For sheer decorative purposes, nothing beats pansies and Johnny jump-ups. They are so absurdly easy to grow that there is almost nothing to say about them, except this: they do need regular water, so make life easy on yourself by buying a potting soil intended for hanging baskets. Ask about this at your locally-owned, independent garden center, which is staffed by people who actually know something. They will point you to one or two potting soils that you’ve probably overlooked a hundred times. These specially-designed soils contain coco fiber and hold water much better than ordinary potting soil.
Otherwise, growing violas requires zero expertise. They will put up with sun or shade, they are surprisingly cold-hardy, and available almost all year. (The new “ice pansies” even bloom through frost.) And they will behave like a perennial—just shear back leggy growth to force them to rebloom—although you would be forgiven for tossing the spent plants on the compost pile and buying a fresh six-pack every few months. They’ll grow in any kind of container—think strawberry planters, hanging PVC pipes with holes drilled in them, vertical garden frames, or “gutter gardens”—a length of old gutter, filled with soil, with holes for drainage, suspended from wires or attached to a fence. It’s a cool way to grow herbs, strawberries, succulents, and other plants that don’t have much root mass.
The ice cube trick also works with pansies, but here’s another garnish idea: Make a very thin slice of lemon or lime, and cut a pansy so that a little bit of the stem is attached to the flower. Pull the stem through that little space in the center of the citrus slice (the hole left behind by the “central column,” if you know your citrus anatomy) and float that in a cocktail glass.
photo via Territorial