Pansies Main Subject of Winter Flower Beds

yellow 'Giant' pansies

yellow ‘Giant’ pansies

A multicolored flower bed is the horticultural antidote of choice to the dull gray skies of December.
Snapdragons not only are flowers for fall and winter but also distinctive annuals that will last through spring as well. The irresistibly charming, lightly ruffled blooms of these annuals are available in white, pink, yellow, red, maroon, orange, mauve and purple. Three sizes of snapdragons are available: dwarf types that reach no more than 6 inches tall, medium size varieties that grow to around 1 foot, and giant snaps that reach 3 feet in height. The taller types make excellent cut flowers.
Snapdragons are not without problems. First among these is their tendency, especially when planted around this time, to lie dormant for two or three months after one wave of blooms, eventually bursting into a prolonged spell of flowering.
Snapdragons are also susceptible to rust fungus and worms, so look out. Either of these maladies, if detected early, can be brought under control with pesticides available at any nursery or garden center.
Another multicolor flower currently available is bedding gazania. This decorative daisy is found in yellow, orange, salmon, mild magenta and pale purple. Annual gazanias are best suited to full-sun locations and should bloom steadily, as long as faded blooms are regularly picked off, for the better part of a year. Annual gazanias are found at the nursery in quart-size containers or six-packs, as distinguished from perennial ground cover gazanias commonly grown in flats.
As opposed to snapdragons and pansies, which grow in both full and partial sun, gazanias require unobstructed sun to reach their complete floriferous potential.
Pansies are the mainstay of the colorful winter flower bed. The yellow pansy is especially vibrant and it contrasts well with its blue or purple relatives. Orange and purple pansies also make a striking combination.
For patio and up-close container plantings, rose-colored pansies are a good choice, even if their color is barely visible from a distance. White pansies, in the opinion of some, look like so many bits of brown paper when they fade and should therefore be avoided. White pansy protagonists, on the other hand, swear there is no more eye-catching combination than white and yellow pansies all along the walkway to the front door.
Sometimes pansies die almost as soon as they are planted. There are several fungus diseases that can devastate pansies nearly overnight. If your pansies are wilting for no apparent reason, then you can conclude that a fungus is the culprit. Do not plant pansies where they have just died. If you do, you will see your new planting wilt as well. Avoid planting pansies where you planted petunias or annual vinca last summer only to see them die soon after planting.
Apparently, the same fungus that results in the untimely death of petunias and vinca is responsible for the early demise of pansies. Finally, do not plant pansies in the same spot year after year since pathogenic fungi build up in areas where pansies – or many other annuals, for that matter – are habitually planted.
Turning to the shady flower bed, English primroses would definitely be the choice for colorful relief from the December garden blahs.
English primroses are those brightly colored flowers in red, pink, blue, purple, and white growing out of rosettes of sea-green lettuce leaves at shady entrances to upscale commercial buildings. Primroses are somewhat pricey and must be babied for maximum effect. They absolutely require a well-drained soil that has been prefertilized. Make sure your fertilizer contains iron as primroses are notorious for developing chlorotic, yellowed leaves when iron-deprived. Primroses are also magnets for snails. Any primrose planting should be accompanied by a side dressing of snail bait.
TIP OF THE WEEK: The best fertilizer for getting green fescue grass (such as Marathon and Medallion) this time of the year is ammonium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate is highly concentrated and will easily burn a lawn if improperly applied. Sprinkle the fertilizer lightly over your lawn and water it in immediately. If you do not mind getting wet, wait for a rainy day to apply ammonium nitrate. That way, the fertilizer will immediately begin dissolving upon application and the danger of burning your lawn will be greatly reduced.

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