Pansies Perk Up in June Gloom

June gloom may dampen the spirits of certain Angelenos, but it’s great weather for gardeners and their plants.
It’s nice to be able to plant, prune and weed without working up a sweat. Certain plants really appreciate the cool weather. Take pansies, for instance, which are still blooming heavily.
Pansies are cool-weather plants and generally dry up in the wake of late May or early June heat. But the overcast weather has extended pansies’ flowering performance by several weeks.
June gloom or not, the key to making annual flowers bloom for months and months is to fertilize them properly when they are planted. Slow-release fertilizer is the simplest way of doing this. I was in a neighborhood drug store the other day and noticed that slow-release fertilizer is now being sold there at a reasonable price. Slow-release fertilizer will last three months to a year, depending on the formulation.
It is absolutely critical that annuals get off to a fast start. Within a week or two of planting, you can tell whether annuals will flounder or flourish.
In addition to the application of slow-release fertilizer, the soil in which annuals grow must drain well. Improve soil drainage by adding compost – whether the backyard variety or the store-bought kind that comes in 2- or 3-cubic-foot plastic bags.
Hail ‘Purple Majesty’
This year, a loudly heralded annual called “Purple Majesty” has entered the nursery trade. It was developed by accident in a breeding program for millet – a plant used for animal feed – at the University of Nebraska. “Purple Majesty” recently won the prestigious All-American Selections Gold Medal, an honor bestowed on only one other plant – the “Profusion” Zinnia – during the past decade.
“Purple Majesty” is a species of fountain grass (Pennisetum glaucum). A copper-leafed perennial fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum “Cupreum”) has long been used in drought-tolerant Valley landscapes, and “Purple Majesty,” from all preliminary indications, should also grow well here.
At first glance, “Purple Majesty” looks like it came out of an Iowa corn field, except that it has dark purple foliage. However, unlike the flimsy tassels of corn, “Purple Majesty” has stout, cat-tail flower spikes that are suitable for dried flower arrangements. If these spikes are left on the plant, they will eventually go to seed, much to the delight of the local bird population.
“Purple Majesty” will reach 5 feet in height and can take either wet or dry soil conditions. Most seed companies (such as Burpee, Park and Stokes) now have “Purple Majesty” seed in stock. In the Valley, you could plant these seeds in spring, summer or fall. “Purple Majesty” container plants are also beginning to appear in nurseries.

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