Last week I wrote about pansies. They are one of the all-time favorite winter annuals in gardens. But there are a number of other annuals that will work well in our landscape during the winter months.
Violas, snapdragons and flowering kale and cabbage are some of the more commonly grown plants.
Johnny-Jump-Ups (Viola cornuta, Viola tricolor) have much smaller flowers than pansies. They flower heavily and are more heat-resistant than pansies. Johnny-Jump-Ups are ideal for planting around bulbs and larger flowers. Also, they tolerate wet soil conditions better than pansies. They are best used in the same areas that you would use pansies.
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus ) are excellent bloomers that have been enjoyed for centuries. These Mediterranean natives produce flowers that are fragrant and have many cultivars that offer a range of heights and colors.
Snapdragons are popular as bedding and container plants and as cut flowers. The upright flower shoots are covered with buds that open from bottom to top, providing brilliant color for an extended period of time. Snapdragons perform best in cool weather, and most cultivars can tolerate a light frost. In our area, snapdragons will survive the winter and flower in the spring. They tend to suffer in the summer heat and typically are used as fall or early spring annuals.
Snapdragons flower the best in full sun and well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. They range in size from 4 inches to 3 feet tall. Colors range from white and yellow to orange, red and purple, to almost black.
Snapdragons are classified by height into three categories -- dwarf, medium and tall. Dwarfs grow to 6 inches to 12 inches tall in a dense, bushy habitat and produce abundant flower shoots. These cultivars commonly are used for border edging or in mixed containers.
The medium-sized snapdragons grow to be 12 inches to 24 inches tall and often are used as border fillers or as cut flowers. Tall cultivars have a dominant, single-flower shoot and grow to be 24 inches to 48 inches tall and mostly are used as cut flowers, but also may be used in the back of a border. These are not often grown for bedding application. The medium sized and tall cultivars will need to be staked to keep them from falling over.
One of the disease problems they get is rust. Rust diseases occur on plants when they are in decline or going dormant. Rust on snapdragons will occur in late spring and early summer.
Some of the insects that attack snapdragons are aphids, thrips and mites. These can stunt or damage the plants. These can be controlled with insecticidal soaps.
One of my favorite groups of vegetables, cabbage, kale and collards, bring some of the showiest colors of the fall. Since the 1990s, ornamental forms of vegetables have appeared in the landscape, including okra and variegated corn. But some of the more colorful plants have been the kales and cabbages. The colors of the leaves can be very decorative and make a great companion plant to pansies and violas. The leaves have silvery green colors mixed with white, purple, mauve or pink/lavender.
As with pansies, don't plant these too early in the fall. Warm temperatures affect the growth of the plant and the leaf color. As the temperature cools, the plants produce more brilliant color.
As with pansies, these plants prefer well-drained garden soil and full sun. They can have problems with root rot if the soil stays too wet. The plants are quite cold tolerant; they are not damaged until temperatures fall below 10 degrees, which is rare in our area. Flowering kale and cabbage need very little fertilizer. If you reduce the amount of nitrogen the plant receives, you will get a more vibrant color.
There are other vegetables that can be used as ornamentals. Some of the more popular are mustard, chard, chicory and ornamental beets.
Also like pansies, the plants are edible.
Reach Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips at (706) 868-3413 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Extension Web site is ugaextension.com/columbia.
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