Well, the frost zapped Grumpy's coleus and zinnias, so now I need cool-weather flowers to bloom out front that will give me nonstop color for months and months. And I know just the plants to do it -- 'Sorbet' violas.

Compared to their cousins -- pansies -- violas are smaller, more compact plants with flowers about half the size. They more than make up for the size difference, though. For one thing, violas produce many more flowers than pansies do, literally covering up the foliage. They offer a huge variety of solid and mixed colors, many blooms displaying the trademark "whiskers." Finally, they hold up much better than pansies to adverse weather, including, heat, cold, snow, and rain. In much of the South, they'll still be blooming at the end of May, long after pansies have pooped out from the heat.

May I Offer You Some Sorbet? There are lots of viola mixes out there, so why does Grumpy favor 'Sorbet?' Years of growing them in my central Alabama garden has certified them as proven performers. They do great in containers. They do great in the ground. And the color combinations are simply terrific, such as the purple-and-orange 'Sorbet Orange Duet.'

emViola 'Sorbet Orange Duet.' Yowza! Photo:

Plant Now Now is the perfect time to plant violas. Start with transplants from your garden center. Clip off any faded blooms. Plant them in a sunny spot with blessed with fertile, well-drained soil. Next, give your violas a drink of water-soluble, bloom-booster fertilizer to get them off to a good start. Their roots will grow all winter if you're lucky enough to live where the soil doesn't freeze. (I am. Hah! Eat your heart out, Des Moines!) This will give you even more flowers next spring.

Because viola flowers are edible, lots of people like to add them to salads for extra color. I don't, because I think pretty blue, purple, yellow, orange, and red flowers ought to taste like candy. Viola flowers taste like leaves. So I say, leave the violas in the garden. If I want more color in my salad, I'll drop in a pack of Lifesavers.