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Today is December 11, 2017

Southern Gardening

Matrix, Cool Wave pansies paint winter gardens

Matrix, Cool Wave pansies paint winter gardens

Matrix pansies provide tough, annual, cool-season color for Mississippi gardens. Photo: MSU Extension/Gary Bachman

These days, I have to wear my hoodie sweatshirts and long pants for anything below 60 degrees. But the falling temperatures also signal something great: racks and racks of great, cool-season color as pansies fill local garden centers.

People always ask me about the right time to plant pansies. The answer is, right now. This is an absolutely great time to plant, and the ones I’m planting are Matrix pansies.

Matrix pansies flower early, and strong stems hold the huge blooms above the foliage, allowing the petals to flutter in the slightest breeze.

For the past several years, I have thought that the Matrix group is the best for gardeners in Mississippi. They offer some of the toughest annual, cool-season color plants and should be planted in everyone’s garden and landscape.

Matrix pansies come in a huge range of colors and styles. The traditional ones have dark blotches, while the clear varieties are pure colors without the blotches. Matrix pansies are also available in color-coordinated mixes instead of the traditional, random color mixes.

Matrixes have a freely branching growth habit and reach about 8 inches in height and width. When massed in a bed, as pansies were meant to be planted, they create an impressive, colorful landscape carpet.

While it’s obvious I’m a rabid Matrix fan, I have a growing fondness for what may be an even better variety for us to grow: Cool Wave pansies.

Cool Wave has a unique, trailing growth habit that makes it a must-have in your garden. These pansies are much more vigorous than standard varieties. The plants are well branched and will fill a landscape bed or hanging basket with good color from fall all the way to next spring.

Flower colors are very attractive, and there is quite a selection available. Along with white, yellow and purple, there is Violet Wing, Frost, Blueberry Swirl and my favorite, Sunshine ‘N’ Wine, which is a bright, sunny yellow with mellow burgundy wing and accented flowers. All the flowers have whisker lines radiating from the center, resembling delicate artist brush strokes.

Cold tolerance is one particular attribute that impresses me about pansies in the garden and landscape, and Cool Wave pansies are no exception.

As with all annual color, always work a little compost into the soil before planting. Be sure to maintain a consistent soil moisture, and feed them with a water-soluble fertilizer, even during the winter. Pansies need at least six hours of full sun each day for the best flowering and growth.

Pansies may be the perfect winter flowering annual, as the plants can freeze solid and thaw with little damage. In response to the cold, their leaves will be tinged purple, and their flowers will be nipped back. But once it gets a little warmer, the flowering will rev up again.

Don’t wait. Get to the garden center this weekend and choose some of these colorful cool-season plants for your landscape.

Dr. Gary Bachman is an associate Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He is also host of “Southern Gardening” radio and TV programs.

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