When most other flowers are coming to the end of their stay with us pansies and violas are tough little Trojans that cheer up the gloomiest of winter days.
I love the origin of their name: mid-15c, from Middle French pensée “a pansy,” literally “thought,remembrance,” from fem. past participle of penser “to think,” from Latinpensare “consider,” frequentative of pendere “to weigh”. So called because it was regarded as a symbol of thought or remembrance. They certainly make me remember the joy which flowers give.
‘Universal’ and other winter-flowering pansies and violas were developed by breeders in Britain and beyond with three features in mind: the capacity to flower in the short days of winter; tolerance of cold, wet and windy weather; and the ability to stay compact and not stretch and flop over when mild weather eventually arrives.
In general, pansies produce large flowers, up to 7.5cm (3in) and more across, but not many of them;
How to Grow
These flowers follow the sun – or, on dull days, they follow the best light. Plant them where you look at them with the sun or light behind you – then their flowers will face you.
Winter pansies and violas will thrive in any good soil and appreciate plenty of sunshine. Plant plain-faced types en masse in beds and borders, and bicolours and whiskered types along paths and in containers where you can appreciate the delicacy of their pretty patterns.
Finally, the one thing that helps all pansies and violas give their very best is regular dead-heading. So as soon as the flowers fade, nip them off. Use kitchen scissors or thumb and forefinger.
So now you know all you need to know about these gorgeous little spots of colour. Get down to your garden centre and go mad – they won’t let you down.