Make no mistake about it, if you have ever felt like a viola couldn’t dazzle like a pansy, then you haven’t tried ColorMax. ColorMax is a relatively new series of viola that comes to us from Sakata Seed and has completely shocked me with its flower power. It really is color to the max with these violas.
Know that I am the ultimate pansy and viola lover, almost to the point of saying that I have never seen one I didn’t like. I love clear ones, those with blotches, those with whiskers, and I relish their fragrance. To me, there is nothing not to love about pansies and violas.
ColorMax comes in 10 colors and a mix, and it’s hard to pick out a favorite. The clear yellow is so prolific I would hardly be exaggerating when I say it can be seen from a mile away. Just think: I am saying that about violas and not giant or mammoth-sized pansies. Speaking of giant, Sakata is the same company that brings us the Majestic Giant series.
‘Icy Blue,’ ‘Popcorn’ and ‘Lemon Splash’ are also must-have plants for your cool-season landscape. While these flowers are larger than many other viola selections, the quantity of blossoms is amazing. As you might expect, the plants reach 6 to 8 inches tall with a spread of about 10 inches. ColorMax violas are very cold-tolerant and transplant to the garden with ease.
Select a site in full sun or partial shade with organically rich soil. If organic, rich and fertile doesn’t sound like your soil, don’t fret. Over the last 20 years, most gardeners I have talked to are plagued with a tight clay or heavy soil. Clay particles are the smallest of all soils. Because of their small size, they are easier to compact, keeping out not only water but also air.
So we have choices, such as going with a landscape mix like the commercial landscaper or simply working in organic matter. Your flower success starts at ground level. By incorporating organic matter like humus, compost or peat into native soil, good things start to happen. Organic matter helps to loosen the soil for better water penetration and aeration, leading to good root development.
Here in the Savannah area, there are a lot of gardeners with sandy soil that seems to drain like a wire basket. In this situation, the same organic matter helps hold water and nutrients. Remember that soil improvement is a continual process.
For a really show-stopping display, plant a large group of single-colored, 24-inch-tall snapdragons, such as rose-colored Sonnets or Liberties, to the back of the bed with a mass of ‘Clear Yellow’ or ‘Lemon Splash’ ColorMax violas in front. Or reverse and use yellow snapdragons in the back and ‘Icy Blue’ or ‘Berry Pie’ ColorMax violas in front. Use them also in mixed containers with colorful foliage plants like ‘Lemon Ball’ sedum, ‘Red Giant’ mustard or ‘Redbor’ kale.
No matter where you live, there is a season for pansies and violas. In the South, that season is now. As you shop, keep your eyes open for ColorMax, the most exciting new viola series in years. Follow me on Twitter: @CGBGgardenguru.
(Norman Winter is the director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm in Savannah, Georgia.)
ColorMax comes in 10 colors and a mix. 'Icy Blue,' (shown) 'Popcorn' and 'Lemon Splash' are must-have plants for cool-season landscapes. The plants reach 6 to 8 inches tall with a spread of about 10 inches. ColorMax violas are very cold-tolerant and transplant to the garden with ease.Download Image
Yellow Colormax violas yield a dazzling number of flowers per square foot. Here they are partnered with Sonnet snapdragons for a colorful cool-season landscape.Download Image