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Hearty pansies are full of variety

Pansies also known as “love in idleness,” hearts ease or little flame has always been a favorite flower.

By the first of May, my mother would bring home a few pansy plants to set out in a small garden bed where the family could enjoy them. The little plants were very hardy and could survive late frosts and even a dusting of winter snow. As they grew and reached for the spring sunshine, we cut little bouquets to enjoy in the house. The more you pick pansies the more they bloom.

Every year the pansies are different. I remember the spring when our pansies were different shades of pink with little ruffled edges. Some years they are dark with contrasting colors. Other years they are large blossoms of many hues. The pansy is usually 2 to 3 inches in diameter, with two slightly overlapping upper petals, two side petals and a single bottom petal with a slight beard emanating from the flowers center.

Pansies can be planted directly in the ground or planted in a container. Make sure you place the little plants in a sunny location in soil that drains well. For a change put a pansy or its cousin the small viola in a container with other flowers.

This year my pansies have endured many frosty nights and several little spring snowstorms. Even so I have been able to pick a little bouquet as soon as the snow melts. One November in Charleston, S.C. I watched as pansies were planted in containers for the fall and early winter. I questioned the gardener about how the pansies would fare in the winter months.

She said it depends on the weather, but they would be nice through the new year. Pansies are not heat tolerant. Warm, muggy temperatures will put an end to their blooming and an end to the pansy season. Pansies are a spring flower and usually by July are ready for the compost pile. Water and fertilize the pansies as you would your other container plants depending on the climate and rainfall.

Pansies are edible. They make a beautiful garnish for a lady’s luncheon or a nice decoration for the family favorite apricot rhubarb tarte. No matter the color or the size, I never met a pansy I did not like.

Rebecca Norton Ryan is a Penn State Extension Master Gardener and member of Warren Garden Club.

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