Now is the perfect time to plant Pansies and their smaller cousins, Violas. Pansies and I have a long history. My Mother, from whom I inherited my love for gardening, planted a long border of Pansies every year. Back in the 1950s she bought them in strawberry pots, the same container in which the berries were sold then, roughly the size of a modern four inch pot made of a skinny wood material.
These pansies were field grown, dug up and sold in nurseries. She planted the Majestic Giant variety for their large flowers with cheerful faces. There are tons of wonderful new hybrids, the Deltas, the Mammoths and the Dynamites for instance, but I still like the Majestic Giants. For clear faces, the Crown series comes in an array of colors and for Violas the Penny series are best. Because Pansies and Violas are already starting to bloom, it’s easy to select your own favorites.Later in life I was still growing Pansies and my friend, Bob Smaus, the now-retired former garden editor of the Los Angeles Times, embarrassed me by writing in one of his widely read articles, that I grow long thumb nails during Pansy season. I confess I still do because one of the two most important factors in keeping Pansies blooming is to dead head them (remove the spent blossoms) regularly and I have never found a more efficient pinching tool than a strong thumbnail. The second important factor to keep Pansies blooming is regular feeding. Pansies are hungry plants and the more you feed them the more they will bloom. I feed every other week using our own product, Rogers Flower Food, the best fertilizer for blooming plants I have ever found. Because my garden soil is the kind of adobe they build houses out of, I grow most of my flowering plants in pots. There is no better pot plant than the Pansy family. Violas in pots and solid colors, then placed in clusters, also make a stunning display. Most people don’t think of Pansies as cut flowers, but I was lucky enough to inherit a low flat bowl to spread them out with their prostrate faces smiling up at the ceiling. Almost any flat bowl can be adapted for this display technique. In keeping with my own traditions, I just finished planting 12 large pots of Majestic Giants and I know I can count on them blooming from now until hot weather arrives in June.