Gardening columnist: “Beyond the purple pansy”
Finally, cool weather is here and so are pansies. Their bright little faces are a welcome sight after watching our summer annuals wither away. Some folks have asked me what else they can put in their flower beds or container gardens besides pansies. What is there “beyond the purple pansy” you ask. Lots–you just have to think outside the box.
Speaking of boxes, I’m in the process of doing the fall designs for our city containers. Winter designs are always a challenge, especially finding plants with any height, but my all-time favorites are the upright kales and mustards. Lacinato Kale has heavily textured, dusty blue leaves that look great with pink pansies; Russian Kale ‘Redbor’ is perfect for red combos and so is Mustard ‘Red Giant.’
Of course, the hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage all do well in the winter, along with chard ‘Bright Lights’, lettuce Black-seeded Simpson‘ or beets ‘Bull’s Blood.’ A double duty plant is Foxglove. In the winter months you get the bold foliage and then in late spring comes the jaw dropping 3-foot bloom spikes.
Perennial grasses are perfect for adding both texture and height. Carex testecea turns a bronze color in the winter making it a great companion for the orange pansies, Carex ‘Ice Dance’ with its green and white variegated leaves is good with the big white pansies, and Acorus ‘Ogon’ is pretty with yellows. And don’t forget the liropes, especially ‘Evergreen Giant’ which grows to 24 inches.
Of course, if deer are regular visitors in your yard, you won’t even be talking about pansies – the ultimate dessert for them – but if deer are not a problem for you, consider using low growing sedums to add color. Sedum ‘Angelina’ turns bronze in the winter with bright lime green new growth; ‘Dragon’s Blood’ has red and green variegation; and ‘Blue Spruce’ brings in the obvious blues.
Heucheras, commonly called coral bells, are ideal for adding a spot of color. The bright greens are ‘Citronelle’, ‘Limelight’ and ‘Key Lime Pie’. ‘Peach Melba’ brings in the orange tones and ‘Blackcurrant’ the purples. That brings up an important point–dark-colored plants create “a hole” when viewed from a distance so think about that when you are designing.
Ivies also add a lot of texture to an arrangement. ‘Gold Child’ adds a spot of yellow; ‘Anne Marie’ a touch of green/white and ‘Teardrop’ a solid green. Euphorbias are wonderful for color, height and texture; Autumn Ferns are ideal for background plants, but for a real wow factor, check out Asiatic Jasmine ‘Ogon Nishiki’ in its orange, green and white finery. And don’t forget the evergreen shrubs like Abelia ‘Bronze Anniversary’, Illicium ‘Pink Frost’ or Juniper ‘All Gold’.
But, my favorite way to add color to a bed or containers–garden art. Brightly colored ceramic mushrooms, small colorful flower pots, or cheery garden gnomes will draw the eye. So there are lots of ways to brighten your winter garden besides pansies. But in case you just have to have a purple pansy, check out this newcomer: Blue Jeans.’ Happy Planting!
For more information on winter plants be sure to check out www.madisoncontainers.blogspot.com to see what is being planted in the city containers.
Printed in the October 4th edition.