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Let Purple Rain Fall In Your Landscape
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
We have needed rain, but we also need Purple Rain in landscapes this fall and winter. Purple Rain is one of the best new pansies starting to show up at area garden centers.
I gave it a casual reference last year, and voila, you gardeners bought up the available supply so fast I did not get one for my own use.
The Purple Rain is most unique in that it is a mounding, cascading pansy, perfect as a border plant in the landscape or ideally suited to baskets, planters and window boxes. The dark purple with hints of blue in the center make it an attractive choice for gardeners. Beds that I have watched the past couple of years showed this pansy reaching heights of 12 to 18 inches without a leggy look. They almost look like a small pansy hedge.
As you plant them, consider incorporating yellow daffodils. Another good choice as a companion plant would be the new Purple Bouquet dianthus, a tall cut-flower variety that has won me over. I promise to write about it real soon.
Prior to this article, if I had asked you to name a pansy variety, the overwhelming choice would be Majestic Giant. This old variety has become the standard among large-flowered types. New this year from S&G Novartis in California is a pansy series with flowers larger than Majestic Giants called Colossus. The colorful point-of-sale material plays off this large size by using words like humongous, monstrous and gigantic.
Indeed these are large flowers, boldly colored and with blotches. Pansy lovers will find a color in this new series to their liking. Before planting Colossus, Purple Rain or your old favorites, prepare the bed. I have lived in Mount Olive and Brandon, and both sites took a stick of dynamite to break the soil apart. Would you believe that at least it took a pickax?
Most gardeners I talk to are plagued with a tight clay 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. We are asking too much of a pansy to be stuck in this kind of environment.
Purchase landscape soil mixes by the bag, cubic yard or truck full. When you look at the price by cubic yard, you'll see it is a small amount to pay for the key ingredient that will give you a green thumb. By incorporating organic matter like humus, compost or peat into the native soil, good things start to happen.
Organic matter helps loosen the soil for better water penetration and aeration leading to good root development. Remember soil improvement is a continual process. Organic matter is equally important in sandy soil. Sand is made up of the largest particles, allowing for quick drainage and leaching of nutrients. By adding organic matter, the water-holding capacity improves, and the nutrients plants need can be retained.
By now, Iím sure you feel like someone should give you a shirt that says ìI survived the Summer of 2000." Thankfully we did, and now it is time to get back in the dirt again, get the beds going and plant pansies, bulbs, chrysanthemums and the plants Iíll write about next week.