Falling in love with pansies

WINTER WONDER: Pansies are a wonderful source of colour.
WINTER WONDER: Pansies are a wonderful source of colour.
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Out with the old and in with the new – the bright and breezy summery container plants are being rehoused to the compost bin to make way for their equally bright and breezy wintry replacements.

Some gardeners ensure colour from March through until June by planting different types of bulbs in one pot and then moving the container into a prominent position as the flower buds start to colour.

Snowdrops for February, crocus for March, daffodils and narcissi for April and tulips for May will provide all the colour that most gardens will need, especially if you top off each planter with a few winter-flowering pansies that will tie together all the colours – and pansies provide instant colour as soon as they get their roots into the compost.

Some people turn up their noses at pansies – they consider them old-fashioned. But pansies still maintain their appeal among gardeners who value a dependable flower when little else is in bloom. The Victorians loved them and bred lots of new varieties with ‘faces’ and fantastic colours.

The winter-flowering forms start to bloom in autumn and can put up with most of what the English climate can throw at them. It’s possible to sow the tiny seeds in late spring to get decent-sized plants for the autumn, but it’s far easier to buy ready-germinated plants.

‘Floral Dance’ is still one of the biggest sellers, but the beauty of pansies is that there are always new varieties appearing, and mixing several can produce a fantastic show late on in the year.

And if you fall in love with the winter bloomers, you’ll adore those which can be used for summer bedding or to fill window boxes. The large-flowered group include such favourites as ‘Jumbo’ and ‘Sunny Boy’, and, again, they come in a multitude of colours.

All they ask of the gardener is a decent soil and a sunny spot. Water them in dry times and dead-head regularly and you’ll have months of in-your-face colour.

And if you are confused about the difference between pansies and violas, don’t be.

Violas tend to be a bit smaller and come in single colours, but they can be just as attractive as their bigger, more blowsy cousins. You pay your money and you make your choice.

Whichever you choose, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.