Many gardeners chafe at the idea of splurging for flowers that may not last more than a month in the ground. However, if planted in fall, pansies can last up to eight months, from September to April or May, providing fall and spring color. That's a pretty good deal.
Pansies aren't attractive in the middle of the coldest winters. In fact, they can look downright pitiful (unless they're buried under snow). But they're just biding their time until spring, when they hit their stride. The bonus for keeping them around is that the spring bloom is usually much more robust when the plants have been in the ground since fall.
The pansy gets its name from the French word pensée meaning "thought". It was so named because the flower resembles a human face nodding forward as if deep in thought.
Pansies have been bred in a rainbow of colors, ranging from gold and orange though to purple, violet, and a blue so deep as to be almost black.
The Pansy or Pansy Violet is a cultivated garden flower. It is derived from the wildflower called the Johnny Jump Up (Viola tricolor). Many garden varieties are hybrids. The name "pansy" also appears as part of the common name of a number of wild flowers belonging, like the cultivated Pansy, to the violet genus Viola.
When newly opened, viola flowers may be used to decorate salads or in stuffing for poultry or fish. Soufflés, cream and similar desserts can be flavored with essence of violet flowers. The young leaves are edible raw or cooked as a somewhat bland leaf vegetable. Flowers, leaves and roots are also used for medical purposes, being rich in vitamins A and C.
The name Panola says it all: this rugged fall- and winter-bloomer combines the best characteristics of pansies and violas.
The Panola has inherited the best features of its parents. The flowers are not as large as a pansy's but are larger than a viola's. Plants will grow 6 to 8 inches tall. They are prolific bloomers that may have dozens of quarter-sized flowers at one time. For this reason, they deserve a place in the landscape and in containers on the patio or deck. The sheer number of flowers produced makes them every bit as showy -- even from a distance -- as the pansy.