Editor's note: This is part of a series of articles on new varieties of vegetables and flowers that will be available this spring.
Pansies are a favorite early springtime flower. These early bloomers turn their delightful five-petaled faces toward the sun and add a distinctive look to the garden.
Many pansies are treated as annuals, although they are considered short-lived perennials with a single-stemmed root system.
Pansies grow well in fertile soil amid full sun or partial shade. They make a great addition to rock gardens. They easily fill containers and can be used in the front of a mixed flowerbed.
The National Garden Bureau has listed new varieties of pansies being offered this year. Some have bold new colors. Others have miniature stature. Still others have huge flower heads. All look great, perform well and are easy to grow.
Pansy Maxim Supreme Cream is an annual with continual bloom from fall through early spring. Gardeners can plant the variety late in the season, as long as the intense heat of July and August is avoided. The result will be early blooming pansies with creamy petals darkened with deep, rich purple on the lower petals.
An even darker pansy is a new introduction from Sakata. Two new colors, red and purple, have been added to the Ultima Baron series. The plant has a compact habit and sports an abundant display of flowers about 2 1/2 inches across. Both have early flowering potential making them ideal for early spring.
If it's rich color you seek, try the Dynamite Blue with Blotch. This pansy is Sakata's new annual blooming pansy in the large flowered Dynamite series.
Dynamite Blue will bloom continuously and maintain a compact habit from fall through early spring. Its blooming power in vivid color is superior under the short days and cold temperatures of winter and early spring.
You can create an all new look for the garden using the pansy Baby Bingo Autumn Blaze Mix, or the Superflora series. The Fiery mix offers sizzling reds and yellows and delivers loads of mid-size blooms that most certainly will brighten up the garden. Baby Bingo has been reported to survive winters in many areas.
Here comes the sun
Sunlight can play tricks on the eye. Clever gardeners use it to their advantage, making wonderful things appear in the garden. Pansy Accord Black Beauty is the first black pansy from Goldsmith, or so it says.
Actually, this amazing plant, growing only 8 inches tall, boasts dark purple flowers that appear black against a green backdrop in bright sunlight. Its unique color will draw attention in any garden.
Another compact variety of pansy is the Nature Series, which is compact and blooms early to enhance vibrant colors in landscape design. It is a prolific flowering mini-pansy that is hardy like a viola. It is excellent for spring and fall. Look for the new color Nature Rose to join other colors, such as Beacon, Ocean, Yellow, Blue, Pink Shades, White and a mix in the Nature Series.
Another large flowered pansy that is new for 2001 is Fama Spanish Eyes. Its beauty lies with a pleasing deep purple eye that sparkles in stunning contrast with the bright white bloom. In cool weather the white will blush to a lovely light shade of purple.
Still looking for a large flowering pansy? Try pansy Colossus Yellow with Blotch. This extra-large flowered series resists stretching in the garden and holds its vividly colored flowers upright on short, sturdy stems.
Other colors available in the Colossus series are Blue with Blotch, White with Blotch, Rose with Blotch, Red with Blotch and Formula mix.
Whatever you fancy about pansies, you are certain to find one to suit your garden needs in this year's new introductions.
Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and garden writer for the Journal-World.