Column: Prepare for spring colour in gardens

Pansies are an easy way to add a little colour into a dreary

Pansies are an easy way to add a little colour into a dreary

I’ve never seen a year that has stayed so cold and wet even into April, and we’re all  starved for some outdoor colour.

Early cool colour plants must be able to handle unexpected late frosts, cold winds and lots of very heavy rain. This is no small task! Fortunately over the past few years, some wonderful new plant varieties have found their way into the market, and let me assure you, they are up to all of these challenges.

Moving plants directly from a warm greenhouse to the cold outdoors will cause too much stress and will seriously set the plants back, especially if the weather is very windy and cool.

The second thing to keep in mind is drainage. Make an extra effort to add plenty of fir or hemlock bark mulch or sawdust to any heavy clay soils in order to lighten them up  and use well drained soils in containers.

Many of us are using more and more osteospermums, but the newer and much improved varieties have certainly made a huge difference.

These cool and wet loving, brilliant multi-coloured daisies are so refreshing in an early garden. They stay low spreading and blend beautifully with early bulbs, pansies and early perennials like arabis and aubrieta.

They are also equally at home in containers or in ground beds.

We use all kinds of linarias in our gardens for long lasting cool colour. They look like miniature snapdragons.

A more low spreading plant available in a good range of bright colours, you’ll find them quite striking.

Nemesias, whether the more trailing Sunsatia types for baskets and containers or the newer Sundrops bedding varieties, both are ideal for some splashes of old fashioned charm.

They love morning sun and afternoon shade, and when it does finally become warmer, they will keep going for the longest time.

Two new series of smaller flowered mimulus, called Calypso and Magic, have such vibrant colours and unusual flowers that they capture everyone’s attention.  They also come in separate colours to create some interesting combinations. Plant them in shady spots for the best long lasting results. You’ll be amazed how well they perform in cool temperatures.

What are the best cool-loving plants for a great display? By far and away, the top  performers are violas and pansies. Pansies may be old fashioned favourites, but the colour range of pansies today is fabulous, especially some of the new designer colours like creams, pink blends and happy, bright citrus blends. My latest favourite is the new Matrix Morpheus. It’s a distinctive bicolour with mid-blue upper petals and bright yellow lower petals.

Talk about standing out in a crowd.

Brian Minter’s column appears throughout the Lower Mainland. Contact him at