Saturday, April 07, 2007
Italian Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana 'Bolero')
Viola x wittrockiana “Bolero”
This Pansy is new to me. I must say it had a wonderful appearance. Just different enough to pique my interest but not off the wall or garishly different. There was an assortment of colors planted at my local nursery. I looked it up on the Internet and didn’t really find too many references to this plant. The Park Seed Co.
has several types and colors but most seem to come as mixes and the plants I saw were in more blocks of color shades. In general, I was amazed at the selection of colors, flower sizes, and heights of the Pansies that were available. Things have come such a long way.
I have been planting Pansies for years and it occurred to me that I really didn’t know that much about them. According to Wikipedia:
Most of the garden types of Pansy are:
“derived from the wildflower called the Heartsease or Johnny Jump Up (Viola tricolor)”, and:
“Pansies are technically biennials that normally have two-year life cycles. The first year they only produce greenery; they bear flowers and seeds in their second year of growth, and afterwards die like annuals.”
They appear to have been in cultivation for a long time as there is a reference by Shakespeare in Hamlet (ACT IV. Scene V) when Ophelia remarks:
“There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love,
remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts.”
I do know that Pansies love cool weather and can even survive short bouts of snow and ice and below freezing temperatures. When I used to do elaborate bedding schemes with annuals I remember I had planted about 35 flats and it snowed and sleeted the next day. The flowers were a little worse for wear after being encased in ice but it really didn’t hurt them in the long run. They do benefit from dead heading the spent blooms and light feeding with liquid fertilizer. During the summer they tend not to do well but I have had them last and perk up in the fall. I wondered about the origin of the name as the dictionary defines Pansy as (among other things) “a timid man or boy considered childish or unassertive” but to me the Pansy is a brave and strong flower that heralds the Spring. So again from Wikipedia: “The pansy gets its name from the French word pensée meaning "thought". It was so named because the flower resembles a human face and in August it nods forward as if deep in thought.”