IN MY NORTHERN GARDEN it is pansy-planting time, meaning the nurseries are filled with flats of pansies and violas, and I, hungry for some color, want them all. Sound familiar? But I have chosen three: two stalwarts I use year after year and one newcomer called ‘Terra Cotta,’ a member of the Angel Series. Angels or otherwise, I have strict rules for using violas and pansies—do you want to hear?
Rule No. 1: I like pansies and violas best when they are used in low bowls like the ones pictured here, and I have made a practice of buying terra cotta bowls large and small over the years to accommodate this propensity.
Rule No. 2: I like one variety of pansy or viola per bowl, thank you.
Rule No. 3: I will happily make an occasional exception to Rule No. 2 if we are talking about combining two solid-color pansies or two solid-color violas that look good together. (I am in charge of all the rules, including what I deem looks good together; see Rule No. 4.)
Rule No. 4: The Doggie’s Dinner School of combining plants does not fly here. I like wild color combinations, yes, but not a couple of these and a few of those and oh, yes, I had four of this left over from somewhere, too, so I think I’ll put them all in one pot. Pansies (and even more so the violas) are small flowers; create a statement by keeping it simple.
Space your plants perhaps 4 inches apart, so they fill in fast (they don’t last once summer arrives, so you want two months of quick, dense color). And don’t plant so high so high in the bowls that watering will be a nightmare; leave headroom. The flowers will stretch above the rim once they get up and growing. By the way, my repeat choices are the violas ‘Blue Bronze’ (3-4 inches high, from the Velour Series) and ‘Black Delight’ (from the Sorbet Series, and a bit taller at about 6 inches. ‘Terra Cotta,’ my current obsession (thank you Andrew and Bob at Loomis Creek Nursery) gets to 4-6 inches high.