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The Humble Pansy

The common Pansy is often overlooked when talking about our gardens, although every year millions are sold in garden centres.  I use them to cover the soil of my bulb containers and in my spring window box.
Pansies in the window box
They were first brought to the attention of gardeners in the early years of the 19th century by Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennett after procuring every sort of V.tricolor she could find in her fathers' garden at Walton-upon-Thames.  By 1833 there were 400 named varieties available bought by gardeners who once considered it a weed.

Pansies growing at the edge of a pavement

The name Pansy comes from the French pensee (thought) and was bestowed upon the plant because of its resemblance to a pensive human face (in August, it nods forward as if in thought).  It had many names in the past - Love-in-Idleness, Heartsease and flower of Jove, to name but a few.

Viola tricolor growing wild in Norway
 In 'A Midsummer Nights Dream' Shakespeare comments that the juice of the heartsease is a love potion
"and on sleeping eyelids laid, will make a man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees"
Pansies showing typical facial markings
A German fable tells how the pansy lost its perfume.  Originally pansies would have been very fragrant, growing wild in fields and forests.  It was said that people would trample the grass in their eagerness to pick pansies.  Unfortunately, the peoples cows were starving due to the ruined fields, so the pansy prayed to give up her perfume.  Her prayer was answered, and without her perfumed scent, the fields grew tall, and the cows grew fat on the fresh grass.

Pinned Image
via pinterest

Heartsease!  one could look for half a day
Upon this flower, and shape in fancy out
Full twenty different tales of love and sorrow
That gave this gentle name.
Mary Howitt
Pinned Image
via pinterest
The beauteous pansies rise
In purple, gold and blue
With tints of rainbow hue
Mocking the sunset skies
Thomas J. Ouseley
Pinned Image
via pinterest

Pansies in soft April rains
Fill their stalks with honeyed sap
Drawn from Earth's prolific lap
Bayard Taylor
Pinned Image
via pinterest

What is your view on pansies - do you love them for surviving over winter and gracing the garden with colour when little else is flowering - or do you think them a little twee and not worthy of a place in your garden?
greeting card

All information via Wikipedia


  1. Lovely post! I love the pansy in all its forms and colours.It's a true survivor and although a little bit promiscuous they are easily controlled (if you want to of course, I like to leave them to flower wherever they want).

  2. I didn't know that about their name. They have such cheerful faces don't they. I love the small violas more than the larger pansies, but actually they're all welcome in my garden!

  3. Interesting info about a flower that seems to be overlooked sometimes. I like them. I think they're an easy and eye-catching little flower to plant in a couple of pots near my front door.

  4. What a wonderful post Elaine. I love Pansies and have them in window boxes in the fall and then they usually come back for me in the spring from seeds. Such fun facts in this posting. Their blooms do remind you of faces. LOL! The old fashioned cards are so beautiful. Have to love Pinterest. Have a wonderful weekend.

  5. Hi Elaine, thanks for the comment on my blog.I had forgotten about hessian wallpaper.We never had it but my friend did and her cat used to climb up it!

  6. I love pansies. I had a lovely display last year, but this year's plants are a bit reluctant to bloom.

  7. Up until last year, I hadn't been a Pansy fan at all. But I was seduced & put a pot outside the front door before Xmas & they've been the ONLY flower in our street up until now. I'm so glad I bothered to give them a go, they're still performing too. Lovely to see them just growing in nooks n' crannies & have never thought to put them as cut flowers indoors. YAY to Pinterest for inspiration!

  8. A lovely little flower, there should be some in every garden! Flighty xx

  9. I prefer violas too, they just flower for so long but don't seem quite as brash as pansies. All down to personal taste though, eh? Dave

  10. Who doesn't love pansies? You have given us a very nice history of the flower. I often teach A Midsummer Night's Dream, but had forgotten their magical qualities. I loved you photos.

  11. Hi Elaine, I LOVE pansies, but did not know their history. This was very interesting. I am so inspired by the image of the pansies on the windowsill that I think I may do my own version.

  12. I love pansies - they always cheer me up with their jolly little faces.

    I hoped I'd have some come through the winter this year, but rather surprisingly they haven't. You've inspired me to go and get some fresh ones!

  13. I never looked at Pansies as humble. They do have quite a wonderfully rich pedigree in prose. They are such happy faces in the landscape too.

  14. I love them...they can grace my garden anytime.


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