Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home Articles Seasonal Articles Put On A Happy Face
Put On A Happy Face Print E-mail
One of the most welcome signs of Spring is a cheerful bed or container of pansies.  The versatile plants with the happy faces bring a smile to my own face every time I see them.  The color range is fantastic, from true blues, burgundy reds, sunny yellows, and pretty purples to the softest pastels.   Looking through the seed catalogs to select the pansies I want to grow is always a combination of delight and discouragement.  Delight because there is such a variety to choose from, and discouragement because I just don’t have room to grow lots of each and every one!  So, I seed as many as I can, and tuck them here and there.  It is so much fun week after week, to walk through the gardens, basket in hand, selecting pretty pansy faces to put into the flower presses.  They press beautifully, and are ready for a multitude of craft projects.  Keep their blooms bright with a light spray of a UV protectant (available at most craft stores) once they are completely dry.

Their cousins, the impish violas, look like tiny pansies, some complete with pansy-like faces and whiskers.  Violas have such common names as Johnny-Jump-Ups and Heartsease, because they are so easy to grow, and self-seed (jump up) in unexpected places!   Both viola and pansy blooms are considered to be an aphrodisiac, and are often added to salads or candied to decorate desserts.

Although many catalogs list pansies as perennials, most Hoosiers are content to grow them as annuals.  We set them into a bed in spring, and enjoy them until the our typical July/August heat does them in.  Planting them in a partially shaded spot, with soil that stays a bit cooler,  can keep them in better shape.  When they begin to look tired and scraggly, I literally chop off their heads with a pair of scissors, give them a little rest and a dose of fish emulsion, and wait for cooler weather.  They will reward such kindness by blooming prettily right up through the first light frosts.  The violas will reseed themselves rampantly, even in the gravel parking lost, or in sidewalk cracks.  Pansies do not seed as abundantly.  Because pansies have been hybridized for bigger, brighter blooms, they do not come “true” to seed anyway.  It is best to replace them each spring.

This year, I have decided to grow pansies and violas with a more romantic look:  the soft pastels in quiet, restful shades.  The trend for landscapers is "electric" pansies with  vivid clear petals--no faces!  Landscapers feel massed plantings of these brilliant pansies have more visual impact.  Well, I don’t plan to have massed plantings, and I LIKE the pansies with faces!   So, I’m seeding  “Blumlisalps”, soft pink  and rose shades with deeper rose faces,  and the light blue “Jokers” with deep blue faces.  The “Watercolor” series, which I’m also trying this year, have pastel shades in soft, antique colors, and are heat resistant

I always grow a variety of versatile violas (say that fast ten times!)--the traditional  purple, white and yellow "Johnny Jump Ups";  the apricot “Chantreylands”, the  cool “Princess Blue” and “Princess Purple”, and pure “White Perfections” for the Moonlight Garden.  “Princess Lavender” is lovely in containers with the Lemon Gem Marigolds.  My favorite is still the magical “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” Viola, whose flowers open white, turn medium blue-purple the second day, and dark on the third day, so one has 3 shades of flowers on a single plant!

Pansies and violas are great as edgers, and especially useful in containers.  Try them in strawberry jars, window boxes, or big bowls.   I love an arrangement of various sized pots filled with pansies by the front door, where they get morning sun, but protection from the hot afternoon sun.  They last all season, with weekly feeding and deadheading.  Everyone who sees their happy faces  smiles, too!