Periwinkle - witching violet
Periwinkle (Vinca) - a genus of creeping shrubs or perennial grasses of the Kutrovy family (Apocynaceae) The leaves of periwinkle are distinguished by their amazing strength and vitality, keeping a fresh look even under the snow - that is why the periwinkle has become a symbol of vitality, transferred from the forest to gardens and parks.
It is known that antiquities periwinkles were widely used in "magic". The ancient Celts endowed the periwinkle with protective properties and called it "witching violet."
In Austria and Germany, periwinkle wreaths were used for divination by marriage; hung over the windows, they protected the house from lightning. Flowers collected between the Assumption and the Nativity of the Virgin had the property to drive away all evil spirits: they were worn on themselves or hung above the front door.
In the Middle Ages, in court, with the help of a periwinkle, they checked whether the accused had any connection with the devil. Wreaths of small periwinkle (it was called the "violet of the dead", since they wove wreaths on the graves), hung above the entrance, helped to find the witch. The periwinkle owes all these magical properties to its amazing vitality - it lives as long as there remains at least a drop of water in the vase (and the other flowers of the bouquet have long dried out), and if it is removed from the vase and stuck in the ground, it will quickly take root.
Description of periwinkle
About 6 species are known in nature, originating from Europe, Africa, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. Periwinkles are perennial creeping, evergreens with oppositely arranged, leathery, shiny leaves.
The flowers are solitary, located in the axils of the leaves. Funnel-shaped corolla with a long cylindrical, thin tube. The fruit is a leaflet.
Features of growing periwinkles
All periwinkles are stable and reliable plants.
Location: in open ground conditions they are not demanding, they tolerate both strong shading and bright sun, although they prefer shady and semi-shady places.
The soil: the soil is not picky about soil, but grows better and blooms longer on fertile, loose, well-drained soils with a neutral reaction, for example, on tree-trunk circles of apple, pear, and cherry.
Care: Periwinkles are very responsive to fertilizing with organic and mineral fertilizers. As fertilizer, it is better to use humus, compost or leafy soil. For better tillering, pinching of old and young shoots is necessary. It is winter-hardy, but young shoots are sometimes damaged by spring frosts. It is advisable to cover pubescent periwinkle for the winter with a small layer of leaf.
Breeding: division of the bush, cuttings, less often - seeds. Landing is carried out in late August - early September or in spring; the distance between plants should be 20-30 cm. Cuttings quickly take root, and in early September, well-developed plants are planted in place. Young plantings for the winter should be covered with a small layer of leaf.
The use of periwinkle in design
Periwinkles are used as decorative deciduous and beautifully flowering plants in rocky gardens, as groundcover in shady places of parks and squares. Spectacular in wide borders.
Periwinkles are excellent groundcover plants. A small periwinkle, for example, is capable of forming extremely dense homogeneous carpets. Once having seized the bridgehead suitable for him, he already does not concede it to anyone. Only new conditions can “hesitate” it, for example, a sharp change in illumination.
The periwinkle cover is well decorated and at the same time, uncooked bare slopes are strengthened. It can be adjacent to shrubs here, without interfering with their growth, and it will simply "flow around" dense needles. A periwinkle can act as an ampel plant, hanging from a retaining wall; it has a neighborhood of stones.
Variegated forms are able to serve as colorful spots in the foregrounds of flower beds, solo along with flowering perennials and shrubs, create background thickets at the foot of higher plants.
Types of Periwinkles
Large periwinkle (Vinca major) This large unpretentious species, rising above the ground to 30 cm in height, grows in southern Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa. Evergreen leathery leaves are large, up to 5 cm long. Light blue flowers reaching a diameter of 3-4 cm appear in May-June. It tolerates partial shade.
The plant grows rapidly and is able to cover large areas of the hill. This species is usually planted in separate curtains. Bred varieties with yellow and whitish leaves. In winter, this type of periwinkle is better covered with a spruce branch.
Periwinkle (Vinca minor) Frost-resistant and unpretentious view, which is usually recommended for beginner hobbyists to breed. His homeland is Europe and Asia Minor. On fairly long shoots there are oblong dark green leathery leaves that do not die off in the winter. It blooms in May and until mid-June. The flowers are blue, single, large, up to 5 cm in diameter. Small periwinkle is used as a groundcover, capable of rapidly growing and covering large areas.
Old leaves die off slowly, so bald spots do not appear in a continuous cover. With good care, it blooms again in August. It tolerates trampling. In folk medicine, tannin-containing leaves are used as a diuretic and hemostatic. Garden forms with white, pink and purplish-red flowers are bred. The leaves of some varieties may be silvery, yellow at the edges or even variegated.
Pubescent periwinkle (Vinca puhescense) It is found in the wild in the coastal forests of the western Caucasus. Roots well when in contact with soil. It blooms in May and June. Flowering shoots rise above the carpet formed by stems and leaves. Single blue flowers up to 3-3.5 cm in diameter look beautiful against a green background of foliage.
Long flowering - 20-30 days. Leaves fall in the fall. In winter, the plant is covered with a layer of litter, as young shoots are damaged by severe frosts.
Grass periwinkle (Vinca herbacea) The native land of this species is the Crimea, the Carpathians, the Caucasus and the European Plain. Annually forms long, up to a meter or more, creeping shoots with small leathery dark green leaves. It does not form such a dense cover as a small periwinkle.
Blooms with blue flowers in mid-June for 20-25 days. Prefers dry, well-lit places. Does not tolerate excess moisture in the soil. At the end of summer, the tops of shoots take root.
The history of the discovery of the medicinal properties of periwinkle
The XIV All-Union Congress of Therapists, held in 1956, paid special attention to the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. In this regard, in recent years, work has been carried out in a number of research institutions and at departments of medical and pharmaceutical institutes in the search for new effective means for treating these diseases.
Despite the successes of synthetic chemistry, plant preparations still serve as the main means for treating heart diseases, with plants containing cardiac glycosides being the most important and most numerous group.
Of the representatives of the kutra family of our flora, the periwinkle attracted attention. A.P. Orekhov and his associates in 1934 isolated vino and pubescin alkaloids from the pubescent periwinkle - Vinca pubescens. In the same year, it was found that vinca extract and alkaloid vinin significantly lower blood pressure. These alkaloids were also found in the small periwinkle, and in 1950 a new vincamine alkaloid was isolated from it. These alkaloids are close in structure and action to the alkaloids of Rauwolfia. And even reserpine (Rauwolfia alkaloid) was isolated from the pink periwinkle.
Ursolic acid and other active substances are found in some periwinkles. In the grassy periwinkle - V. herbasea, in addition to alkaloids with hypotensive activity, the presence of rutin was revealed. In the treatment of hypertension, rutin is often prescribed along with antihypertensive drugs, so the natural combination of these substances in a grassy periwinkle is of great interest for further study of it as a transverse medicinal plant.
The pink periwinkle (Vinca Rosea Linn L.) contains antitumor alkaloids that have a cytostatic effect. Of these, vinblastine, vincristine and vinorelbine are classified as vital and essential medicines.
The use of periwinkle in traditional medicine
Periwinkle has been used in medicine for a long time, it was mentioned as ancient medicine by the ancient authors Pliny the Elder and Dioscorides. In China, pink periwinkle is part of the recipes for treating hypertension. In folk medicine of the Caucasus, periwinkle is used as an astringent, hemostatic, wound healing and blood purifying agent.
In scientific medicine, vincamine is used as a hypotensive alkaloid. Small periwinkle is often bred in gardens and parks as an ornamental plant, and varieties with golden and silver-motley leaves, as well as with double flowers, are bred. They grow it mainly in the borders of flower beds. Periwinkle gained great popularity at the end of the 18th century, after Jean-Jacques Rousseau mentioned it in the well-known autobiographical work “Confession”.
The fame of Rousseau's book was very great, everyone read it, and with it the fame of periwinkle grew. Many wanted to admire Rousseau's flower and rushed to the botanical gardens, to the mountains and copses, looking for a blue periwinkle with evergreen bright foliage. After the death of Rousseau, in his homeland in Geneva, a monument was erected on a picturesque island in the middle of a lake, and at the foot of it, his favorite periwinkle was planted.
The unfading greens of the periwinkle and its exceptional vitality attracted attention back in the Middle Ages. Miraculous power was attributed to him, considered him a symbol of eternity and constancy. At a time when superstition reigned, they believed that it protects from the power of the devil, all evil spirits and from the evil wiles of witches.