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New pansy, violas ready for fall planting season
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Pansy and viola planting season is one of my favorite times of the year, and it is evident that many of you feel the same way. I was at a garden center the other day and saw several landscapers loading up dozens of these plants.
This will be a great year for pansy lovers, as I have already seen more Purple Rain than I saw all last year. We may not need rain now, but we can all use some Purple Rain. The Purple Rain is a mounding, cascading pansy perfect as a border plant in the landscape or ideally suited to baskets, planters and window boxes.
Its dark purple color with hints of blue in the center make it an attractive choice for gardeners. Beds that I have watched the past couple of years showed this pansy reaches heights of 12 to 18 inches without a leggy look. They almost look like a small pansy hedge.
As you plant them, consider incorporating yellow daffodils. Another good choice as a companion plant would be the Mississippi Medallion-winning Purple Bouquet dianthus, a tall cut-flower variety that is sure to win you over.
Another new pansy in the market this year is the Ultima Morpho, and I've been happy to see it already in our area. It is an All America Selections winner unique with its shades of blue combined with yellow and even a little orange. I think this is one of the prettiest pansies I have ever seen.
At the California Pack Trials I saw enough pansies to make my head spin, but this one caught my eye and held my attention. The Morpho name comes from an endangered tropical butterfly with the same colors.
Last year I told you about a new selection called Colossus with flowers larger than Majestic Giants. The demand could not keep up with supply, and they never made it to our area. This year I'm happy to report I have found them at more than one Mississippi Grower, so there should be a few around. I believe you will like how these perform in the landscape as they position their flowers more upright for all to see.
The Colossus caused quite a stir in the marketplace, and now Sakata Seed of California has debuted Majestic Giants II. It is doubtful these will be here this year, but you never know. These flowers are even larger and more improved than the regular Majestic Giants. Another new variety for next year is a series called Dynamite. These looked larger than all the other pansies, but I admit I didn't measure.
The viola that caused the biggest stir at the pack trials was one called the Penny Orange Jump-up. We had the Penny Citrus Blend last year, but the Orange Jump up is one I predict will be loved for years to come. It reminds me of a bright orange flower with burgundy mouse ears. I also fell in love with the heirloom look of the Sorbet Antique Shades.
Before planting, prepare your beds with the addition of organic matter. This helps loosen the soil for better water penetration and aeration leading to good root development. Soil improvement is a continual process, and organic matter is equally important in sandy soil.
Sand is made up of the largest particles, allowing for quick drainage and the leaching of nutrients. By adding organic matter, you improve the soil's water-holding capacity, and it can retain the nutrients the plant needs.