Six Tips for Cooking Up a Visual Feast with Fall Flowers


Image of fall flowers such as pansies and violasYou’ve seen those cooking shows on TV that challenge chefs using the same ingredients to create tasty dishes to please a panel of snarky food critics. For example, on the Food Network show Chopped, four profusely sweating chefs nervously make something out of a basket of mystery ingredients before time expires. Usually, the contestants come up with four distinctly different dishes.

In that same spirit, apartment properties often use the same ingredients to spruce up their landscapes. Fall flowers such as pansies and violas (which are essentially little pansies) are traditionally used to transition the landscape from summer lushness to fall spectacular.

A lot of property managers tire of pansies and look for alternative fall flowers because, more often than not, the property down the street is planting them as well. But the reason that pansies are so popular is because they bloom longer and perform better than anything else. In fact, they can be covered by six inches of snow and bounce back.

So how does one apartment property, using the same fall flower ingredients as other communities, separate itself from the competition? It boils down to presentation, with an emphasis on color choice and arrangement.

Here are six tips to help you whip up a visual feast with the tried and true, yet often underappreciated, pansy.

Start with a Recipe

As with any kind of flower installation, you need to have a plan that details what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you want your fall flowers to be a stunning up-close focal point or do you want them to grab the attention of somebody driving by the apartment property?

Select the Right Ingredients

If you’re looking for a stunning up-close presentation, use a mixture of different colors, and even add some accent plants. An assortment of many different sizes, colors, and shapes offers residents an eye-pleasing experience.

To catch the attention of passersby, pansies should be planted en masse in the same color, like bright yellows and oranges. Avoid darker colors, like purple. A mass of dark purple pansies looks like a mound of dirt from afar.

Add Texture to the Dish

Kales and cabbages are great accent plants that do well in the winter. Neither blooms but they provide a nice contrast to pansies or violas.

Spice Things Up with a Variety of Sizes and Colors

Pansies come in a number of varieties but the two primary types are those in the solid-face and Majestic series. The solid-face series, with Crown being the most common variety, blooms in one color. The Majestic series has bigger blooms with a black, 50-cent-sized spot in the middle.

Size matters, and bigger blooms aren’t always better. The variety with the dark spot in the middle tends to wash out in a mass grouping, so going with a small bloom in one color is often more eye-pleasing from a distance.

Pay Attention to Time and Temperature

Mid-October is a good time to plant fall flowers, but make sure the threat of hot summer weather is over and that the plants are in the ground before freezes start. Prepare the soil with a mixture of compost, sand, and expanded shale for good drainage. If the soil is too wet, pansies can develop a fungus. Treat the tilled area with a fungicide soon after planting.

Consider the Amount of Sun or Shade for the Presentation

Violas do far better in the shade than do pansies. Violas will stay more compact and bloom much better. And because they are basically the same plant, it’s very easy to match them up with pansies that can tolerate more light.

Even though other apartment communities are likely using the same fall flowers for ingredients, property managers can stir up a completely different recipe by following these simple tips. Whether up close or afar, pansies and violas are the perfect ingredients for a beautiful fall display.

What’s your recipe for using fall flowers to create a visual feast? Are pansies the main ingredient?



President, Earthworks

author photo two

Chris Lee is President of Dallas, Texas-based Earthworks, which specializes in multifamily housing landscaping. He is a contributing author to Landscape Management magazine, licensed irrigation specialist and a Toro Intellisense certified technician. Chris studied business at the University of Arkansas from 1990-94 and horticulture and landscape design at Tarrant County College from 1999-01. He has been employed at Earthworks since 1998.

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