Early Spring Planting: Pansies and Violas

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

The weather here in Toronto these past few days has been unreasonably beautiful prompting a flurry of gardening activity on my part. My gardens never seem large enough until I have to clean them up. I have spent the last few days rediscovering all over again that, yes, gardening is a physical activity, working muscle groups that have been ignored over the long winter.

On Thursday afternoon, I detoured over to a couple of seasonal garden centres to check out where they are at with spring stock and was delighted to discover pansies and violas in new and beautiful colourways. The one that excited me most was ‘Gem Antique Shades’ a viola mix in subtle gold, lavender, and pinkish tones with some deep reds thrown in (see photo above).

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but stocking up on these old-fashioned flowers is one of my favourite spring-time activities. While they have a reputation for being old-school cheesy I find they are the best and cheapest way to insert instant colour into a bland early spring garden. Besides the very earliest bulbs and perennials, pansies and violas are one of the very first flowers to go in the soil when the weather is still chilly at night and prone to unpredictable, random acts of snow.

And they’re edible too! I start pansies alongside other early edibles like greens and radishes, throwing them all into a bowl for the first homegrown salads of the year. While the bubblegum flavoured pansy is not your best choice in a salad, most varieties tend to have a slightly sweet, hint-o’violet flavour.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I was forced to limit my purchases to one small box since I was walking and still had to make a stop at the farmers market for produce. However, I’ve already been strategizing ways to get back for another box or two before they sell out. The box I purchased was just enough for the roof but both my community garden plot and the street garden could use a colour splash.

Related Articles:

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

17 thoughts on “Early Spring Planting: Pansies and Violas

  1. Hi Gayla.

    I’m so glad you posted this today and I checked my Google Reader subscriptions before starting my own planting this afternoon. What a lovely colour treat. I agree with you about the attractiveness of the Gem Antique Shades. Do I see sum ruffled varieties in the bottom photo? I love these but they are so hard to find.

    I just got back from the garden centre. I couldn’t choose among the violas and pansies so I came home without any but now after reading your post, I think I’ll go back and look for something similar.

    Instead I came home with varieties of Renee’s seeds — lettuce, sweet peas and nasturtiums — and a few a sweet pea plants (Knee High) to get a head start since I’m a bit late sowing the sweet peas. My first lettuce seedlings (West Coast) came up today. So exciting. I sowed them on Tuesday so I’m particularly thrilled. Do they usually germinate so quickly? I’ve never grown lettuce from seed before.

    Oh, I used your toilet paper roll method for starting seedlings. Just love it. I’ll take some photos and post these on my own blog later. Thanks always for the inspiration and ideas.

    (Did you hear about our snowfall here in Vancouver last night?)

  2. Love these “old-fashion” flowers. I think they look beautiful with all the colors. It’s been really windy out here in San Francisco these past few days. I hope my strawberry plants are going to take root and get stronger fast…

  3. I’m so jealous! We’re under a blanket of snow out here in southern Alberta with winds and drifts this weekend… and it’s supposed to last till about Tuesday… boo! Anyways very pretty flowers… I’ve got tulips up only they’re buried under the snow banks :(

  4. do you know where I could buy edible violets or violet seeds? I have a recipe for violet jam but all the flowers I find growing wild (on the east coast) have no taste. In California they were sweet and smelled wonderful.

  5. You’re right that these flowers are edible, and the deer couldn’t agree with you more I’m afraid.
    I’d love to plant these but my husband says they’re just deer snacks. I do have a cinnamon-based non-toxic deer repellant spray so I guess I’ll see if that helps. Any other ideas?

  6. I love pansies. Much more so than say, marigolds or droopy impatiens. Incidentally, there’s actually a variety of orchid that has a flower that reminds me of a pansy.

  7. Violets are amazing! The endaangered Callippe Silverspot Butterfly (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) lays its eggs only on a wild species of yellow violet in the San Francisco Bay Area. How cool is that?

  8. Those pansies are beautiful! I love them as well, and agree that they really liven things up. This season I have had some success with bulbs as well. My first ones, and I’ll certainly get more for next year. I have to say, I love marigolds as well though. I have planted some from seed and I can’t wait until they are up!

  9. Who says pansies and violas are old-school cheesy? I’d say classic.

    And classic never goes out of style. :)

  10. Which garden centre did you go to Gayla? I’m pretty sure you go to Dufferin Grove farmers market? Hmm but the 19th was saturday, so maybe not. I live near bloor/lansdowne, so there isn’t really anything TOO close to me (read: close enough to walk home with the too much stuff I bought). Maybe that is a good thing.

  11. Sarafina: Fiesta Gardens. You’re right that it was a Thursday. I wrote on the 19th. I went again yesterday and they were out of this colour way but they have lots more.

  12. Thanks! I like those new ones you bought too. I was figuring Fiesta Gardens, just a matter of walking home with them…which is fine since it’s only flowers and a 25 minute walk. I carry home 30L bags of container soil from Galleria (but that’s only for 5 minutes!)

Comments are closed.