The Wave brand of plants — known for petunias — has introduced a new pansy called Cool Wave, which holds its own from fall through winter and into spring.
The colors are not as intense as other series of pansies and the flowers are not as large, but Cool Wave’s ability to bloom even in snow makes them worth considering.
Plant the pansies (Viola wittrockiana) in a pot made of material that can stay outdoors through winter, such as fiberglass or heavy plastic. Ceramic and terra cotta will crack or disintegrate in winter’s freezing and thawing. Place the pot where you will be able to see and enjoy the plants.
Cool Wave pansies have a 3-foot spread, making them adaptable for hanging baskets and window boxes, too.
Mix pansies with an ornamental grass, such as ‘Blue Dart’ or ‘Blue Arrow’ rush (Juncus), both of which are winter hardy and hold their blue color year-round.
Annual snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) also are quite tolerant of cold temperatures. The volunteers that sprout in my garden can frequently be seen blooming on a mild December day. Other cool-season annuals that sometimes can be found at garden centers are wallflowers (Erysimum) and cape daisies (Osteospermum).
Of course, there are mums (Chrysanthemum) and asters at the garden centers, and these also do well in cooler temps. If you want to have these perennials come back next year, plant in the ground as soon as possible. The sunny spot should have well-drained soil. Remove the spent blooms, called deadheading, to keep the plants tidy looking.
Don’t cut back the mums or asters until spring when new growth can be seen at the base of the plants. Spring also is the best time to divide these perennials.
There’s no need to fertilize mums or asters this fall. However, pansies and snapdragons would benefit from a water-soluble fertilizer according to label directions.