5 favorite violas These cheery bloomers light up cool days with happy colors. See some of our favorite varieties In praise of Violas The next time you stock up on seeds or cell-packs of blooming violas, you can thank people like Jason Jandrew, a plant breeder at Goldsmith Seeds in Gilroy, California. Jandrew is the man behind the latest Penny series violas. Here he tells us why these flowers make such welcome additions to cold-weather gardens. These cheery bloomers light up cool, gray days with their bright, happy colors. And with new shades and patterns blanketing nurseries now, Jandrew explains why there’s even more about them to love. Pinterest Why should gardeners choose violas? They’re a wonderful overwintering plant. You get so many flowers, I actually think they carry more color than a pansy does, especially when the weather is bad. Rain really beats down pansy flowers, but violas bounce back quickly. They’re a better landscaping option. ‘Penny Mickey’ Big dark ears behind a purple-and-white face give a nod to Mickey Mouse. What’s different about the 2009 offerings? Traditionally, violas are mostly white, yellow, and blue. This spring, we’ll have 34 colors. And now we’re starting to put blotches on the flowers, like pansies. It’s like millions of little faces looking up at you. Violas self-sow readily, and the results are pretty neat, since a lot of our violas are already hybrids made by crossing two different colors. So even if the plants self-pollinate, you can get different and interesting flowers. Self-sown seedlings show up in the fall. ‘Penny White Blotch’ This strong grower’s blotched face is a harbinger of more deeply blotched violas to come. Are violas fragrant? Yes! Sometimes I’ll lean over a flat and there it is―a light, sweet fragrance. Yellow flowers seem to have it most. ‘Penny Peach Jump-Up’ Lilac upper petals above a peach-and-white face put a new spin on the traditional Johnny-jump-up colors. Viola 101 • Give them regular water and full to partial sun (partial shade in warmer areas). • They thrive where winters are rainy and cold, growing well in all zones except the low and intermediate desert. • Find Penny series viola seedlings at most garden centers. Companies such as Park Seed (parkseed.com or 800/845-3369) and Thompson & Morgan (tmseeds.com or 800/274-7333) sell seeds of other varieties.