When I was a child my mother smelled of violets. She wore Yardley April Violets and when Yardley stopped making it my father went on a mission to hunt down any remaining bottles. As a compensation I always buy my mother violet scented things for her birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day, etc. A few years ago Yardley made a limited edition and I was able to buy some for her for Christmas. My mom is not an overly emotional woman but I think I saw her tear up.
Violets are a funny little plant. The violets native to this area are lovely but have no discernable fragrance. If you're lucky enough to find a patch of viola odorata, the sweetly scented violet, you can have one good whiff before the ionones in the plant will knock out your sense of smell for a while. Another funny thing about the violet is that the pretty purple "flower" they send up in the spring is really not the plant's true flower at all. The true flower with all the sexual parts comes up late in the summer. They're white and form at the base of the plant and are loaded with seeds. The purple flower in the spring is just for show!
Violet leaves, with their heart shape, are nice to nibble on in the spring in a salad, as well as the non-sexual flowers. A salad dotted with violets is a lovely thing indeed. Violet leaves are mucilaginous meaning that they coat and soothe tissues when taken internally. They are also known to break up cysts and masses, particular to the breast. I usually harvest leaves late in the summer just before the true flower comes out and leave them to dry for tisane.
My mom and her best friend, Pat Harvey, used to pick them when they were neighbors on the same street when they were young mothers back in the '50's. I got to sit next to Pat at a wedding this past weekend and reminded her of this. So this post is for my mom and her best friend, Happy May Day!