Monday, September 28, 2009

Planting Pansies

In the Garden
By Catherine Dougherty
This year promises the most lovely Autumn in ages. The crisp mornings are delightful, perfect for outdoor coffee and a leisurely walk to see the glories in the garden. The sunny days are a comfortable temperature and are calm and relaxing after the frenzied rush of summer. The morning glories have reached a zenith, climbing to dazzling heights on and around anything that reaches upward and the mums are delightful to behold. As darkness falls and the cool patters in, night blooming flowers open filling the evening with their sweet scent. The trees have begun to thin and their leaves are drifting, whispering with an almost inaudible rustle as the gently fall. A walk through their ever-accumulating masses is a joy of crunching, swishing sound and motion. Autumn awakens every sense for even the names of the colors are exciting; scarlet, bronze, ruby, burnt sienna, golden cinnamon.

This is the season most favored by many gardeners because of the quietude; it is the time to enjoy the fruits of their labors without hurry. For a brief moment in time there is nothing particularly pressing and now is the time to enjoy all that the garden offered… before it is time to say goodbye.

For the energetic gardener, the precious pansies have begun arriving in the nurseries and it is a wonderful time to plant them. Originally a common viola growing in fields and hedgerows in England they were cultivated by William Richardson, gardener to Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennett I the early 1800’s. Despite his efforts, their first noted appearance was on the estate of James, Lord Gambier. His gardener, William Thompson, began to cross various viola species with a viola tricolor in an effort to achieve a round flower of overlapping petals. In the late 1830s he found by chance a flower that no longer had narrow nectar guides of dark color on the petals but a broad dark blotch instead; from this pansy came the future ‘flowers with a face’. Released to the public in 1839 with the name "Medora," this pansy and its progeny, including "Victoria", rapidly became popular with gardeners and breeders throughout Europe.

If planted now, they will survive nicely over the winter and will have a head start in the spring. Such a cheerful, adorable little flower is always a welcome guest at the garden party and the color options are positively stunning. Their faces are delightful!

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