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Reliable Cool Season Color

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by Tom MacCubbin
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Picture: Tom MacCubbin

Warm season plantings are fading fast. It not just the cooler weather but many plants don’t seem to like the shorter days. So, what are you going to plant for cool season color?

My number one pick is the petunia and a close relative the calibrachoa. They both have bell-shaped blooms in a large array of colors. These are plants to fill bed, planters or hanging baskets. Just think, one 99-cent plant could eventually fill a hanging basket. Both combine well with other cool season annuals including the dusty miller another favorite. Following are a few more winter annuals to round out a good half dozen of reliable cool season color.

- Pansies and Johnny-jump-ups: Both are of the genus Viola. Many gardeners love the little faces formed by the flowers popping up from among the green foliage. Pansies are favorite but I think the Johnny-jump-ups last longer into the warmer months. If you want this color, plant violas now as by mid March most plantings start to disappear. These are the hardiest of the flowering annuals.

- Snapdragons: Plants come in all sizes but I love the tall ones often called rocket snaps. They are great to enjoy in the garden or to cut for fresh flowers. Many gardeners like the smaller butterfly snaps that open wide blooms. These can withstand a frost and even grow back from a light freeze.

- Geraniums: Most gardeners have fond memories of this long-lived annual or perennial. Now is the time to enjoy the great colorful flower clusters. But better grow them in containers until early spring. Geraniums are tender and damaged by temperature of 32 degrees and below. With containers you can move them to a warm spot during the really cold times. When spring comes they can be set in the ground.

- Dianthus: I like the colorful carnation type flowers available with white, pink, red and maroon blossoms. These are tough plants surviving all but the most severe freezes. They can be used to fill beds or add to containers. They do not self-clean very well but gradually the old blooms fade away.

- Dusty miller: Only known for its silvery foliage, this plant forms a good contrast for most cool season flowers. I like to match it up with petunias but when the plants grow into spring it is good paired with red salvias too. It is very hardy and continues to grow until the rainy season of summer.




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