Trailing violas will add pizzazz in fall

Published 1:15 pm Monday, October 6, 2008

Cooler temperatures mean it’s almost time to use pansies and violas to add a breath of color to landscapes and containers. There is nothing quite like going to the garden center with brisk fall temperatures in the air and seeing all the vibrant colors. You’ll probably notice enticing fragrances, to boot.

This year, keep your eyes open for trailing violas. They are called spreading, trailing and even cascading, but whatever the name, you will want some for baskets, mixed containers, window boxes and the landscape, too.

The Violina series made its debut a couple of years ago, and they have dazzled me ever since. New in this group will be Violina Aquamarine, Violina Orange and Violina Purple Blue, which is absolutely stunning. These violas are fragrant and have the ability to make incredible hanging baskets by themselves. You’ll see them reaching about 6 inches tall with a spread of 14 inches.

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The Rebelina series of violas is also making its debut this year. These violas resist stretching and produce scores of delightful, small flowers. The special colors in this series include Rebelina Golden Yellow, Rebelina Blue and Yellow (my favorite), Rebelina Red and Yellow, and Rebelina Purple and Yellow.

These flowers are in the half-inch category, making them a little smaller than the Violina series. Their fragrance is heavenly, and their creeping habit is awesome for spilling over the rim of boxes, containers and baskets.

With pansies and violas, bed preparation is crucial. We tried a number of organic amendments in our Mississippi State University trials and found peat incorporated with our topsoil gave the best results.

Prepare the bed before planting by amending the soil with 3 to 4 inches of organic matter like peat, and till to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. This will help loosen the soil for better water penetration and aeration, leading to good root development.

While you are preparing the soil, take the time to incorporate 2 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer like 12-6-6 per 100 square feet of bed space. Set out plants 10 to 12 inches apart, planting at the same depth they are growing in the container. Maintain a layer of mulch to keep soil temperatures moderate.

Violas are heavy feeders. Feed every four weeks with a light application of fertilizer, or every other week with a diluted, water-soluble 20-20-20 or similar fertilizer. When you can, deadhead the old flowers a little to encourage more flower production.

The Violina and Rebelina series with their trailing or spreading habits will give you a look in containers you have been unaccustomed to for the cool season. Let your imagination run wild in choosing partners. Consider foliage plants like kale, cabbage or cardoon. You also can choose foliage like ivy or asparagus fern. For taller, spiky flowers, think about snapdragons or the Citrona erysimum.

Whether you are planting in the landscape or in large, mixed containers, consider dropping in a few daffodils. Come spring when these pop out, you’ll have a show that will be the envy of the neighborhood.

The Violina and Rebelina violas are just a couple of the reasons why fall gardening and a trip to the garden center are so enjoyable.