While a part of the world has turned white with snow and the colours have faded away, gardeners in this part of the world are just beginning to enjoy bright winter flowers in their gardens.
Gardening seems to be more challenging in the summers and even when you do have a very vibrant summer garden, you can’t really spend the hot days amongst them. Winters, on the other hand, welcome you outdoors – to soak up some warm sunlight. And that is best done with some dazzling bright flowers dancing in your garden.
You do not have to plant rows of flowers to get a stunning display: adding a couple of hanging baskets on the balcony or a pot by the widow brightens up your day equally.
How I love pansies! There is something about them that brings immense joy to the heart and soul. Each year I try to have at least one pot filled with pansies in my terrace garden. Waking up each morning and just looking at them seems like peeking into Heaven.
Many varieties are commonly available in markets and garden stores in Pakistan. They may be labeled differently but descriptions can help you find you what you’re looking for
This flowering plant, low in height, offers a diverse range of colours and patterns. The 2- to 3-inch flower has two slightly overlapping petals which are sometimes of contrasting colours to the other two side petals and the large bottom petal. The bottom three petals are the ones with patterns that look like a face. Flowers become smaller as temperatures increase.
Pansies make an excellent plant for containers because of their compact growing habits. Plants rarely exceed 8 inches in height and trail as much as 20 inches. That trailing nature makes them perfect for borders, baskets and containers where you want to soften the edges. Raise the containers to bring them to a more noticeable position to truly enjoy this flower. Mix these up with tulips or bulbs to add more colour and fill in the empty spaces in between with eye-catching flowers.
If you are beginning to get more interested in growing pansies then consider having a look at some of these varieties.
The colours and combinations for pansies seem to be endless. You can find single, bicolour and tricolour varieties with markings that look just like a cheerful face! Any type of soil works for growing these wonderful flowers in partial or full sun.
The Viola Sorbet collection is of hybrid pansies that tolerate heat and cold much better than others. Gardeners in mild climates can enjoy their flowers throughout winters. The flowers are small and one of the most popular varieties of this collection is the ‘Black Delight’ with black blooms and tiny yellow ‘eyes’. Another one to look out for is Lavender Ice: which is, as the name suggests, a lavender-blue flower with a white face and yellow eyes.
For red pansies you can explore the ‘Red Selection’ of winter pansies.
Miniature pansies like ‘Baby Lucia’ and ‘Baby Franjo’ have light blue and yellow flowers and grow up to only 6 inches tall.
You may feel that you will never find these varieties here in Pakistan. But luckily; many of these are commonly available in markets and garden stores. They may be labeled differently but the descriptions can help you find you what you’re looking for.
Although, there is a seemingly endless list of varieties of pansies, here I’m going to list out some recommendations for you.
- Matrix Solar Flare pansies
Developed especially to withstand warmer temperatures of autumn without bolting, the ‘Matrix’ series is of orange, gold or crimson tones.
- Cool wave white pansies
This all-white variety has no patterns on it but its soothing tone makes it an excellent choice for mixed plantation in hanging baskets.
- Delta marina pansies
These consist of large blue-ish and purple flowers that hold the blooms upright and look best in dark corners and in containers that make them stand out.
- Inspire Plus Mardi Grass mix
For gardeners like me, a pansy is not a pansy without those patterns that look like a face. If you are of the same view, you must plant this variety that has large flowers. They will keep smiling at you from even a good distance.
How to grow and care for pansies
Pansies can be started by seeds easily, but growing them from nursery-bought seedlings is much faster. They will grow in any type of soil. Ideally the soil should stay moist and drain well. Temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit are perfect for pansies.
Mulching helps in keeping the plants healthy. Remove dead flowers to encourage new blooms.
Pests and Disease
Leaf and root rot can create a problem if the soil is overwatered. Lack of air circulation may attract the mildew virus that leaves a white powdery substance on the foliage. Aphids attack new tender buds and leaves.
The best way to avoid this is to keep the foliage and flowers dry. Water the roots only. Plants stressed due to hot and dry conditions may come under attack from spider mites.
Besides all the wonderful deigns that you can create with these versatile flowers in an ornamental garden, do consider adding these to your edible gardens! Believe it or not, the flower is edible and looks extremely pretty in a salad as a sweet treat. People also like to freeze it in ice cubes and add just bit of extra love and beauty into their drinks before serving.
So what are you waiting for? Go grab some seedlings from a nursery and start your very own pansy garden!
And remember: this beautiful little flower asks for a gardener’s attention all the time. Mostly – only to adore it!
Zahra Ali is a sustainability educator, writer and environmentalist. She blogs at cropsinpots.pk. Send in questions about gardening to Zahra@cropsinpots.pk