Every spring, the colorful pansy signals the beginning of my new year of gardening. I was first introduced to this smiling flower (yes if you look carefully they ARE smiling back at you) as a child in the animated Walt Disney movies. Inevitably, smiling pansies filled the screen dancing and singing with the characters. I have since then used the pansy as the first colorful plant of spring in my gardens. And lo and behold, the National Garden Bureau has recognized this friendly faced flower as one of the 2017 selections for plant of the year..
Pansies are related to the viola family. Until the 19th century they were considered a weed. But today’s hybrid pansies cultivated from the wildflowers in Europe and Asia come in a variety of sizes, colors and growing habits. This annual flower is a perfect choice to begin your garden season. They really perk up a brown and lifeless landscape during our cooler seasons here in the North Country. I like to use them in containers and bedding areas when I first open my gardens. I then revisit them in the fall when our evening temperatures dip. Although they enjoy a shorter season, they can be a welcome alternative to the mum and cabbage crowd.
Today’s pansies come in large (3-4 inch) medium (2-3 inch) and small (1-2 inch) bloom sizes. There is also a new category considered “trailing” that can be used in hanging baskets and as ground covers.. This variety comes from the makers of the wave petunia. As we all know the “waves” have become a staple in containers and large bedding areas over the past few years. In general pansies prefer well-drained soil and a morning sun location. Excessive heat and sun will dry them out quickly (remember they are a cool season annual)
When nothing else is in bloom, these little plants offer a soft fragrance. Coupled with the fresh air of spring they can be a welcome relief from our long stale days of winter. Solid colors were the norm several years ago. Newer variety multicolored hybrids give off a rainbow of color for front borders and containers. A few years ago I began using the “Victorian” variety, multicolored pansies with delicate ruffled edges. It seemed to fit our Saratoga Springs vintage settings. Although I have not yet tested the waters on this…pansies are well known as colorful edibles pairing well with cool season lettuces. They are also used for decorations on cakes, particularly Easter sweets.
So if you are looking for a springtime gift or Easter bloom this week……consider the friendly faced pansy. They are readily available in our local greenhouses for planting. Their color will last you well through the month of May and maybe the first few weeks of June depending upon the weather. As always, keeping common sense and sustainability part of all my garden practices. Thanks to the National Garden Bureau for their Year of the Pansy” information.
Looking to “grow” your garden skills this year? Why not join the Garden Goddess May 6th @ Longfellows Hotel and Conference Center in Saratoga Springs for her Dig into Gardening Day. For more information and workshop registration go to this link: http://gardengoddesssenseandsustainability.com/dig-in-to-gardening-2017.html