An old favourite with a ro­man­tic past

Amateur Gardening - - This Week In Gardening -

LIKE a kalei­do­scope of ap­peal­ing faces, colour­ful pansy flow­ers peer up at us from beds, bor­ders and con­tain­ers, al­most year round. I’ve long aban­doned try­ing to keep up with the con­stant stream of new hy­brids and tend to just fo­cus on en­joy­ing the shades and pat­terns. Bizarrely, my per­sonal favourites are at op­po­site ends of the pansy spectrum. I love the tiny heart­sease (Vi­ola tri­color), an an­ces­tor of the mod­ern hy­brids, and also the big­gest, showiest, most sump­tu­ous pan­sies with ruf­fled petals, such as ‘Ro­coco’ and ‘Friz­zle Siz­zle’.

The name pansy de­rives from the French ‘pen­sée’ and in the Vic­to­rian lan­guage of flow­ers trans­lates as ‘thought’ or ‘to think’. Mes­sages con­ferred via blooms and bou­quets were of­ten amorous, and re­ceiv­ing pan­sies would mean your lover was think­ing of you. Spe­cific colours or dif­fer­ent flow­ers could be added to in­ter­pret the di­rec­tion of th­ese thoughts.

Wild or tri­color pan­sies (V. tri­color) have a col­lec­tion of ap­peal­ing names. ‘Heart­sease’ is well known but what about ‘Three faces un­der a hood’ or ‘Johnny jump up’? They are of­ten hy­bridised with the field pansy (V.

ar­ven­sis) with vari­able out­comes. Mys­te­ri­ously, we used to have plenty here, seed­ing them­selves gen­tly around the gar­den, but they have re­cently dis­ap­peared. I miss their ran­dom ger­mi­na­tion and will sow some re­place­ments. They were never a nui­sance and easy to re­move if nec­es­sary. Some­times th­ese heart­sease be­have like an­nu­als and die away quickly, but when the weather is kind they’ll be short-lived peren­ni­als, open­ing their perky vi­o­let, blue and yel­low flow­ers from spring to au­tumn.

I grow the showier, larger-flow­ered pan­sies a few to a pot of 50:50 John Innes No2 and soil­less pot­ting com­post. Dur­ing the sum­mer I feed es­tab­lished plants with a high-potash liq­uid fer­tiliser and dead-head them reg­u­larly.

Pan­sies come in var­i­ous colours and a range of sizes to suit ev­ery taste The tiny heart­sease (Vi­ola tri­color) is an an­ces­tor of the mod­ern hy­brids

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