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.