a Mojave Desert garden.
I don’t know how many times I brought home violet runners from my Mother’s garden, lovingly planted them and watched them turn into crispy paper. They didn’t make it by a drippy faucet that was protected from wind. They died under the shade of my fruit trees no matter how much mulch or water I gave them. I was worried that I would never get them to grow. Then, this little patch took root and grew. So far it has survived and even spread a little for about two years now.
So what is different about the microhabitat where this little patch of English violets survived? It is in a little spot on the northern side of my home that never gets direct sun. It gets a lot of roof runoff during storms. A thick layer of gravel and an adjacent cement slab protect soil moisture from rapid evaporation. My house and nearby rosebush protect it from wind.
I wish I could tell you how often it gets irrigation, but I recently found out that my room mate screwed up my observations by secretly tending to some of plants over my stern objections. (So much for figuring out which plants do or don’t need to be planted in irrigated zones). The violets may or may not have benefited from a little extra unauthorized water. I do know that when I first planted the violets, I watered them daily. After a month or so, I tapered watering off to about once a week during summer. Perhaps if I figure out how to lock the faucet, I might be able to provide more information on irrigation needs a year from now.