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Nature pansies are durably beautiful
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Pansies and violas are planted in the fall, and they bloom until late spring when temperatures get too hot. Without a doubt, these are the best value for your gardening dollar. They are so good that I wonder why some people don't take advantage of these colorful, workhorse-type flowers.
I attend the California Pack Trials each April and am always amazed by one group of pansies produced by a company called American Takii, located on the outskirts of Salinas.
When I pull into their parking lot, my first inclination is to stay in the car. Everyone thinks of tans and beaches when they think of California, but here it is usually cold and the wind is blowing so hard I can barely stand. More than once, I've seen company employees battling to keep their greenhouses intact.
You may be thinking that I go inside the greenhouses to see the pansies in a protected environment. While I do see them there, the ones that mesmerize me are in the field taking on this wretched climate and blooming like no others.
I am referring to the Nature series of pansies. For a decade, I have been watching these pansies stand the rigors of a cold, stiff wind and look simply magnificent. I have urged Mississippi growers to try them, but I sometimes wondered if I was alone in my admiration.
Then Jimmy Turner at the Dallas Arboretum put them in his rigorous evaluation, and he proved my opinion of these pansies is correct. They are indeed among the most stalwart performers anywhere. This doesn't mean you can run down to your local garden center and find the Nature series. But if you do find these, you'll be looking at real troopers.
In the meantime, just because the Nature series hasn't made it to your garden center doesn't mean you have to put a hold on planting cool-season color. Pull up those frozen impatiens, begonias or coleus and plant pansies or violas along with kale, cabbage and dianthus.
You've gotten a little break from cold weather, and now is the time to get it done. Work 3 to 4 inches of peat or compost into the bed prior to planting to provide a good home for the roots to get established.
Another new pansy that caught my eye this year is the Fizzy Lemonberry. This is really a mix that is predominantly a cheerful yellow with ruffled, picotee edges that are dark purple. It also has a dark blotch. The mix and berry name come from the addition of a dark purple pansy with a golden eye.
I saw a striking combination that had it partnered with the new Clear Crystals Purple Shades alyssum that I have mentioned recently. This tetraploid alyssum gives more vigor, larger flowers and awesome fragrance.
With all of the new pansies and other cool-season color available, now is a fantastic time to get into gardening. Jump on board and get your hands dirty.