Cooler weather this coming week means now is the time to plant pansies and violas. In my mind, these plants, while grown the same way, generally exhibit much different flowering characteristics. Here is the general rule, the bigger the bloom size the fewer blooms in the very cold months. So in my garden in tough conditions of full sun and strong winter wind, I like to plant violas, as I consistantly have some flowers through most of the winter months. However, if I have a sun pocket or a semi-shaded space that is somewhat protected, I have sensational pansy blooms most of the winter. There is a new group of pansies called ‘Cool Wave’ that is supposed to have the same flower toughness as violas, but I have not tried them. I think one of the keys to success is planting and caring for the plants before the night temperatures are consistantly below 32 degrees. By doing this, it can assure that when spring comes you have a profusion of beautiful flowers and some flowers all winter. All these plants like well drained soil but like moist soil,too, so prepare your soil so that it drains well. But remember, they need watering during dry periods. Full sun is great, but they will do fine in part shade, too. I like to place them in areas where the winter winds are minimal. Also it is important to fertilize pansies until cool weather sets in. I typically use a liquid fetilizer that is for annuals about every two weeks. Leave the mulch off to allow a slow cool down of the soil until the night temperatures are consistantly in the 40’s. Then, I like to tuck pine straw around the plants instead of bark. Lets hope our winter temperatures will allow our pansies and violas to give us a show all winter and spring.