September 22, 2012

PLANTING FALL PANSIES FOR WINTER COLOR

TODAY I PLANTED PANSIES AMONG THE FALL CROPS IN SOME OF MY RAISED BEDS.  WONDERING WHY? READ ON.....



Nothing says that it is springtime more than the appearance of bright colored Pansies, but why would anyone want to buy and plant them in the fall? You may have noticed pansies and other annuals available for sale at your local home center and wondered 'why pansies in the fall?". It's not that unusual to see pansies showing up at garden centers along side pumkins and mums, as traditionally, pansies were always planted in autumn - the idea of a spring planted pansy only came about in the mid 20th century.Fall planted pansies actually perform better than spring sown plants in much of the US and UK. If you live in Zone 5 or higher, I suggest that you try planting some this fall - both for late fall color, and hopefully, a spectacular show in the early spring.




PANSIES MAY SEEM ODD AS A FALL FLOWER, BUT  THERE IS NOTHING NEW ABOUT FALL GROWN PANSIES


Full Disclosre - The Home Depot  sent me some pansy plants to test in my garden, but many of you already know that I have already started my pansy seedlings a month and a half ago, so now we have an opportunity to try a side-by-side test. Some carefully selected new pansy varieties ( an ever-blooming variety called Cool Wave™, a creeping addition to the already popular Cool Wave™ brand of commercial pansies, and my heirloom varieties of Viola x.


COOL WAVE™ PANSIES FOR FALL PLANTING FROM THE HOME DEPOT - BIG BOX STORES ARE LEARNING FROM OUR GREAT GRAND PARENTS - PANSIES ARE BEST WHEN PLANTED IN THE FALL



 I love pansies,  but only in the spring - seeing pansies in the fall is still a hard sell for me, but as a winter bedding plant in California, they make terrific sense, and here in New England, a cold frame or hot bed of winter pansies is more traditional than most any other flower - it's just become a lost tradition, since at the turn of the century, pansies and violets were perhaps the most popular winter and early spring flower.

In the 1800's and 1900's,  over-wintered pansy plants were considered to be superior to any spring-purchased pot, in fact, in 1900, it would be hard to find a hot-house grown plant. Our modern spring 6 packs were a convenient invention designed for the impatient gardener eager for some quick color. The problem is that plant rarely get a chance to establish deep roots and significant bud count before hot weather ends the whole show. Thanks to new breeding advances, and nurserymen who are hungry for additional fall sales beyond mums, pansies are beginning to show up at stores. I don't care where you get your pansies, your local farmers market, heirloom seed varieties, exhibition varieties or commercial ever-blooming hybrids - I just would like you to try some this fall, and see what happens.





The Home Depot pansies arrived today and I planted them aside my smaller, seed-raised pansies in two raised beds, side-by-side. The variety Cool Wave™ is a trademarked selection, but don't be afraid of trademarked plants, these are simply plants that have had millions of dollars of research invested in them,  propagated either vegetatively or via cell division,the carefully crossed seed is then guaranteed to be consistent and uniform. Seed is made available to growers to growers who then grow plugs - small plants which are then passed onto mid-tier growers who  'finish them off to blooming size', and then they distribute them to local retailers. It's a business model that allows regional growers to carry regional plants across the country. You may think this is ugly, but I simply consider it agriculture - well, floriculture actually, and it is much better than the alternative methods once used. We all want to inspire new gardeners who have little time to start their own plants, and this is the best method. I support fall planting, it more economical for growers, and, it is environmentally better - fewer winter greenhouses being heated for decorative plants.


THE HOME DEPOT PLANTS WERE GROWN IN 4 INCH POTS, WHICH MADE FOR A LARGER PLANT THAN MY SMALL HOME GROWN SEEDLINGS. I EXPECT THAT THEY WILL PROVIDE MORE COLOR RIGHT AWAY, WHEREAS MY HOME GROWN PLANTS WILL NOT START BLOOMING UNTIL MARCH.




 Honestly, I don't  know the specifics behind The Cool Wave brand, but assume like many trademarked varieties, they have been selected for their unique genetic code that makes the super-bloomers. This is so common today that most every petunia, impatiens or cleome has been modified to have a gene missing that would typically signal the plant to stop blooming as soon as a seed pod was formed. Most likely a pansy was found that have ever-blooming characteristics in a field of Gillions, and then bred against super-blooming varieties.

CHINESE CABBAGE AND PANSIES MAKE FOR AN ATTRACTIVE VEGETABLE BED



What this supposedly means for us home gardeners is a pansy that will not only continue to bloom all fall, it will form a well spreading plant that marketers dare call "ground cover pansies". I'm not sure about that sort of performance here in my Zone 5 garden, but I expect to get some great late fall color, and hopefully, some winter or early spring color. If you live in Zones 7 or higher, these would make great handing baskets plants. I am going to try to grow these Cool Wave pansies the old fashioned way as Zone 5b gardener, I am on the borderline of outdoor success with hardy winter pansies, so I will try some floating row covers to help them survive and see if I can get a super early spring display. Basically,I am going to grow these pansies in much the same that my mom and dad would have grown their seed raised coldframes varieties, but under remay fabric hoops.

 I have planted my Cool Wave pansies in a raised bed in which they are currently sharing space with some Chinese Cabbage, and a few late autumn crops of Lettuce and Swiss Chard.  This is the same bed in which I have successfully over-wintered Polyanthus Primula seedlings and plants, and the same bed in which I grew winter-sown Shirley Poppies earlier this year.

I am not exactly following  the press sheet which was included with these Home Depot pansies, simply because I don't totally agree with what it suggests. There is nothing wrong with the directions to plant for fall color, but I am not interested in fall color from pansies, so I am 'enhancing' the method in which I am growing mine. In case you are wondering, the sell sheet advises one to grow these pansies in patio containers for quick fall color, or mix them with other Home Depot all plants like Lavender and mums - but really. Mums, lavender and pansies? Meh. That's a bit like fish, chicken and beef all in a single stew. It's just wrong.
NIGHT TIME TEMPERATURES ARE DIPPING INTO THE 40's, WHICH MEANS THAT EVERY DAY, I  AM MOVING PLANTS BACK INTO THE GREENHOUSE TO AVOIDE THE MAD RUSH ONCE FROST THREATENS. PANSIES, AND CHINESE CABBAGE CAN WITHSTAND THESE COLD TEMPERATURES.



I would never advise that for many reasons, aside from the obvious one. But these Cool Wave promise to be incredible pansies, as pansies go, and, as pansies go, I suggest planting them in your raised beds aside the carrots for late fall or hopefully early spring color with some protection, or, in a sold bed in volume- 50 plants in a triple row along side a side walk, or near the foundation of your home where it is sunny in the winter. I would not plant them in containers, nor would I mix them with traditional fall plants.

Cool Wave Pansy plants are available now at your local Home Depot - I say go buy a hundred or two, and make me look good! seriously, look for them through mid-October. I encourage you to try any pansy or viola - even in containers with lavender if you have absolutely no taste. Hey, it's your garden - go experiment.If you live, as I do firmly in Zone 5, also try them as an option for spring annuals and bulbs.

If you are interested in raising your own from seed, it's too late so you will have to wait until next summer. Pansies themselves are easy as transplants, but they can be terribly fussy when seed raised. An August sowing, transplanted out in October will produce the best plants for spring bedding schemes,but one must use cold resistant varieties in the north. Many gardeners leave the exacting regimen of seed grown pansies to the experts, and I concur. Seed for these ever-blooming hybrids is costly, so it is best to leave such projects for the experts. If we all support the purchase of fall pansies, perhaps we will see more available in the future.



My Official Disclosure Statement

In case you are concerned, from time-to-time, the Home Depot has asked me to try and test some plants for them. I am not getting paid beyond being supplied a few plants for free, and believe me - that is not a reason for me to get free plants - have you seen my greenhouse? I have only agreed to participate in this for three reasons. I am passionate about plants, and I want you to be able to get the best plant results from plants that you can find anywhere,  second, because although I am often critical about big garden centers.

 I also understand that in order for them to change, they need good, honest feedback as well as encouragement to try new things. I make a great horticultural compass, as I can both grow these plants side-by-side my own plants, and I can test these for you. Three - I feel an obligation to support all plant breeders, commercial growers as well a retailers as they try to react to a customer who is often terribly misinformed. Believe me - there is a lot of bad and incorrect info out here being cycled around by other gardeners and honestly, by some other blogs - so as a plantsman, I want to share my thoughts.


The Home Depot Disclosure Statement 
The Home Depot partnered with bloggers such as me to help promote Cool Wave™ Pansies. As part of this promotion, I received the products for free. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about the products. The Home Depot believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. The Home Depot’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations. 

2 comments :

  1. I've planted pansies for fall in containers and without my intending they overwintered and bloomed in spring. I like the idea of planting fall pansies in my perennial beds so there is more color in early/mid spring as the perennials are emerging. These would complement the bulbs I already have.

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  2. So funny! here in balmy Victoria BC Pansies are fall winter and spring colour. I plant a big bed of them along the walkway in Oct and they look pretty all winter, then early spring arrives and we have a MASS of colour. I also do moss hanging baskets of them to keep the colour going..... oh you poor gardeners in the cold..... ;)

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