I first planted pansies sometime in the mid-nineties. My mother had gotten to a point where she could no longer manage her beloved gardens. At the same, she still loved to sit and read at her breakfast room table and glance towards the bed that she had always planted in pansies each fall.
My wife and I decided that my mother needed those pansies to watch during the winter. Growing pansies in Mt. Airy, NC in the soil that my mother created in her gardens is not really a challenge. We did little more than stick the pansies in the ground with a little Osmocote fertilizer and water to get them started. Then the rich garden soil at 347 West Pine Street handled the rest. In the late spring when the pansies started getting "leggy" we would pull them out and replace them with wave petunias which never did as well.
We did our Mt. Airy pansy planting expeditions a few times before my mother moved to Roanoke with us. She still loved flowers but there was no window where she could watch them grow in the winter.
How the pansies did over the cold months was always a reflection of our winter weather. The Mount Airy pansies always did better than our mountain pansies which often had to endure extended periods of snow. Some winters were very hard on the pansies, and then the deer problem got exponentially worse in Roanoke. It became impossible to grow most flowers and even tomatoes. As soon as a bloom would appear, the plant would be pulled out of the ground.
That was a double hit to me since pansies were often the winter cover crop for my tomato bed in Roanoke. Not long after we gave up growing pansies in Roanoke and started praying for Robin Hood and some archers to free us from the deer, we found a place to winter and summer on the North Carolina coast.
During our hiatus in pansy growing, our daughter in Northern Virginia became very accomplished at turning out a beautiful crop of pansies.
This year we planted pansies at the coast for the first times. In spite of one of the coldest winters in memory, they have thrived and provide us with a touch of color even on the coldest days. Fortunately my daughter in Reston, Virginia did not have time to plant pansies this fall. The extreme winter that they have seen would likely have done in the pansies.
Our pansy patch is one of the first things I see on my morning rounds. If it is a cold morning the pansies will look somewhat subdued, but just let the sun shine on them for a few mintues, and they perk right up.
So far we have not been bothered by deer or pansy eating critters so we have gotten full enjoyment out of our pansies. Even if the deer were not around in Roanoke, the weather there has also been too severe. I recently classified the snow in our yard there as igloo snow. I think it is fair call since you can cut blocks of it.
In the end I have to say that while our winter on the coast has been tough, even with some snow on the ground, it has not been so cold as to impede the growth and blooming of our pansies. That alone means things would have to get a lot worse before winter can claim victory here in Coastal North Carolina.
With recent signs of warmth and a day of sixty degree temperatures in the forecast, I am looking forward to a pansy growth spurt which I hope is the first sign that spring might be working its way towards us.
Pansies have become a canary in the cage for our winter weather. If we can grow great pansies, we can probably handle the winter in the area.