Definitions

pansy

pansy

[pan-zee]
pansy: see violet.

Pansy (Viola tricolor)

Any of several popular cultivated violets (genus Viola). Pansies have been grown for so long under such diverse conditions with such striking variations in colour and form that their origin is uncertain. Probably the garden pansy (V. wittrockiana) is a cultivated form of V. tricolor, a weed of European grainfields. Annuals or short-lived perennials, pansies grow 6–12 in. (15–30 cm) tall and have heart-shaped leaves at the base and oblong leaves growing from the stems. Velvety flowers occur in combinations of blue, yellow, and white. The smaller, usually purple, wild pansy is also known as Johnny-jump-up, heartsease, and love-in-idleness.

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The pansy or pansy violets are a large group of plants cultivated as garden flowers. Pansies are derived from Viola tricolor and can include hybrids with other viola species which then are referred to as Viola × wittrockiana, but sometimes they are listed under the name Viola tricolor hortensis. The name "pansy" also appears as part of the common name of a number of wildflowers belonging, like the cultivated pansy, to the genus Viola. Some unrelated species, such as the Pansy Monkeyflower, also have "pansy" in their name.

Cultivation, breeding and life cycle

Pansy breeding has produced a wide range of flower colors including yellow, gold, orange, purple, violet, red, white, and even black (dark purple) many with large showy face markings. A large number of bicoloured flowers have also been produced. They are generally very cold hardy plants surviving freezing even during their blooming period. Plants grow well in sunny or partially sunny positions in well draining soils. Pansies are developed from viola species that are normally biennials with a two-year life cycle. The first year plant produce greenery and then bear flowers and seeds their second year of growth and afterwards die like annuals. Because of selective human breeding, most garden pansies bloom the first year, some in as little as nine weeks after sowing.

Most biennials are purchased as packs of young plants from the garden centre and planted directly into the garden soil. Under favourable conditions, pansies and viola can often be grown as perennial plants, but are generally treated as annuals or biennial plants because after a few years of growth the stems become long and scraggly. Plants grow up to nine inches (23 cm) tall, and the flowers are two to three inches (about 6 cm) in diameter, though there are some smaller and larger flowering cultivars available too.

Pansies are winter hardy in zones 4-8. They can survive light freezes and short periods of snow cover, in areas with prolonged snow cover they survive best with a covering of a dry winter mulch. In warmer climates, zones 9-11, pansies can bloom over the winter, and are often planted in the fall. In these climates, pansies have been known to reseed themselves and come back the next year. Pansies are not very heat-tolerant; they are best used as a cool season planting, warm temperatures inhibit blooming and hot muggy air causes rot and death. In colder zones, pansies may not persist without snow cover or protection (mulch) from the extreme cold.

Pansies should be watered thoroughly about once a week, depending on climate and rainfall. To maximize blooming, plant food should be used about every other week, according to the plant food directions. Regular deadheading can extend the blooming period.

Anatomy

The pansy has two top petals overlapping slightly, two side petals, beards where the three lower petals join the center of the flower, and a single bottom petal with a slight indentation.

Diseases

Stem rot

Stem rot, also known as pansy sickness, is a soil-borne fungus and a possible hazard with unsterilized animal manure. The plant may collapse without warning in the middle of the season. The foliage will flag and lose color. Flowers will fade and shrivel prematurely. Stem will snap at the soil line if tugged slightly. The plant is probably a total loss unless tufted. The treatment of stem rot, includes the use of fungicides such as Cheshunt or Benomyl , which are used prior to planting. Infected plants are destroyed (burned) to prevent the spread of the pathogen to other plants.

Watering

The plant should be watered every other day, and watering should never be missed for more than three days. The plant should never be over watered.

Leaf spot

Leaf spot (Ramularia deflectens) is a fungal infection. Symptoms include dark spots on leaf margins followed by a white web covering the leaves. It is associated with cool damp springs.

Mildew

Mildew (Oidium) is a fungal infection. Symptoms include violet-gray powder on fringes and underside of leaves. It is caused by stagnant air and can be limited but not necessarily eliminated by spraying (especially leaf undersides).

Cucumber mosaic virus

The cucumber mosaic virus is transmitted by aphids. Pansies with the virus have fine yellow veining on young leaves, stunted growth and anomalous flowers. The virus can lay dormant, affect the entire plant and be passed to next generations and to other species. Prevention is key: purchases should consist entirely of healthy plants, and pH-balanced soil should be used which is neither too damp nor too dry. The soil should have balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphate and potash. Other diseases which may weaken the plant should be eliminated.

Pests

Slugs and snails

To ward off slugs and snails, sharp, gritty sand can be laid, or the soil can be top-dressed with chipped bark. The area should be kept clean of leaves and foreign matter, etc. Beer in little bowls buried to the rims in the flower beds will also keep slugs and snails at bay.

Aphids

To combat aphids, which spread the cucumber mosaic virus, the treatment is to spray with diluted soft soap (2 ounces per gallon).

Cultivars

The Universal Plus series of 21 cultivars covers all the common pansy colours except orange and black.

Name origin and significance

The name pansy is derived from the French word pensée meaning "thought", and was so named because the flower resembles a human face; in August it nods forward as if deep in thought. Because of this the pansy has long been a symbol of Freethought and has been used in the literature of the American Secular Union. Humanists use it too, as the pansy's current appearance was developed from the Heartsease by two centuries of intentional crossbreeding of wild plant hybrids. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) uses the pansy symbol extensively in its lapel pins and literature.

The word "pansy" has indicated an effeminate male since Elizabethan times and its usage as a disparaging term for a man or boy who is effeminate (as well as for an avowedly homosexual man) is still used. (There is a queercore musical band called Pansy Division, drawing on this association.) The word "ponce" (which has now come to mean a pimp) and the adjective "poncey" (effeminate) also derive from "pansy".

Pansies in the arts and culture

The pansy remains a favorite image in the arts, culture, and crafts, from needlepoint to ceramics. It is also the flower of Osaka, Japan.

  • In 1827, Pierre-Joseph Redouté painted Bouquet of Pansies.
  • In 1926, Georgia O'Keeffe created a famous painting of a black pansy called simply, Pansy. She followed with White Pansy in 1927.
  • D. H. Lawrence wrote a book of poetry entitled Pansies: Poems by D. H. Lawrence.
  • In William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream, the juice of a pansy blossom ("before, milk-white, now purple with love's wound, and maidens call it love-in-idleness") is a love potion: "the juice of it, on sleeping eyelids laid, will make a man or woman madly dote (fall in love) upon the next live creature that it sees." (Act II, Scene I see also: Oberon at II, i). Since the cultivated pansy had not yet been developed, "pansy" here means the wild Heartsease, and the idea of using it as a love potion was no doubt suggested by that name. The folkloric language of flowers is more traditional than scientific, with conventional interpretations, similar to the clichés about animals such as the "clever fox" or "wise owl". Ophelia's oft-quoted line, "There's pansies, that's for thoughts", in Hamlet (Act IV, Scene V) comes from this tradition: if a maiden found a honeyflower and a pansy left for her by an admirer, it would mean "I am thinking of our forbidden love" in symbol rather than in writing.
  • The Pansy is a symbol of the Delta Delta Delta women's fraternity, and represents the alumni members.

External links

References

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