Smiling Pansies

    • Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs! It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.
    • Chrysanthemums can be planted in pots or flower beds for bright and cheerful flowers to enjoy this fall.
    • Look for rich, bright colors in the foliage of deciduous trees and shrubs. Japanese maples, fothergilla, snowball bush and maple trees are beautiful right now.
    • Ornamental cabbage makes a dramatic planting in flower beds over the winter.
    • Crimson clover, fava beans and rye grass will fortify your garden soil over the winter. Seed these crops as you compost your summer vegetables.

Smiling Pansies

“If a man has two pennies he should buy a loaf of bread with one, which will sustain his life, and a flower with the other, which will give him a reason to live….. Chinese Proverb

The happy faces of pansies have appealed to gardeners for centuries. Developed from three wild species, the modern pansies have large flowers, beautifully marked “faces” and a wide color range. They add color to the winter and spring garden over a long season.

Pansies are low-growing flowers that are nice for borders and look very pretty in containers of all kinds. Their heart-shaped, shiny green leaves cover the ground and the flowers rise above them on six-inch stems.

Pansy flowers can be up to three inches across and come in a wide variety of colors: violet, purple, blue, pink, red, orange, yellow, white and many new bicolors. The Matrix series is impressive with a wide color range and a no-stretch habit. Ultima Radiance Pink Pansy features beautiful pink flowers with white faces, yellow eyes and deep purple streaks. Not all pansies have faces. Delta Pure hybrids have solid colored flowers in bright yellow, red, blue, white and other colors.

Significant breeding improvements in recent years have produced hybrids that bloom longer, show better heat resistance and cold tolerance, and display a wonderful range of colors and patterns. Pansies have become more popular as gardeners have seen how well they preform through wet, wintery weather. Pansies are unaffected by a covering of snow, and pop right back when the snow melts.

They are good companions for spring-flowering bulbs. By choosing colors that compliment the bulbs you can create some very pretty living bouquets. Blooming over a longer season than the bulbs, they will fill in and provide color as the bulbs are finishing their cycle.

By planting pansies now, you get to enjoy their big, beautiful blooms all fall, often throughout the entire winter, and then again from early spring until the summer heat sets in. Ideally, plant your pansies where they’ll get some shade in the summer, but lots of sun when the trees soon lose their leaves and the weather cools. Then they’ll get the benefit of that cooling shade when the trees leaf out again in spring and the weather warms up. Remember, pansies love sun, but don’t like heat. 

Violas, which are the smaller cousins of pansies, also have some interesting new hybrids. The Sorbet series includes Lemon Chiffon, in soft yellow and white, Orange Duet with charming violet and orange flowers, and Peach Melba, with peach and yellow petals tipped with red. They are dense and neat, spreading to 12 inches across.

The flowers of all pansies and their cousins, violets, violas and Johnny jump-ups, are wonderfully edible. Use them to decorate your salads and cakes, and those tasty flowers will add color and a mild wintergreen flavor to your creations.

The “old fashioned” pansy has many new varieties to bring color to your pots and flower beds this fall and winter.

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