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On Gardening: ColorMax violas offer months of dazzling cool season color

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

The November Polar Express put a lot of good gardening folks in a funk. Consider, many of us had virtually had no frost, then the front swooped down dropping temperatures to a bone-chilling 22 degrees in West Georgia. So, if you are in a funk or simply found yourself behind in cool-season color then reach for a flat or two of ColorMax violas. I promise this will be a pick me up that no doctor could prescribe.

I had a Facebook message the other day asking if we could still plant pansies and violas now and the answer is, 'absolutely.' If you typically plant in the fall in your region then do it this week. One of my favorite growers in Savannah posted a video recently, that showed a greenhouse full of dazzling one-gallon ColorMax violas just perfect for planting. There is a good probability the growers and retailers in your area still have plenty of cool-season colors too.

ColorMax is still so new, many of you may be unaware of this series coming to us from Sakata Seed. They come in 10 colors and 4 mixes and are perfectly named. They are large-flowered violas that perform long into the spring giving landscape color to the max. By long into the spring I'm talking April and even late May. Now, your dilemma is choosing when to switch to warm-season color. This is a great problem to have, but the fact is, if you plant now in the south you'll enjoy 4- to -5 months of sensational color.

I am the ultimate pansy and viola lover, almost to the point of saying that I have never seen one I didn't like. I love clear ones, those with blotches, those with whiskers, and I relish their fragrance. To me, there is nothing not to love about pansies and violas. While ColorMax flowers are larger than many other viola selections, the quantity of blossoms is also amazing. As you might expect, the plants reach 6 to 8 inches tall with a spread of about 10 inches. They are very cold-tolerant and transplant to the garden with ease.

To grow yours, 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 soils. 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 does or simply working in organic matter.

Your flower success starts at ground level. By incorporating organic matter like humus, compost or peat into the native soil, good things start to happen. Organic matter helps to loosen the soil for better water penetration and aeration, leading to good root development. Know also that pansies and violas are heavy feeders so even though it might be cold don't mistake this as a sign they aren't hungry.

 

The Garden Guy is growing ColorMax Clear Yellow and ColorMax Icy Blue in partnership with Goldilocks lysimachia and Rockin' Red dianthus and I couldn't be happier. They are all so appealing, ColorMax Berry Pie and the new mix, so aptly named, Lemonberry Pie will dazzle for months in the landscape.

No matter where you live, there is a season for planting pansies and violas. In the South, we can still plant with great success. As you shop, keep your eyes open for ColorMax, the most exciting new viola series in years.

(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(c)2019 Norman Winter

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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