Thursday, February 17, 2011

Annuals for Cool Weather: Pretty and Tough! Also Pansies and Violas!!

Hello again,

This is some great information from our good friends at Botanical Interests--a family owned seed company whose seeds we feature here at Skillin's Greenhouses.

Most if not all of the varieties noted in this post are available for you at Skillin's! Botanical Interests states that Now is the time to start the following seeds; I am thinking that 2 to 3 weeks from now would be optimal for us in Skillin's Country.

Annuals for Cool Weather: Pretty and Tough

"Now is the time to start the annual flowers indoors that perform best in the cool temperatures of spring. Once hardened off, these varieties will laugh off a late spring chill or light frost, and provide many weeks of cheerful color!


The tiny, sweet-scented flowers of alyssum make a lovely ground cover, bulb cover, or filler for bare spots in the garden. White-flowered 'Tiny Tim' was specifically chosen for its uniformly compact habit. 'Rosie O'Day' has charming rose-pink flowers, and 'Oriental Nights' adds a touch of purple. 'Basket of Gold' (see below photo) is a perennial type of alyssum with eye-popping yellow color that adds a warm glow to the early spring garden, year after year.


Nothing says spring like the cheerful faces of pansies. They can adorn containers on your porch, deck, or patio, or line a walkway to welcome in the new season. As a bonus, you can add the pretty edible petals to your spring salads. 'Swiss Giant' pansies offer a wide range of candy-colored blooms, and 'Got the Blues' makes a nice complement to daffodils.

Swiss Giant Pansies!


Snapdragons are so colorful and so versatile. The 2'-3' 'Tall Maximum Blend' adds height and beauty to the back of the flower garden, and the shorter 6" tall 'Magic Carpet Blend' is enchanting along a border, in window boxes, or in containers.


These sweetly scented flowers might make you nostalgic for the cottage gardens that were grown when life was a little slower, and more people took the time to appreciate the scent of garden flowers. Line a path with them, and see if you can tempt passersby to give them a sniff. Choose from the 'Giant Imperial Blend' with statuesque 24"-30" stems, or 'Dwarf Ten Week Blend' that stays at a more compact 12".


These petite flowers can be tucked just about anywhere. Plant a whole container, edge a bed, or sow them into nooks and crannies where you want a little surprise peek of color. 'Amber Jewels' is new for 2011. Its bright amber, copper, raspberry, and plum shades make a jazzy addition around a bed of blooming tulips. Mix the violet-blue 'King Henry' with the sunny yellow 'Prince John' for a striking combination. For the quickest blooms from seed, try the heirloom 'Johnny-Jump-Up'. Its little purple and yellow blossoms will be one of the first flowers to perk up the spring garden with color.

Pansies and Violas

A Welcome Sign Of Spring !

Of all the flowers that conjure visions of spring, the kissing cousins, pansies and violas, are at the top of most lists. They are included as a part of many garden plans for both their beautiful and edible qualities. A successful crop of pansies or violas can help coax spring out of hiding and is simple with the right steps.

The container or flat you choose should be clean, easily drained, and the right size to hold a seedling for a number of weeks. A container approximately 1"x 1" to 2"x 2" will work nicely. Ten to twelve weeks before you want to transplant, fill your containers with pre-moistened seed-starting mix to about ¼" from the top. Lightly press 2-3 seeds into the surface of the soil every inch. Pansies and violas prefer to be lightly covered, so only add a light dusting of soil when covering. After they're sown, mist the soil surface and cover with clear plastic wrap.

Pansy and viola seeds germinate best between 65-75ºF. At this temperature, you can expect to see seedlings in 10-20 days. Lighting should begin at sowing. A sunny window may not be bright or warm enough. Fluorescent lights should be placed 1-3 inches away for 16+ hours a day. Be patient and keep the soil moist. When seedlings appear, remove the cover and keep moist.

The early stages of pansy and viola growth can be slow. This is good if you have enough time, and if you start soon you will. Growing a short, healthy transplant with a large root system will ensure outdoor success. Pansies and violas should be fed weekly with a half-strength fertilizer. One with a low middle number, like 14-0-14 or 15-5-15, will help prevent stretch in young plants. If you notice that your plants are getting tall and weak, you can help by lowering the temperature, feeding a little less, watering slightly less, and increasing light. All of these steps help decrease height and increase bushiness of your plants. If your plants get too tall, 3" or taller, you can trim them with sharp scissors. Be sure to leave the bottom two sets of leaves, and you'll soon see new growth branching from the stem. Follow these steps, and when it comes time to transplant outdoors, you will have a strong plant ready to paint the colors of spring all over your landscape."

Thanks to our friends at Botanical Interests!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 17, 2011

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