The mating calls of toads and frogs began when the first spring rain beat down on my garden pond. Now that it is October, the pond has quieted. Summer annuals are on their way out, and now it’s time to think about pansies and violas.
Pansies have four petals pointing up and one petal pointing down, whereas violas have two petals pointing up and three petals pointing down. Pansies generally have larger blossoms, need all day sun to bloom well, and perform much better when old blooms are pinched off every week or two. This practice is commonly called deadheading. Violas have smaller blossoms and prefer full sun, but they can manage with a bit less. Although important, viola bloom production is not as dependent on regular deadheading.
Both pansies and violas provide color beginning in October and continuing well into spring. Violas will often last longer into the spring, especially when shaded a bit by trees that are in the process of leafing out. Some gardeners spend a few dollars to fill a couple of pots with pansies and violas while others spend hundreds, creating blankets of color.
Pansies that will be viewed from a distance are best selected from a distance. This can easily be accomplished while still in the parking lot of the big box store or when walking up to the nursery. The process starts as soon as the flower selection is within view. Stop and look at — not flowers — but color. What colors do you notice first? Close your eyes almost all the way. Look again. Use this visual information to guide your selection of plants that will be viewed from a distance.
While light colors show up well from a distance, dark-colored flowers show up well against light backgrounds. Combining pansies and violas with contrasting ornamental cabbage and kale provides another opportunity for striking color combinations as well as contrast of height.
It is important to know that too much water is the cause of death for many pansies and violas. They absolutely do not tolerate “wet feet.” Always use a well-drained potting medium in a well-drained pot. Consider mixing garden soil into flower beds before planting to improve both soil and drainage. Pansies and violas that wilt due to overwatering are difficult to bring back to life. The good news is, however, that pansies and violas that wilt due to lack of water will almost always stand back up after receiving a drink!