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Enduring Panolas sweep Ohio trials
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The name Panola says it all: this rugged fall- and winter-bloomer combines the best characteristics of pansies and violas.
A 2000 Mississippi Medallion award winner, the Panola swept the awards from other pansy-type crops in recent Ohio trials.
When the Panola was designated the Mississippi Medallion award winner, there were only six colors and a mix. Today the series boasts 18 hot colors and six mixes.
New in our market is the Panola Fire. It is mahogany red and has a yellow flame appearance that will start off small and enlarge as we head toward next spring. That's right -- spring. Panolas offer exceptional winter hardiness and amazing heat durability for a pansy-type plant.
Also look for the Autumn Blaze mix and Panola Clear mix. The Panola Clear features flowers without blotches and new colors including rose, scarlet and sky blue, which are not yet available in single colors.
The Panola has inherited the best features of its parents. The flowers are not as large as a pansy's but are larger than a viola's. Plants will grow 6 to 8 inches tall. They are prolific bloomers that may have dozens of quarter-sized flowers at one time. For this reason, they deserve a place in the landscape and in containers on the patio or deck. The sheer number of flowers produced makes them every bit as showy -- even from a distance -- as the pansy.
Choose a site in full sun to partial shade and set plants out in October and November for the prettiest displays. Before planting Panolas, prepare the bed by tilling in 3 to 4 inches of organic matter to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. While tilling, incorporate 2 pounds per 100 square feet of a slow-release, 12-6-6 or similar fertilizer.
Plant the Panola at the same depth it is growing in the container. Planting too deeply will most likely prove fatal.
Preparing the soil and adding organic matter is the key to successful growing. One of the easiest ways to prepare beds for any flower is to buy the specially prepared landscape mixes from the local garden center. You've most likely seen public buildings, apartments and malls with some of the prettiest displays in what was a horrendous summer. Landscape specialists buy these special blends by the cubic yard, and you can, too.
Organic matter helps loosen tight clay soils for better water penetration, aeration and root development. Organic matter is important on the Coast and in other locales that have sandy soil. Sand is made up of large particles that cause quick drainage and leaching of nutrients. Organic matter improves the water-holding capacity and helps retain vital nutrients.
Temperatures may still be warm when planting, so make sure to keep the Panolas watered and apply a layer of protective mulch. Panolas are also heavy feeders. Feed monthly with a light application of slow-release fertilizer. Feed those grown in containers every other week with a diluted water-soluble fertilizer. Periodic deadheading will keep the flowers coming.
Panolas combine well with flowering kale, cabbage and snapdragons. Interplant smaller-flowered spring daffodils like Tazettas or Jonquils as you plant the Panolas. By the time the foliage of the daffodils emerges, the Panolas will have grown much larger.
For a show-stopping display, plant a large group of single-colored, 24-inch-tall snapdragons, such as yellow Sonnets or Crowns, to the back of the bed with a mass of the blue Panolas in front.
I remember well the debate over whether or not the Panola should be a Mississippi Medallion award winner. It really wasn't a debate. The concern was that these delightful flowers would still be looking good when it was time to dress up the landscape for spring, and gardeners would be reluctant to pull them.
Get some Panolas this weekend and you may enjoy six or seven months of great bloom.