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How to Grow Pansies

Pansy

The pansy and the viola are very similar and belong to the same family (Violaceae). Pansies are used mainly for summer bedding, although they can be treated as perennials and increased by means of cuttings. This is, in fact, what is done to perpetuate outstanding varieties for show purposes. In most gardens, however, pansies are treated as biennial plants and discarded after flowering. There are a number of different colourful strains which have been produced by crossing Viola tricolor with selected varieties'Monarch Strain', 'Engelman's', 'Roggli' of Swiss origin, and 'Morel's' or by hybridizing different strains. The work continues and there is no telling what splendid flowers will appear· in the years to come. What is known as the Fancy Pansy is grown for exhibition purposes and has superseded the Show Pansy. For show work the flower should be large, circular in outline, with smooth, thick, velvety petals without serrations. The middle of the flower should be slightly convex with the petals gently reflexed. The colours should be harmonious, with a margin of uniform width, and the yellow eye large, bright and clearly defined. The flower should be not less than 2 inches in diameter.

Cultivation Pansies thrive in well-drained, deeply dug soil that has been enriched with bonemeal or w ll-rotted horse manure. Choose an open position, preferably with some shade from the middaysun. Where the soil is heavy, fork in gritty material old weathered ashes, sha rp sand, brick dust-or compost and a dressing of lime may help to break up the soil. With such a soil the bed should be raised about 6 inches above the surrounding level. On light soil dig in cow manure and garden compost some weeks before planting time.

Planting may be either in the autumn or in the spring, but this depends upon local conditions. Plants put out in the autumn will usually start to flower earlier than those bedded out in spring; however, on heavy soil it is wise to defer planting until the spring. Where plants are put out in the autumn, top-dress the bed or border with equal parts of loam, sedge peat or leafmould and sharp sand a week or two after planting. This will prove a useful protection to the roots during the winter. The plants are reasonably hardy but will not withstand excessive winter wet. When planting is done in the spring, this should be during the second half of March as long as there are no bitter east winds. Set out the plants about 10-12 inches apart and during dry weather water them freely in the evenings.

Propagation is by seed sown in light soil in boxes or pans in July or August and placed in a cold shady frame. Trans plant the seedlings into their flovrering positions in September or early October, or prick out and overwinter in a cold frame. Outstanding plants may be in creased by cuttings taken in August or September and inserted in sandy soil in a cold, shady frame, or by division in September or October. For exhibition purposes allow one bloom only to grow on each shoot, removing other buds at an early stage. Plants grown for exhibition should be fed with weak liquid fertilizer once a week throughout the growing season (see also Viola).

Strains and cultivars include 'Cardinal Giant', brilliant red. 'Chantreyland ', apricot. 'Coronation Gold ', yellow flushed orange. 'Early Flowering Giant ', sky blue. 'Engelmann's Giant', mixed colours.

'Felix' strain, large flowers, various colours, yellow centres. 'Feltham Triumph', various colours. 'Indigo Blue', blue with dark blotches. 'King of the Blacks·. 'Masquerade·. vanous light colour combinations. 'Pacific Toyland F2Hybrids·, mixed colours. 'Paper White'. 'Roggli', mixed colours, very large flowers. 'St Knud ', lower petals orange, upper apricot. 'Westland Giants', mixed colours, very large flowers.

Winter-flowering kinds (flowering from February onwards). These include 'Ce lestial Queen', sky-blue. 'Helios', golden yellow. 'Ice King', white with dark spots. 'Jupiter', sky-blue with a purple blotch. 'March Beauty', velvety purple. 'Moon light', primrose-yellow. 'Orion ', golden yellow. 'Winter Sun', golden-yellow with dark spots.

Pansy stem rot This is a disease usually referred to as pansy sickness, in which the stem base and roots rot and the plant turns yellow. It is now common among pansies and violas and it is neces sary to plant in fresh ground and to sprinkle a little 4 per cent calomel dust in the planting holes. Do not plant too deeply. The fungus responsible for the stem rot is called Myrothecium roridum.




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