Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Pansy For Your Thoughts...

I'm not a huge annual fan, those plants that bloom their heart out and then die at the end of the season. However,some annuals will always be in my garden, and Pansies are at the top of the list. Pansy comes from the French word for thought, pansee. When you look into the velvet bloom, you can easily see why our forefathers (and fore-mothers) saw a connection to our own human faces and thus thoughts as well. Pansies are hybrid Violas,technically Viola X wittrokiana,and come in every color of the rainbow. If protected in the garden they can behave like a short lived perennial, but most people treat them as annuals and star over every year. I was at a seed shop, and was engrossed with the Cole crops set out for spring planting(cabbages and kales), when my nose caught the sweet violet scent so characteristic of Pansies. Sure enough, around the corner, on a cart bursting with color were Spring Pansies ready to come home with me. I don't start my own from seed, I'd rather work with things that can't be found easily at the local nurseries. I methodically go through each variety, always checking for strength of scent,most important. Usually, I pick one special variety to enjoy en mass-this year I chose two. The first selection of the season was "Dynamite Wine Flash", everyone in my Wine Group should like that! Beautiful burgundy reds with a brass gold face and lots of personality. It's a standard Pansy, large enough to pick a tiny bouquet for the house. The other choice, not my usual, is a mixed variety called "penny Lane Mix". I don't go for mixed flowers usually,they seem jumbled and rag-tag. These smaller Jonny jump-up type of violas come in a fantastic pallet of colors and faces, and yes, they have a light sweet fragrance. In my very mid-west garden, they will be replaced by the end of June, but I'll be enjoying them to the fullest until then. Interestingly,Pansies became the symbol of free thought in the late 1890's through the 1920's in Europe as well as North America. To wear a pansy on your lapel showed your support to the Free Thinkers from Prague to New york, a badge of honor to the movement. Although it's early here in Kansas to put out bedding plants (annuals), Pansies can take the cold, so jump right in!

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