Make no mistake about it; if you have ever thought a viola couldn't dazzle like a pansy, then you haven't tried ColorMax. ColorMax is a relatively new series of viola coming to us from Sakata Seed that has completely shocked me with its flower power. It is a maximum show of colors with these violas.
I am the ultimate pansy and viola lover almost to the point of saying I have never seen one I didn't like.
ColorMax comes in 10 colors and a mix, and it's hard to pick out a favorite. The clear yellow is so prolific I would hardly be exaggerating when I say it can be seen from a mile away. Just think I am saying that about violas and not giant or mammoth sized pansies. Speaking of giant, Sakata is the same company that brings us the Majestic Giant.
Icy Blue, Popcorn and Lemon Splash are also must-have plants in your cool season landscape. While these flowers are larger than many other viola selections, the quantity of blossom is impressive. As you might expect, the plants reach 6 to 8 inches tall with a spread of about 10 inches. ColorMax violas are very cold tolerant and transplant to the garden with ease.
Select a site in full sun or partial shade with organically rich soil. If organic-rich and fertile doesn't sound like your soil, don't fret. Over the last 20 years, most gardeners I have talked to are plagued with a tight clay or heavy soil. Clay particles are the smallest of all soil types; because of their small size, they are easier to compact, keeping out not only water but also air.
So we have choices such as going with a landscape mix like the commercial landscaper or working in organic matter, your flower success starts at ground level. By incorporating organic matter like humus, compost or peat into native soil, good things start to happen. Organic matter helps loosen the soil for better water penetration and aeration leading to proper root development.
Here in the Savannah area, there are a lot of gardeners with sandy soil that seems to drain like a wire basket. In this situation, the same organic matter helps hold water and nutrients. Remember soil-improvement is a continual process.
For a show-stopping display, plant a large group of single-colored 24-inch tall snapdragons such as rose-colored Sonnets or Liberties to the back of the bed with a mass of Clear Yellow or Lemon Splash ColorMax violas in front. Or reverse and use yellow snaps in the back and Icy Blue or Berry Pie ColorMax violas in front. Use them also in mixed containers with colorful foliage plants like Lemon Ball sedum, Red Giant mustard or Redbor kale.
No matter where you live there is a season for pansies and violas. In the South, that season is now. As you shop, keep your eyes open for ColorMax the most exciting new viola series in years.
(Norman Winter is director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him at: @CGBGgardenguru.)
(c)2017 Norman Winter
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