For The Answer
Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Number one on the list is pansies. The plants are small (6-12 inches), but they are blooming machines. There are two basic types of bloom, clear-faced or monkey-faced. The clear-faced pansies have flowers that are a single color. The monkey-faced selections have a black interior area surrounded by the colored petals. Both versions come in a wide selection of colors including blue, purple, white, yellow, salmon, orange, and lavender.
Plant pansies in massed beds of single colors on one foot centers (one foot apart), or in borders two or three plants wide. Pansies are also excellent container plants. They do best in full sun, but tolerate up to half shade. Protect them from slugs and snails with bait for the purpose. Closely related to pansies are the Johnny jump-ups and violas. They have smaller flowers than pansies and nearly as many colors. Grow them just like pansies.
Pansies are not xeriscape plants. They require watering every two days for the first week and then once per week through the winter. Pansies are a favorite deer food. Plant them where the hungry pests can’t reach them.
For the deep shade there are two
excellent choices, primulas and cyclamen. Primulas are also called primrose. There are two main selections of primulas on
Acaulis primulas grow low and flat like pansies. They have kelly green crinkly leaves and intensely colored flowers. The red, blue, purple, white, pink, yellow, and bi-color blooms are as bright as the grease paint that circus clowns use to color their faces. This selection is used to best effect as a container plant near the door or on a shady patio.
Obonica primulas are more upright with pastel colored blooms. The pinks, white and blues are especially attractive.
Whichever primula is most attractive to you, protect them from the slugs and snails. The prospect of a meal of primrose motivates snails and slugs to become speedy!
Cyclamen have long been a favorite indoor plant. They are presented as gifts to persons who are ill. I never liked them in that role, but think they are outstanding as a color plant for deep shade in our winter landscape.
Cyclamen flowers are white, red, pink or lavender. They seem to glow with color even in the shadiest planting. The foliage is nearly as impressive as the flowers. The leaves are heart shaped, and decorated with several shades of green tracings.
The major disadvantage of cyclamen is their price. It is not unusual to pay $5.00 or more for a large plant. Some gardeners keep the plants alive through the summer, but I have never been able to stimulate the carried over plants to bloom as well as fresh nursery stock. If you have a limited number of cyclamen they can be “summered” in the house. Placed in a window with a limited amount of morning sun, they will prosper and bloom all summer.
Primula, pansies and cyclamen last until the warm weather arrives, usually the end of April. Keep all of the winter annuals well watered and fertilize on a regular basis.