2017's an­nual flower of the year: The pansy

2017's an­nual flower of the year

Ontario Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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.

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