Are there any further surprises in store? Another unexpected snowfall, a sudden Ice Age, a plague of toads? I don’t care, I simply can’t wait any longer for my annual pansy purchase. Being a fool for violets of all kinds, I’m especially keen on pansies, and as early as possible in spring. Garden centres and almost every corner store are flooded with so many choices in size, petal shape, colour and style that it’s quite hard to make choices. I could buy some of everything, but admittedly my planting venues are finite. I plant pansies in containers where I can give them the moist organic soil they prefer; not the ground where I would have to wait weeks longer for ideal planting conditions.
This spring I was looking for ruffled pansies, which until recently have been inconsistently available. The older Victorian-style Chalon Series, with dark colours, white petal edges and almost crimped ruffles, have been further hybridized to include a broader colour range, and include ‘Chalon Improved’, ‘Chalon Supreme’, and ‘Super Chalon Giants’. You might also find ‘Can Can’, ‘Contessa’, and possibly other ruffled pansies I haven’t yet discovered. I can’t say what the differences are between these newer cultivars, but I do notice that they aren’t as deeply frilled or ruffled as the older Chalon Series. Some are better described as wavy (not truly ruffled), and as is often the case in plant breeding, one characteristic is minimized when another, such as colour range, is increased. With all ruffled pansies, the petal edges are more deeply frilled when grown in cooler weather — below 12°C — consequently they’re ideal plants for a cold Canadian spring.
This week I found ‘Frizzle Sizzle’, a Viola x wittrockiana hybrid, and I’m a happy gardener. Perhaps more thought could have gone into the name… But what’s in a name, when a pansy incorporates so many charming features? The breeder, Kieft Pro Seeds in the Netherlands, describes these three-inch (8-cm) flowers as fringed, but that’s not how they appear to me. I think they’re deeply waved and ruffled. I won’t quibble over semantics, particularly when their darkly blotched and whiskered faces are bouncing before me, in gorgeous plumy burgundy, bright blue, raspberry-pink, apricot-orange and yellow bi-colour blends. And did I say that they’re fragrant? Bless us and save us, but these are gorgeous pansies!
Edging the lawn
Clouds of stone dust from nearby construction severely curtailed maintenance activities in my garden last summer. Now the neglect is all too obvious and much work is necessary to dispel the Tobacco Road appearance. I need some quick magic to distract from the overgrown and dishevelled state of affairs. Containers of pansies certainly brighten the place, but my big trick is to give the lawn a three-inch (8-cm)-deep, razor-sharp edge. A clearly defined edge immediately organizes the space and makes a clean and well-kept impression (regardless of what chaos is going on in the beds). Some gardeners wait until the beds are clean and all is orderly before putting the finishing touch of an edge on the lawn. But I edge first and then carry on with cleaning, feeling some relief and encouragement from the instantly improved appearance. The short blade of a half-moon edger isn’t sufficient to cut a deep edge; I use a standard blunt-end spade to cut down along the lawn.
There is a practical reason to edge the lawn as early as possible in spring. You may notice persistent, perennial weeds are actively growing under the last vestiges of snow—they laugh at frost and thrill to the early spring sun! Those that spread by underground rhizomes have been pressing forward to colonize new territory while gardeners are still clustered inside the window, watching for the weather to warm up. My worst weeds are creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), yellow avens (Geum aleppicum) and creeping speedwell (Veronica filiformis), all shallow-rooted and rampant in the beds, and rapidly moving by root or seed into the lawns. Cutting a deep edge to the lawn is a good way to intervene in the early expansion of these armies, as I crawl along behind, attempting to rip and plunder their reserves. When order is restored to the beds and all is clean and tidy, I finish by overseeding the lawn and covering the grass seed with one-half-inch (1-cm) of peat moss. The deep edge on the lawn keeps the lawn seed in the turf, preventing it from straying into the beds. A sharp line around the lawn is a wonderful thing!
I’m glad you stopped by Making a Garden, and hope you’ll visit again next week.