Trailing pansies may well become one of your new loves, if you like hanging baskets of flowers. In the last couple of years, several new series of these cascading pansies have been introduced.
Whether planting a hanging basket or a large pot for the patio, I like to use the "filler-spiller-thriller" formula. This simply means that the main center of attention is the thriller, other plants are used as the filler, and a spiller cascades over the sides.
Taller, upright plants are used for the thriller and are generally located in the center of the container. The filler adds fullness, color or foliar interest, and are planted around that central plant. The spiller, as the name implies, trails down over the edges of the pot or basket.
For spillers, we have often been somewhat limited to using bacopa, lobelia, Creeping Jenny or some form of ivy. However, the new trailing pansy opens new doors.
One of the first on the market was the Plentifall series, which has now been upgraded and renamed the Cool Wave series. Incidentally, the same company that brought us the Wave petunia has bred the Cool Wave pansy.
Some of the trailing pansy series, such as the Wave petunia, can be used as the spiller, or it can fill a pot on its own, which makes it even more versatile. Pansies prefer cooler weather, so they can be used right now and again in the fall. They are remarkably cold tolerant, so they can sometimes survive most of a Rogue Valley winter.
You might also consider using them in baskets that hang in the shade or filtered sun during the summer months, and later repot them with plants that prefer the cooler days of fall. Just keep in mind that they, like all plants confined to a basket or pot, need plenty of fertilizer and water during the growing season.
These new pansies come in some slightly different growth patterns, too. The Freefall series is slightly more compact than the Cool Wave, reaching six to eight inches in height, and spreading, if planted in the ground, to 12 to 15 inches in width. On the other hand, the Cool Wave's prostrate habit will spread from 18 to 24 inches if used as a bedding plant, so remember to space them accordingly.
Many colors are available in the trailing pansies, including white, yellow, lavenders, purple and combinations of those colors. Some of them will trail as long as 24 inches, making a very colorful show.
Because these plants are quite new, check with your favorite garden center to see whether they have them in stock. The Grange tells me that the Cool Wave series in mixed colors (individual colors not yet available) will be here in early March.
Coming up: George Tiger, retired OSU Extension agent, will lead a workshop on fruit-tree grafting from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12, at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road in Central Point. Participants will choose apple-tree varieties to make a minimum of three grafted starts to take home. Class size is limited. Prepayment of $25 for materials and a $5 class fee is required. Call 541-776-7371 for registration information.
Saturday, March 16, is a day for beginners at the extension center. Four classes for novice gardeners will be offered: seed starting, vegetable gardening, annuals and perennials, and understanding Rogue Valley soil and water. Classes cost $5 each or $15 for all four. The classes begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 4:15 p.m. Call 541-776-7371 to register.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.