In the Garden:
The bright faces of pansies can withstand our early snows and still keep blooming.
Plant Pansies for Winter
Gardeners in the Rocky Mountain region often don't think of planting flowers in the late fall because cold tolerance is not considered a trait of annuals, yet one of the most cold-tolerant flowers of late fall and early winter is the pansy (Viola wittrockiana).
Fall Is Also Pansy Time
While many gardeners plant this annual in spring, we've found it most successful and rewarding to plant pansies now, so we can enjoy their cheery faces throughout the monochrome winter. Also, when planted now, pansies are not bothered by troublesome spider mites and leaf- eating caterpillars. Occasionally, the tender fresh foliage becomes a treat for browsing rabbits, but we've discovered that a sprinkling of hot pepper flakes on and around the plants imparts a fragrance and taste that rabbits can't stand.
Pansies are members of the Viola family and are noted for their large flowers, some reaching 3 to 4 inches in diameter. The plants are short stemmed and rarely exceed 12 inches in height. You'll find pansy varieties in practically every color and color combination, with and without blotches and streaks.
We like setting out pansies among new plantings of tulips and daffodils. Pansies will flower now into winter, then again in the spring to bloom at the same time as those spring-flowering bulbs.
Another nice way to use pansies during the late fall and early winter is to plant them in large containers on the patio or deck. When planted in a good-sized container (14 inches diameter or more) and a well-drained soil mixture, pansies will thrive and provide bursts of color throughout the winter. Just remember to water the container-grown plants during dry spells.
If it gets cold enough for the soil mass to freeze solid in containers, insulate the pots with blankets, fit to cover the sides of the pot. We've found that by using this technique, you can grow a variety of cold-tolerant flowers combined with bulbs in large containers. Again, remember to water the soil during dry spells. In addition, a mulch of cedar shavings, pine needles, or coarse compost will keep the plants healthy and happy.
Care to share your gardening thoughts, insights, triumphs, or disappointments with your fellow gardening enthusiasts? Join the lively discussions on our FaceBook page and receive free daily tips!