PansyThe Pansy or pansy violet is a plant cultivated as a garden flower. Pansies are derived from Viola tricolor also called the Heartsease, 'Johnny Jump Up', stepmothers flower, or ladies delight. However, many garden varieties are hybrids and are referred to as Viola × wittrockiana but sometimes they are listed under the name Viola tricolor hortensis. The name "pansy" also appears as part of the common name of a number of wildflowers belonging, like the cultivated pansy, to the genus Viola. Some unrelated species, such as the Pansy Monkeyflower, also have "pansy" in their name.
Cultivation, Breeding and Life cycle: Pansy breeding has produced a wide range of flower colors including yellow, gold, orange, purple, violet, red, white, and even black (dark purple) many with large showy face markings. A large number of bicoloured flowers have also been produced. They are generally very cold hardy plants surviving freezing even during their blooming period. Plants grow well in sunny or partially sunny positions in well draining soils. Pansies are developed from viola species that are normally biennials with a two-year life cycle. The first year plant produce greenery and then bear flowers and seeds their second year of growth and afterwards die like annuals. Because of selective human breeding, most garden pansies bloom the first year, some in as little as nine weeks after sowing.
Most biennials are purchased as packs of young plants from the garden centre and planted directly into the garden soil. Under favourable conditions, pansies and viola can often be grown as perennial plants, but are generally treated as annuals or biennial plants because after a few years of growth the stems become long and scraggly. Plants grow up to nine inches (23 cm) tall, and the flowers are two to three inches (about 6 cm) in diameter, though there are some smaller and larger flowering cultivars available too.
Pansies are winter hardy in zones 4-8. They can survive light freezes and short periods of snow cover, in areas with prolonged snow cover they survive best with a covering of a dry winter mulch. In warmer climates, zones 9-11, pansies can bloom over the winter, and are often planted in the fall. In these climates, pansies have been known to reseed themselves and come back the next year. Pansies are not very heat-tolerant; they are best used as a cool season planting, warm temperatures inhibit blooming and hot muggy air causes rot and death. In colder zones, pansies may not persist without snow cover or protection (mulch) from the extreme cold.
Pansies should be watered thoroughly about once a week, depending on climate and rainfall. To maximize blooming, plant food should be used about every other week, according to the plant food directions. Regular deadheading can extend the blooming period.
Anatomy The pansy has two top petals overlapping slightly, two side petals, beards where the three lower petals join the center of the flower, and a single bottom petal with a slight indentation.
Leaf spot (Ramularia deflectens) is a fungal infection. Symptoms include dark spots on leaf margins followed by a white web covering the leaves. It is associated with cool damp springs.
Mildew (Oidium) is a fungal infection. Symptoms include violet-gray powder on fringes and underside of leaves. It is caused by stagnant air and can be limited but not necessarily eliminated by spraying (especially leaf undersides).
Cucumber mosaic virus is transmitted by aphids. Pansies with the virus have fine yellow veining on young leaves, stunted growth and anomalous flowers. The virus can lay dormant, affect the entire plant and be passed to next generations and to other species. Prevention is key: purchases should consist entirely of healthy plants, and pH-balanced soil should be used which is neither too damp nor too dry. The soil should have balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphate and potash. Other diseases which may weaken the plant should be eliminated.
Aphids To combat aphids, which spread the cucumber mosaic virus, the treatment is to spray with diluted soft soap (2 ounces per gallon).
Name origin and Significance: The name pansy is derived from the French word pensée meaning "thought", and was so named because the flower resembles a human face; in August it nods forward as if deep in thought. Because of this the pansy has long been a symbol of Freethought and has been used in the literature of the American Secular Union. Humanists use it too, as the pansy's current appearance was developed from the Heartsease by two centuries of intentional crossbreeding of wild plant hybrids. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) uses the pansy symbol extensively in its lapel pins and literature.
The word pansy has indicated an effeminate male since Elizabethan times and its usage as a disparaging term for a man or boy who is effeminate (as well as for an avowedly homosexual man) is still used. (There is a queercore musical band called Pansy Division, drawing on this association.) The word "ponce" (which has now come to mean a pimp) and the adjective "poncey" (effeminate) also derive from pansy.
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