The season has surely turned to fall when pansies, violas and chrysanthemums show up in garden centers, ready to make an instant hit in flowerbeds and containers. It makes me so happy to see them because they clear away all thoughts of summer’s heat and humidity.
The fresh look and lovely colors these plants bring to the garden are worth every bit of time and effort you put into them. While a few summer plants such as begonias and impatiens remain good looking, they do not possess the seasonal significance of new fall flowers. And perhaps you are a bit tired of them.
Plus, these fall flowers have staying power. Mums put into containers in place of summer flowers and given regular water should look good for many weeks. The pansies and violas will be with us for many months, probably until next May, when they will give way to summer annuals.
Pansies and their smaller-flowered cousins, viola, work well both in the ground and in containers such as large pots or hanging baskets. The choices in colors are huge, and there is something for all tastes, from white and pastels to rich and vivid tones of orange, purple and red and even beautiful color combinations.
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With a nice, mild, sunny winter, they should bloom from fall to spring with a bit of hesitation here and there.
Basically, pansies have larger, bolder blooms, and violas have more numerous, smaller flowers, all atop good-looking green leaves. They have many uses in the Piedmont landscape. Both can go solo in a bed or container or be used as an edging for a flowerbed. Pansies and violas look especially vibrant when mixed with a planting of daffodils or tulips in artful color combinations. Making these color choices is one of the delights of gardening. Do not fear that you will go wrong, because it will be beautiful.
Some gardeners may opt for pastels, and that can be lovely. Others aim for the boldest possible look. Orange pansies are popular in fall because the color seems very seasonal, particularly when combined with burgundy. How fall is that? Even so, I admire them still in spring, and they seem perfectly suited then to create a bright spot. With yellow daffodils or purple tulips, this is dynamite and easy to accomplish.
Chrysanthemums are fall’s flower and make outstanding additions to the home landscape. People tend to use them most often in large pots set on decks or patios or beside the front door.
At this stage, most are sold as well-budded plants destined to unfold over days and weeks. This is a wonderful thing to watch unfold. However, close attention to watering the plants is essential, especially while it remains more warm than cool these days. If you have a choice, give these plants cool, morning sun instead of hotter, afternoon sun. Without water, a mum will wilt rapidly, shortening its beauty. Check the pot daily while temperatures remain on the warm side. If you set the potted plant on a saucer or tray to catch water, drain it after rain so that the plant does not sit in water a long time.
Q. I see spring bulbs are in stores now. Must they be planted now?
A. No. You can shop and select your bulbs now, but late October and into November is a good time to plant them since the ground will be cooler and you will probably be caught up by then with lawn renewal and shrub planting.