Beds Fit for Wonderland
If you’ve watched Alice in Wonderland, whenever you see violas or snapdragons, surely you’re reminded of the colourful chorus when all the flowers come to life to serenade Alice! And who can resist squishing the ‘cheeks’ of a snapdragon to make it ‘sing’?! The striking appearances of these animated blossoms make them a wonderful edging or border plant combo. Their blooms, intricate and colourful, and neither are very leggy, so will stand neat and straight along borders. Both plants thrive in cooler temperatures, tolerating frost rather than extreme heat, making them a perfect autumn or spring companion. Planted en masse, these plants produce an overwhelming colour statement, the purple and blue hued violas would look especially striking against a background of yellow and orange snapdragons. Their wonderful colour combinations enhance these flowers’ ‘facial’ characteristics, especially the ‘lips’ of the snapdragons and the ‘mouths’ of the violas.
Violas have been around since the 1860s, allowing them to be propagated into more than 500 varieties. Although they’re thought of as the little cousin of the pansy, due to their daintier blooms, violas outdo their cousins by being more floriferous bloomers. Being edible, they also add a beautiful flourish to salads.
- Location: Violas prefer to peep their pretty ‘faces’ out of more shady spots, so they will love being in the shade provided by the loftier snaps. They are herbaceous yet hardy annuals and mature at a height and width of about 15cm. Plant your seedlings about 20cm apart.
- Watering: For the best performance, water thoroughly about once a week, depending on rainfall. As it’s getting chilly, try not to wet their petals or leaves, water the surrounding soil rather.
- Care: Off with their heads! Well, dead ones anyway; allowing them to focus their energy on creating new blooms. Violas prefer soil rich in organic matter with plenty of leaf-mould or well-rotted manure, so compost before planting. If the weather is too warm, throw a nice insulating blanket of mulch over the soil around them keeping their feet cool and their faces happy. Keep an eye out for slugs, snails or aphids who also enjoy a bit of viola in their salads.
When pairing these two, opt for the medium to tall varieties of snaps in order to shade the shorter violas, as snaps prefer being planted in full sun. Snaps range in height from the dwarf varieties of 15cm up to the loftiest snaps of 120cm. Plant the green plants without blooms, allowing the plants to develop stronger roots before expending their energy on creating their intricate blooms. Find a balanced watering regime as snaps enjoy moist but not water logged soil. Don’t plant them too close together as they like a fair amount of air flowing around them, all the better to show off those multi-bloom stems.
Bacopa is a wonderful spreading plant with cascading stems covered in masses of dainty flowers. These perfect five-petal blooms are reminiscent of strawberry blossoms, with their common names likening them to snowflakes. Growing to heights of about 15 to 20cm, plant in fertile soil in full sun or partial shade.