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Plant colorful winter annuals without delay

Posted Tuesday, November 1, 2005 - 10:46 am


By Durant Ashmore
GUEST COLUMNIST
durantashmore@aol.com



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It's time to consider transplanting plants, trees (11/22/05)
Deciduous shrubs more than "bunch of sticks" (11/15/05)
Autumn leaves are nature's gift for mulching (11/08/05)
Plant colorful winter annuals without delay (11/01/05)
Changing landscape rides in with cold winds (10/25/05)

November can be a busy month for Piedmont landscape gardeners. Summer annuals are being killed out by the coming winter's first freezes. Winter annuals should be planted forthwith so that they can become as well-established as possible before the really cold weather gets here.

Pansies are the most common and popular winter annual. The available colors are purple, blue, red, orange, yellow and white. Small-growing varieties will be about 6-inches tall and the "giant" varieties are about 9-inches tall. Some varieties have black blotches on them that are referred to as "faces." Faces do add interest.

Yellow pansies are the showiest. A nice effect can be created if they are bordered with another color. A wide assortment of swirls, shapes and patterns can be created using the different pansy colors. Please show a little originality and refrain from making a smiley face.

If you want to, you can throw all your pansies together and create a riot of color. The possibilities for pansy plantings are endless.

Johnny-jump-ups are cousins of pansies. They are both in the violet family. Johnny-jump-ups have a small, erect flower on a long stem (hence the name). Feel free to create design patterns with these related plants.

Snapdragons are pastel colored biennials which also do well when planted in conjunction with pansies. They grow taller than pansies and Johnny-jump-ups can be used as borders, or can be planted on the ends of pansy plantings in order to have descending height from the edges to the center of an arrangement.

Pansies like full sun. If you try to force them to grow in the shade you will be disappointed. This is why if you replace impatiens with pansies you will have poor results. Evergreen ferns, coral bells and Lenten rose should be planted amongst impatiens for winter interest in shady settings.

The flowering cabbages and kales are also good winter annuals and they go well with pansy plantings. Because they are taller they can also border your design. Also, telstar dianthus and English daisies bloom in fall and early spring and provide a nice complement when used with these plants.

November is bulb month. Bulb planters are patient people who know that a little work now will provide a great deal of enjoyment later. Bulb planters should enjoy a more elevated position in our society. If you are a bulb planter, my hat is off to you. While you are anonymously toiling away this fall please know the world will appreciate all you do this coming spring.

Daffodils are perhaps the easiest bulb to plant. They multiply more than other bulbs and provide enjoyment every winter for years to come. They like full sun, but can be planted in deep woods. If this seems like a contradiction, it is because daffodils bloom before the leaves come out on the trees. The sight of daffodils blooming in the snow is wonderful.

Tulips are perhaps the showiest of the bulbs. Use them liberally, but be aware that our temperatures are really a little hot for tulips. Tulips do best when dug up in early summer after the foliage dies down. Store them in a paper bag in a cool, dark basement or crawl space and replant them next fall. If you don't dig up your tulips, be prepared for about a third of them to die out each year, until none are left. If you want to, you can replant a third of your tulips each year and not worry about digging them up in the summer. Muscari, hyacinth, crocus, etc. are all good bulbs to use in our area.

Most bulbs abhor our red clay. Dig out the clay, and scarify the hole that is left to lessen the bathtub effect. The bathtub effect is created when hard clay is scooped out and back-filled with a soft amendment. The amendment holds water which won't percolate into the red clay. It's the same as adding soft amendment into a bathtub and turning on the water. It becomes a soupy mess. Scarification of the sides and bottom of the hole leads to a transition area that aids in percolation. A soupy mess leads to rotten bulbs. Likewise, if you have an area that has poor drainage, you should not consider bulbs.

Oh yeah, the other thing to do in November is rake leaves. Leaves get a bad rap. Don't go overboard on your leaf raking until you read next week's column. For now, my editor says I've run out of space.

Editor's note: Columnist Durant Ashmore, MLA, of Fountain Inn, is certified by the South Carolina Nursery Association. He can be reached at 243-3446 or durantashmore@aol.com.

Thursday, November 23  


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