Fall is for Pansies (and Other Plants Too)

Whenever I can't wake up in the morning, my wife jumps on the bed and shouts "Wake up! Wake up! It's gardening day!" Because winters are mild here in the warmer regions of the Southeast, every day really can be a gardening day. While most of the country sees fall as a time for raking leaves and hunkering down for winter, we southerners can take advantage of the cooler days and lack of mosquitoes to plant a cool weather garden.

Echeveria 'Topsy Turvy'
African Bush Daisy
Green Anole

Because my apartment garden is filled with tender tropicals that die back after the first frost, I'm sending in the reinforcements to cover up the inevitable dead leaves of winter. For a plant to be considered for my winter garden it has to have not only freeze tolerance, but also needs to have a quickly spreading habit. After all, I don't want puny bedding plants looking like nothing more than little blobs in the mulch! I want to create the look of a rambling garden that's totally oblivious of our frequently frozen nights.

The new Cool Wave Pansies from The Home Depot seem to me like the perfect pansies because they promise to spread just as fully as the familiar Wave Petunias. Pansies in general also happen to be very cold tolerant. They're beautiful too, coming in a pleasing variety of cream, yellow and light blue hues; ideal for adding highlights to the garden for the shorter winter days.

A word of warning to fellow Floridians, however. Wait until the days are consistently cool before planting out pansies, as they will whimper and wilt on our warm early autumn afternoon unless the soil is kept cool and moist with mulch and a little extra water. Mine are just now beginning to hit their stride, and I can definitely attest to their fast spreading habit. They might just take over the spots that I had saved for the sweet alyssum this year! If you're still not sold on these pansies, read what the Grumpy Gardener has to say.

This squash is going to get big.

I also turned to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for my winter color this year. To replace the ornamental sweet potato vines, I'm planting an heirloom winter squash from Italy called the Marina di Chioggia. While the warty blue-gray pumpkins are renowned for their flavor and are sure to end up in my homemade Gnocchi this year, the main reason I planted them was to provide a temporary green groundcover through winter. I'll be sure to fertilize them with what's left of my Authentic Haven MooPoo Tea to keep them vigorous and lush!

These lettuce seedlings are already looking pretty tasty! In addition to heirloom lettuce, Asian mustard greens and 'Jet Black' hollyhocks, I've planted 'Black Knight' and 'Henry Eckford' sweet peas to ramble over the declining tropical bulbs. With all of these fast spreaders, looks like I'll have my winter garden covered.

What (if anything) do you plant in fall?


  1. I followed you over from GGW. Your winter garden looks strangely like an Illinois one does in summer. BTW, love your photography almost as much as your illustrations.

  2. Love your article and pics....I love pansies and plant them here ...in pots...once in the flower bed...a neighborhood cottontail ate them all !


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