Considered by many to be the best bedding plant in the world, pansies are an integral component of a spring garden. With their strikingly bold faces, pansies seem to shout out to all that winter is almost done and it’s time for flowers to rule once more. Pansies are one of the few bedding plants that flower well during winter and continue into spring, even in very cold areas
Planted from April, through winter, pansies make ideal bedding plants. Their stature, eye-catching blooms and floriferous nature make them perfect for just about anywhere in the garden, including containers and hanging baskets. As can be expected from such a popular bedding plant, there is a huge selection of flower types to choose from – from subtle shades of pink and blue through to antique mixes and bold reds and yellows.
There is also a host of different flower sizes. The F1 hybrids giant flowering hybrids are particularly large, producing flowers that can be as big as a saucer. F1 large flowered varieties offer slightly smaller flowers, but are far more florific, producing between 400 (without deadheading) and 600 (with deadheading) flowers per bush in its life cycle.
If you plant the seedlings close to walk ways or your favourite garden bench, try planting “faced" varieties for aesthetics or to draw the eye to a specific focal point. A well known gardener plants his “faced" pansies near steps. This draws the attention of visitors so when they look at the gorgeous blooms, they will also notice the steps and not fall down them. If you are looking to bring colour to a bed that is viewed at a distance (over an expanse of lawn for example) it’s better to plant the single coloured varieties. This helps keep your perspective on a carpet of bold colour, rather than confusing the eye with an assortment of colours and tones. Pansies also make excellent bedfellows with taller growing annuals like poppies and their smaller cousins violas.
Pansies prefer a sunny position – too much shade will result in the plants becoming leggy and a smaller show of flowers. Space the seedlings about 15 cm apart, in a bed that has been thoroughly turned over with a generous amount of compost added. Be sure to plant the seedlings at the same depth as they lie in their trays. Water deeply and only when the surface begins to dry out. Some gardeners think that if they water more often, it will cool down the soil, but all that does is creates waterlogged soil and encourages root diseases. Feed regularly.
Deadheading is important as it encourages the plants to keep on pushing out more buds, giving the garden up to 7 months of colour; excellent value for money in anyone’s book. The delightfully scented blooms can be picked for miniature arrangements, or to add interest to salads (just remember not to eat more than three flowers a day).
Information Supplied by the Bedding Plant Growers Association. For more go to www.lifeisagarden.co.za