2017's annual flower of the year: The pansy
2017's annual flower of the year
Pansies are such a friendly-faced flower! But, I bet you didn’t know that until the 19th century most people considered them a weed. Today, pansies are a hybrid plant cultivated from those wildflowers in Europe and western Asia. Much of the collection and cultivation of pansies can be attributed to plantsmen and women in the UK and Europe more than 200 years ago. For example: Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennet, daughter of the Earl of Tankerville, and her gardener cross-bred a wide variety of Viola tricolour (common name “Heartsease”) and showcased their pansies to the horticultural world in 1813. Further experiments around the same time eventually grew the class to over 400 garden pansy varieties.
Garden pansies ( Viola x wittrockiana) are a mixture of several species, including Viola tricolour. Oftentimes the names “pansy”, “viola”, and “violet” are interchangeable. However modern pansies are classified by the American Violet Society as having large-flowered blooms with two slightly overlapping upper petals, two side petals, and a single bottom petal, with a slight beard in its center. They’re considered annual bedding plants, used for garden decoration during cooler planting seasons. Pansies come in a rainbow of colours: from crisp white to almost black, and most all colours in between. They are also a great addition to your spring or fall vegetable garden as they are edible and pair well with lettuces. They can also be candied and used to decorate sweets or other dishes.
In the late-1830s the classic pansy “face” was discovered in a chance sport that produced a broad dark blotch on the petals. It was released to the public by James, Lord Gambier with the name “Medora”. Further hybridization of V. tricolor, V. Lutea and a blueflowered species of Russian origin, V. altacia, lead to breeders selecting plants for more unusual pansy colours, different colour combinations, and a larger flower size.
Most pansies fall into a few categories: large (3 to 4 in.), medium (2 to 3 in.) multiflora (1 to 2 in.) and a new category of trailing pansy. Some modern large-flowered pansy series are Majestic Giant and Delta. Medium-sized pansies include Crown and Imperial and Multiflora varieties include Maxim and Padparadja. New
on the scene for hanging baskets and ground cover are WonderFall from Syngenta, and Cool Wave pansies, from PanAmerican Seed — the makers of Wave petunias. These trailing pansies spread over two feet wide and can overwinter in warmer zones. Today’s garden pansy varieties can fill any sunny space — large or small, hanging overhead or growing underfoot — with soft fragrance and happy blooms.
While many retail garden centers offer pansies in handled-packs, hanging baskets or individual pots, many gardeners still start their own pansy flowers from seed. To germinate, start your pansy seeds indoors with a soilless mixture (this helps prevent disease on the seedlings). Plant seed 1/8-in. deep and water gently. Pansies prefer darkness for germination. The media temperature should be 15 to 18°C and keep air temperature at 21 to 24°C. The media should stay damp (covering with a plastic wrap or damp newspaper will help retain humidity). A fine spray with a mister can be added if the media dries. Germination occurs in 10 to 20 days. When shoots appear, remove covering and move the flat to a brightly lit but cool room to continue to grow. Separate seedlings into larger containers after two sets of leaves appear. Begin to feed with diluted plant food.
For transplants or purchased finished plants, space your pansies six to 10 in. apart in a well-drained and fertile soil location. The best location is an area that receives morning sun. Adding granular or time-release nutrition to the soil is encouraged, especially for trailing pansies as this increases their vigour and number of blooms. Offer plenty of water at planting and during their adjustment period to help establish roots and minimize stress. Mulching can help retain moisture and reduce any weeds that may compete with your plants. Pansies planted in the spring will enjoy the warm days and cool nights of the season. Most V. wittrockiana will begin to diminish or go out of flower as nighttime temperatures begin to rise in the summer. When planted in the north for fall outdoor decorating, pansies will enjoy a shorter but colorful season of blooms and in many cases will overwinter to pop up again the following spring.
Article provided by The National Garden Bureau. Written by PanAmerican Seed.
The modern 'Medora' style garden pansy ( Viola x wittrockiana) was bred in the late 1830s. Today pansies come in three distinct face styles: the blotch, the lines and the clear face. Viola tricolour 'Heartsease'.
Not only are pansies pretty, but they are edible too.
Today pansies come in a wide range of colours and colour combinations. Even solid black. Shown: Matrix Clear Mix.