Plant of the month

Plant of the Month – Pansy

Each month, OGV sub-committee member, Gayle Parkes presents the 'Plant of the month'. She also posts to OGV's Instagram - make sure you check back regularly for her latest post. This month Gayle brings us the pansy.

The garden pansy is a type of large-flowered hybrid plant cultivated as a garden flower. It is derived by hybridization from several species in the section Melanium ("the pansies") of the genus Viola, particularly Viola tricolor, a wildflower of Europe and western Asia known as heartsease.

Pretty, pretty pansies! These sweet, much loved floral blooms are sitting in their punnets at a garden centre near you, just waiting to brighten up your winter garden. I’ve popped mine in, definitely my winter favourite for a couple of pots that I have dedicated to annuals, summer and winter. Summer for petunias, only white ones for me (because I love the cool colour of white in summer) and winter, definitely pansies. Every year I go a little crazy with different colours… just because I can! So much choice… I want them all!!!

There are few flowers more versatile or distinctive to the winter garden than the cheery pansy. Garden favourites for generations, their pretty little blooms are sure to brighten up any spot and lift you (and your garden) out of that winter gloom. The great thing about pansies is the multitude of flowers they produce. Prolific!

With their delicate petals arranged in the shape of a butterfly, pansies come in a whole spectrum of vibrant colours and bicolours, with petals that are often striped or blotched and are awash with patterns and stripes, which give them those dear little “faces” and hence, such personality. Coming in an endless array of vibrant colours including blue, lavender, purple, red, orange, bronze, yellow, and white, not to mention all of the mixed colour combos that we have available to us these days. Some pansies even give off a waft of perfume. Bonus!

They love cool weather and generally can be planted from March to July. In cooler areas, pansies can also be planted at the end of winter and will flower into spring and early summer. Pansies will bear larger and more brightly coloured blooms as the cool season progresses. When spring arrives and the weather heats up, they usually will go on a natural decline.

Choose a sunny spot to grow your seedlings with free draining soil. If the location gets a bit of late afternoon shade that’s even better as it will give extra protection when the hot weather arrives. With all annuals, it is advised to improve the soil before planting with some compost, manure and/or an organic pelletised fertiliser.

Mulch around plants to protect flowers from soil splashing up, maintain moisture and keep weeds at bay. Of course, with all seedlings, beware of snails… such juicy new growth is irresistible to our slimy inhabitants! Your seedlings will be very quick to produce buds but it’s best to pinch off the first lot so the plants put more energy into establishing themselves. I’m hearing you…. that’s hard to do... Water plants regularly and feed every two weeks with a liquid fertiliser to encourage better flowering and strong growth. Throughout the growing season regularly pick off the dead flower heads to encourage more flowers. 

These little cuties are adaptable. They’re happy in full sun, part shade, in a pot or even in a hanging basket. They look fabulous planted en masse along borders, they bring a quick infusion of colour in drab corners, they can happily act as a temporary fill-in while permanent plants are becoming established, and of course, they are brilliant
planted amongst spring flowering bulbs.

Their flowers can be picked to make a cute little posy or added to salads for some extra colour (yes they’re edible!). I can’t wait to be able to pick my first blooms for a tiny crystal vase to pop on my kitchen bench. I will have lots of colour variations to choose from as, yes, I’ve gone a little overboard with my pansies this year …. again.