By Jann Dworsky
Special to the Daily Herald
Many gardeners love the tradition of planting what they saw as children in their parents' and grandparents' gardens. I have watched my mother plant pansies for years on Ninth Street in Gatesville, and both of my daughters are enjoying planting pansies.
Appropriately enough, the name pansy is from the French word pensie, meaning thought or remembrance. Pansies also are associated with love, according to theflowerexpert.com.
Pansies have a long history and are often found illustrated and referred to in works of literature. William Wordsworth wrote about them; Georgia O'Keefe painted exquisite white-and-black pansies, and gardenfairy.com reminds us that William Shakespeare's character, Puck, used the juice of pansies to make "man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees." Fortunately for the many pansy lovers, that is fiction. Look closely and you will see a "face" in the pansies, no matter their color or size.
Pansies and their leaves are edible and can be used on cold fruit or as a beautiful garnish on a salad. Several times a year, I pick some beautiful purple-and-yellow pansies and float them in a shallow dish for a centerpiece at the table.
Pansy plants can be found in several sizes. The diameter of the large blooms is 3 to 4 inches, the medium 2 to 3 inches, and the multiflora 1 to 2 inches. Pansy plants only grow slightly larger over the winter, so plant as closely as possible for maximum effect. The multiflora or Johnny-jump-up is the ancestor of our pansies today. Gardenfairy.com states that in 1810, Mr. William Thompson crossed varieties of the viola tricolor with viola lutea and viola altaica to create pansies. Since then, a huge variety of colors have been developed .
Plant pansies in the ground as well as in several pots and in mass plantings. The most important thing to remember about pansies is that deadheading, or pinching off the dead blooms and seedpods, keeps the new blooms coming all winter. I cover my pansies if the temperature drops significantly below freezing, but frost or a light freeze will not damage them. Fertilize pansies every four weeks with a nitrogen fertilizer and water well. Plant your pansies where they receive at least six hours of sunlight for maximum blooming.
Enjoy growing your pansies and passing the tradition down to others in your family.
Have any questions about gardening in Central Texas? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring plant sale
The Bell County Master Gardeners' spring plant sale is from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 24.