Pansy, Viola

Pansies may have an old-fashioned look but they are in fact a 19th century creation, developed from the wild flower V. tricoior. In mid-Victorian times the varieties with large multi-coloured ‘faces’ were popular and have remained so ever since. In the 1860s V. cornuta was crossed with the Garden Pansy and the result was the Viola (V. hybrida). The dividing line between the Pansy and the Viola is not a clear one, although you will often find them on different pages in the catalogue. In general the Viola is more compact and not as easy to grow and the flowers are smaller and often single-coloured. Both Pansies and Violas are short-lived perennials which are usually grown as annuals or biennials. The plants are used for bedding, edging and window boxes, and the flowers are cut for use indoors. Dead-head regularly, protect from slugs and greenfly, and water in dry weather.

VARIETIES: There is a multitude of Pansy varieties. The Winter-flowering group blooms in late autumn onwards if sown in late spring – varieties include ‘Floral Dance’, ‘Celestial Queen’ and ‘Helios’, but it is more usual to buy a mixture. The Large-flowered group includes the ‘Roggli (Swiss) Giants’, Azure Blue’, ‘Majestic Giants’, ‘Queen of the Planets’, ‘Sunny Boy’, and ‘Jumbo’. The range of Viola varieties is smaller – a few well-known ones are Arkwright Beauty’ (red), ‘Yellow Bedder’ (golden yellow), ‘Chantreyland’ (orange), ‘Blue Heaven’ (sky blue) and Avalanche’ (white). For small flowers with ‘whiskers’ on the face, choose ‘Bambini’.

SITE AND SOIL: Any reasonable garden soil in sun or partial shade.

PLANT DETAILS: Height 6-9 in.

Spacing: 9 in.-1 ft.

Flowering period: January-December, depending on the variety chosen.

V. hybrida ‘Chantreyland’


PROPAGATION: The Biennial technique is usually recommended for the best results, but Pansies and Violas can be grown as annuals, using either the Hardy Annual or Half Hardy Annual technique .

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