This section is from the book "Beautiful Gardens - How To Make Them And Maintain Them", by Walter P. Wright. Also available from Amazon: Beautiful Gardens: How To Make And Maintain Them.
We cannot do without these lovely flowers. They bloom so long and profusely, their flowers are so pretty and bright, their habit - especially in the case of Violas - is so good, that they are almost indispensable.
Florists of the old school will give preference to the Pansy, on account of the great size, perfect form, and rich markings of its blossoms; but flower gardeners will centre their affections on the Viola, because of its bushy habit, floriferousness, and clearly defined colours.
The Viola is an edging and carpeting plant of the first rank, and any disposition to "improve" its flowers at the cost of its habit merits only failure. It is, however, so clearly recognised that habit stands before mere texture and marking of bloom, that it is not likely that the cross-breeders will be encouraged to go far astray. Their work hitherto has been admirable. They have given us increased size and brilliancy of flower without in any way sacrificing the habit of the plant.
Fig. The Clock Tower, St. Anne's. Dublin. From a Water Colour Drawing by E. A. Rouie.
Now that the Rose is being given its rightful place as a garden plant, and is no longer a mere instrument of cup hunters, Rose beds are better furnished than they once were. Violas make a charming carpet for them, and so far from doing harm, probably make full amends for what little food they abstract from the soil by checking the evaporation of moisture. It is generally better to employ them in broad bands than to patchwork small quantities of different colours in the beds.
To ensure vigorous plants, and a long flowering season, early planting should be practised. March is not too soon, as the plants are hardy, and, being of a moisture loving nature, the spring rains will do them good. Plants put in then will be in bloom early in May, and will flower almost continuously until October if the blossoms are picked regularly. Should a long spell of dry, hot weather make the plants look a little shabby, a close clipping with shears - which may embrace the older growth as well as seed pods and flowers - followed by soakings of liquid manure, or fresh compost, will start them going again, and with new shoots will come a fresh crop of flowers. The more persistent the gathering of the blossoms the longer the plants will last.
Violas may be planted up to June, but if they must perforce be put in late a showery period should be chosen, and mulching practised. The plants will thrive in most soils, but if the land is light it will be wise to add cow manure liberally.
The large-flowered Pansies are perhaps rather exhibition than garden plants, but there are several selections of Pansies which are well worth growing in the garden, and they come true from seed. They can be had in blue, purple, chestnut, crimson, white, and yellow from most of the larger seedsmen. To get strong plants for early blooming they must be raised the previous summer, but there is no difficulty whatever in flowering them the same year from a February or March sowing in a cold frame - indeed, the author has had them in bloom in June when thus treated. If a particularly fine seedling should show itself it may be perpetuated by striking cuttings.
All Pansies and Violas are easily raised from young basal shoots, drawn off with a few rootlets attached, and inserted in sandy soil in autumn. They are hardy, but a cold frame is the best place for them. They will make little or no growth during winter, but should be looked over occasionally for brown aphis.