Violas Make the Heart Sing!

By Kerry Ann Mendez

When I think of early color in the spring landscape, I immediately think of Violas. There are three commonly sold species of Viola: tricolor (Wild Pansy/Johnny-Jump-Up, reseeds aggressively), wittrockiana (Garden Pansy, a short-lived perennial often sold as an annual), and perennial cornuta (Tufted or Horned Violet).

I'm a huge fan of Viola cornuta. Viola was named the Flower of the Year in 2007 by the National Garden Bureau and I think this sweet, make-you-smile perennial is enjoying a strong comeback, given the extensive breeding for greater heat and cold tolerance, larger flowers and bolder colors. Tufted Violet thrives in cool weather - bursting into bloom when many perennials are still dormant. It likes a nutrient-rich, moisture retentive soil in full sun to part shade and hardiness ranges from Zones 4-9 depending on the cultivar.

Tufted Violet is ideal for containers, window boxes and dappled shade gardens. The flower marathon begins in mid-spring, continues until the heat of summer and resumes with the onset of cooler autumn temperatures. Some varieties like 'Starry Night' and 'Etain' have a sweet fragrance. All Tufted Violets are edible and make delightful garnishes or additions to salads.

Sadly, bunnies like Violas - which makes planting then in less accessible spots like pots and window boxes a plus. Those within nibbling reach can be protected with chicken wire fencing (one inch or smaller mesh) or with repellants like Animal Stopper and Shake-Away Granules.

Make plans to stop by soon to purchase one or more of these delightful perennials while the inventory lasts.