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Grow alluring Pansies

The choice of colours and markings on pansies is extraordinary.

The choice of colours and markings on pansies is extraordinary.

 

Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are among the earliest flowering spring plants, blooming right alongside the spring bulbs. The name pansy is from the French word pensie, meaning thought or remembrance. The pansy is a delicate looking flower often with a dark centre or “face”.

Pansies are one of three well-loved garden plants contained in the large genus Violaceae. Firstly there are the fragrant violets, then the colourful profusely flowering violas and finally the velvety, richly coloured pansies. Besides the intense colours, pansies are fragrant and edible blooms that make a desirable addition to the garden.

The pansy has two top petals overlapping slightly, two side petals, beards where the three lower petals join the center of the flower, and a single bottom petal with a slight indentation.Pansy breeding has produced colours from gold and orange to purple and violet, and even black (dark purple), many bicolours have been produced and many have large showy face markings. The last type of flower is probably one of the most familiar. The bloom of this type has a dark center called a “face”.

Some pansies have a delicate perfume-like aroma. Once you have smelled and identified the pansy scent, it is unforgettable. Pansies seem to exude more fragrance in the early morning and at dusk. The yellow or blue pansy flowers seem to have the strongest scent.

USING PANSIES

Use pansies for borders, rockeries, window boxes or tubs. Because they are low growing plants, they make excellent borders and edging which are filled with brilliant colour. The more flowers you pick, the more they bloom. Pansies are also interesting when planted in a bed of spring bulbs such as Snowdrops, Crocus and Narcissi. Just as the bulbs finish blooming the Pansies will be at their best.

Pansy Varieties number in the hundreds but a few favourites are; “Jolly Johas” which are orange and purple bi colours. “Bing Blue” which are blue and yellow, and “Fama Peach Shades” rosy pink, apricot.

Both the leaves and flowers of pansies and violas are edible and high in vitamins A and C. The flowers impart a strong flavor and have been used to make syrup, flavored honey and salads. Both the leaves and flowers can be used as a garnish, such as on cold fruit or cream soups. The flowers are also useful as a dye.

GROWING PANSIES

The pansy plant itself is compact, not more than 22 cm in both height and spread, and bears many stems. The medium green, coarsely notched leaves are oval or heart-shaped. Pansies are grown from seeds. They like full to partial sun. Pansies can be directly seeded into your flower garden or seeded under cover for transplanting later. Pansy seed is good for only nine months; old seed will not germinate properly. When the temperature is above 21 degC, Pansy seed will not germinate. It prefers cool weather.

Have your soil perfectly clean, free of weeds and trash, and pulverized to a depth of 15cm or more. Level and smooth the soil carefully and on the level surface with about 12mm of good manure. Overlay the manure with about 15mm of the best soil you have. Water the prepared bed thoroughly. Sow seeds (in drills or broadcast) early in the season and cover as lightly as possible with sand or soil. Pansy seeds germinate slowly. Use a fine spray of water to moisten. A steady supply of water is required so they need to be watered regularly when it does not rain. Add a standard, all- purpose liquid fertiliser to the water about once a month.

Pansy seeds germinate slowly.

Generally the largest flowers of the rarest colours are found upon plants which have grown from seed that germinates slowly. The better varieties are shy seed bearers and for this reason good Pansy seed is always expensive.

If started in trays, transplant Pansy into your garden after the last frost for your area. Space them 15cm apart, though Pansies will tolerate a little crowding. If you are creating a flower bed, you may want to create a pattern or colour scheme prior to planting. Or, use mixed varieties. For the gardener who wants to mix colours yet keep the size and style of the pansy plant more uniform, there are different series available that each possess distinctive characteristics such as flower and plant size, shadings of colour, blotches or other markings. For example, you  may choose a variety of different colours of the series Imperial which will be all uniform in size and shading. Or perhaps you will prefer another series . Majestic Giants, for example, are a series which have very large blooms (around 10 cm). The Crown series possesses clear, bright colours without markings and are dependable early bloomers.

PLANT CARE

Pansies seldom have problems with insects and disease. If insect or disease problems occur, treat early with organic or chemical insect repellents and fungicide.

If pansies fail to thrive it is often because neither nature nor the gardener provided enough water.

Mulching around the pansies with 5cm of organic material will help conserve moisture, and reduce weed growth.

Stem rot, also known as pansy sickness, is a soil-borne fungus and a possible hazard with unsterilised animal manure. The plant may collapse without warning in the middle of the season. The foliage will flag and lose colour. Flowers will fade and shrivel prematurely. Stems will snap at the soil line if tugged slightly. The plant is probably a total loss unless tufted. To treat stem rot, use Cheshuntor modern Benomyl fungicide prior to planting. Destroy (burn) infected plants.

To ward off slugs and snails, lay sharp, gritty sand or top-dress soil with chipped bark. Clean area of leaves and foreign matter, etc. Beer in little bowls buried to the rims in the flower beds will also keep them at bay.

To combat aphids, which spread the cucumber mosaic virus, spray with diluted soft soap (60g per 4 litres).