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New super-sized pansies look impressive for fall
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
If you think bigger is better, you'll be excited to hear about the varieties of pansies and violas arriving at garden centers any day now. The super-sized pansy is especially impressive.
Two years ago it was the Colossus, then last year the Majestic Giants II. This year the monolithic award goes to XXL, which obviously stands for Extra Extra Large.
With all of the available varieties, you have to know there is a color -- clear or with blotch -- that will suit your palette. There are so many selections available that it is easy to see why pansies (and their cousins, the violas) are the premier cool-season flower.
Sakata Seed alone has around 150 choices based on color or size. They take cold like no other flower, excel as a garnish and, in fact, are edible.
No matter what your choice of pansy, bed preparation is crucial. It seems that many winters it just stays wet, almost never drying out. For this reason alone we must work organic matter into our soil to allow for maximum aeration and drainage.
In trials last year at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs, you could stand several feet away from a plot and pick out where peat had been used as the source for organic matter. It simply allowed the flowers to perform better. In places where no organic matter had been incorporated, the flowers literally drowned. So do a good job here before shopping.
When planting pansies and violas, be aggressive and mass-plant them in large quantities. At the time of planting, interplant with spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils. Use smaller jonquils with violas, or Johnny Jump-Ups and larger daffodils like King Alfred with the new super-sized pansies.
In addition to the large pansies, keep your eyes open for Purple Rain. This variety is still so popular that demand surely will outpace supply. Purple Rain is a mounding, cascading pansy that is perfect as a border plant in the landscape. It also is ideally suited to baskets, planters and window boxes.
The coloring -- dark-purple with hints of blue in the center -- makes Purple Rain an attractive choice for gardeners. Beds I have seen showed this pansy reaches heights of 12 to 18 inches without a leggy look. They almost look like a small pansy hedge.
Since its debut as an All-America Selections winner, I have felt that Ultima Morpho was the most beautiful pansy in existence, but new this fall and equally stunning is Ultima Radiance. To be honest, the whole Ultima series is loaded with some of the most beautiful colors imaginable for the cool season.
The Panola garners the award for longevity, with performance lasting longer into the spring season than any pansy or viola. This Mississippi Medallion Award winner is now available in 22 colors and nine mixes, including a scarlet that will take your breath away.
I'll share more of the exceptional new pansy varieties as we head toward fall, but let this be your first warning: pansy season is almost here, the colors are terrific and you'll want plenty of them. So get your soil prepared!