Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pansies, Violas, and Jonnie Jump Ups

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called Pansies, Violas and Jonnie Jump Ups  (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:

"When the winter season comes to its end and the spring season arrives, the pansy family of flowers is more than ready to show us their happy faces in our gardens. Pansies hold a special place in my heart--and for most gardeners-- because of the cheerful flower faces that welcome the new season. Some years, the weather does not cooperate and we are surprised with a blanket of snow after planting them, but the pansy family does not care; it just keeps smiling until the snow melts. No other flower can tolerate the type of weather that they can; cold and wet growing conditions are not a problem. For your own peace of mind plant pansies, violas and Johnnie jump ups this spring.

(Pansies at Skillin's!)

The pansy family comes from the mountains of New Zealand and got its start in America from a Dutch grower who brought seed to Massachusetts, where the gardeners could not get enough of them. Before long new pansy hybrids developed to bring cheer to a cold spring gardens. The pansy is the floral emblem of Rhode Island and the state flower of New Jersey and Wisconsin.

The Violas were named for a lover of the God Zeus, and even Shakespeare mentioned them often in his works. Napoleon, banished to Elba, said he said he would "return with the violets." When he did return, Josephine was dead. He picked violets for her grave before going into exile again to St. Helena. When he died, a locket found on him contained a lock of her hair and violet flowers.

The pansy family has many names and I thought you would like to know just a few of them: Tickle-my-Fancy, Kiss-her-in-the-Pantry, Three-Faces-in-a-Hood, Love-in-Idleness and Heartsease. This flower has five petals that are arranged on a short stem, with two petals on top, one on each side and one larger one on the bottom. The center is most always yellow, even in solid darker colored flower types. The foliage is medium green, the leaves are I to 3 inches long, and the shape is oval to heart shape. The plant grows in a clump 4 to 8 inches wide and 4 to 8 inches tall. The plants are easy to grow and are very hardy in all types of weather. Plant pansies in partial shade where summers are hot. Pansies will also grow in a sunny or shady spot in your garden or even in containers or hanging baskets. Select a location with a humus-rich soil for the best results, though they will also grow well in a moist well-drained soil.

If you want to grow pansies from seed, you must plant them 8 to 10 weeks before the first frost, usually during mid January. Once the seed germinates, keep the new seedlings in a cool room or they will grow fast, stretch and grow tall, often falling over in the garden. All greenhouses, nurseries and garden centers have plants available now, ready to face the changing weather where you live. The flowers will last until the heat arrives when planted in the sun, so transplant them into a shaded garden in late June for summer flowers. If you like pansies, look for the new fall-blooming pansies available in September. These plants will bloom until the snow covers them in November or later. Many of them survive the winter and reappear the following spring.

(Fish and Seaweed Food Neptune's Harvest)

When planting add a bit of "Soil-Moist" to the planting hole: it will help them save water during hot days. Feed them every other week with "Miracle-Gro" fertilizer (I prefer Fish and Seaweed Food by Neptune's Harvest every week or every other week. It's natural ingredients will sustain these plants much better than Miracle Gro) once planted. The "BIG" secret is to pick off the faded flowers so the plant does not make seeds. The more you clean them, the more they will flower. When you pick off the faded flowers, crush the seed pods and throw them into the garden, where some of the seeds will germinate and spread. Smile with the Happy faces of Spring."

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
April 11, 2010

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