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New trailing violas and pansies make great cool season baskets and planters.
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By Norman Winter
McCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
If you have not planted pansies in a few years, you are in for a pleasant surprise. These little troopers of cool-season color are now available in trailing selections. I visited my garden center Saturday and I felt like a kid in a candy store. Glorious trailing violas and pansies were there already looking lush and full.
Of course it was the cooler temperatures that sent me shopping in the first place. Fall is my favorite time to garden. It seems like everything from pansies to snapdragons has an enticing fragrance, and the new tumbling pansies and violas can hold their own.
They may be called spreading, trailing and even cascading, but whatever the name, you will want some for baskets, mixed containers, window boxes and the landscape, too. Rebelina violas, and Plentifall Pansies now called Cool Wave Pansies are just a couple that will open the door to a dimension in cool season gardening.
When I say dimension I am talking about the vertical element that the new pansies and viola will give. Though you probably never thought about pansies cascading over a wall, it is now possible.
With pansies and violas, bed preparation is crucial. When I was with Mississippi State University we tried a number of organic amendments and found peat incorporated with our topsoil gave the best results, even better than some that I had relied on for years.
Prepare the bed before planting by amending the soil with 3 to 4 inches of organic matter like peat, and till to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. This will help loosen the soil for better water penetration and aeration, leading to good root development.
While you are preparing the soil, take the time to incorporate 2 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer like 12-6-6 per 100 square feet of bed space. Set out plants 10 to 12 inches apart, planting at the same depth they are growing in the container. Maintain a layer of mulch to keep soil temperatures moderate. Commercial landscapers simply plant on raised beds using a prepared soil mix. At roughly $20 a cubic yard this is a small price to pay for almost guaranteed success.