Next to the geranium perhaps the pansy is more universally known among rich and poor than any flower we grow. It is a favorite with all children. "My little boy wants some pansies," we hear continually every spring. And the old boy and girl must be made of queer stuff if they are not fascinated with the pretty faces of the heartsease. A doctor of our city has written some very pretty verses in which he claims that in the varied markings of the pansy he sees the faces of the German, French, English, Scotch, Irish and Italian girl, and other nationalities which 1 forget. He failed to find one that reflected the bronze features of our Poceahontas-likt Indian maiden, the real American girl, although there is every shade of flower and girl from white to sooty black. His verses were too early for him to include the latest American beauties, the Filipino and the brown senorita of the Gem of the Antilles. As there are several types of our American girls he has taken a large pale blue to impersonate the Boston type, and a large, ragged-edged yellow with a black eye for Chicago.
Poets have attended to the pansy thousands of times, and the modern sentimental song writer says: "Only a pansy blossom, only a faded flower." I think this song has something in allusion to a lamented maternal parent. Now did you ever notice, good reader, that the youth who seldom or never works but who holds down a chair in some third-class drinking place all day, where a stray treat or two fall to his lot, and toward closing time a sufficient number of treats have excited his vocal powers and then with a squeak, or a rasp, with sloppy eyes and expression we are edified with a few verses, and it is not a song for the occasion, such as "We won't go home 'till morning," or something appropriate, but it is sure to be something about "dear mother." The gist of the song is sure to be how he loves and cherishes and works for mother, and admonishes all to do likewise. Nothing is said about father, but the motto of the house that this young man staggers home to is: "Do not worry father; mother's working."
The pansy has been cultivated in the gardens of Europe for ages. If its expressive features could speak it could tell you that its ancestors saw the dreadful deeds of the dark ages, the chivalry but barbarism of the feudal system, the oppression and torture of bigotry, the fight for liberty, the emancipation by education of the masses, and now at the close of this nineteenth century, in this " age of reason" and humanity, you see the humble but free citizen taking home his basket of pansies to make his little garden prettier and to please the children. The cooler climate of Northern Europe is much more favorable for pansies in the summer months than our hot and often dry summers. But I have seen beds of pansies here on the north side of buildings, with the seed pods picked off and an occasional good watering, look fine the entire summer. Whether they last longer than July or not there will always be a demand for them, not only in the cities, but the farmers and residents of our villages buy them for their dooryards and there is where you often see them well taken care of. I have frequently heard Mrs. Buckwheat exclaim, "I guess, Mariah, you didn't wet them 'ere pansies last night. I see they be a drupen."
They are raised in large quantities by some farmer-gardeners and sent to our cities in small baskets holding one dozen plants, and usually sold at the popular price of 25 cents per dozen.
For this purpose the seed is sown in beds out of doors at the end of July. A very successful and large grower of pansies has told me that he finds about July 20 the most suitable date for seed sowing.
The first part of pansy growing is sowing the seed. We once thought the seedbeds must be shaded. This is a mistake and the farmer-gardener alluded to who perhaps needs 100,000 seedlings, never bothers with shade. Prepare your seedbeds by raking off all sticks or stones and coarse lumps of earth, leaving only a fine friable loam to receive the seed. Sow either in very shallow drills or sow broadcast and cover by raking in the seed. The latter is much the more expeditious plan. Now those seedbeds can and should be in the broad sun, and watering must be never neglected. In two weeks the little plants will be up and so close attention will not be necessary, but from time of sowing till the little seed leaves are expanded you may have to water the beds ten times a day. The surface of the beds must be constantly moist. The advantage of having these seedbeds in the fullest light is that the plants from their earliest infancy are stout and stocky, which raised under shade it is almost impossible to produce. Kept watered they come along all right and make showy little plants. At the end of August or early September they are transplanted into beds four or five feet across and as long as you like, and the plants three or four inches apart. Usually with plenty of snow during our coldest months these strong plants (for they are strong plants in flower before winter comes) come through all right, and a warm rain or two and a few fine days in April and they are gay again and quickly start to grow, and are mostly sold in May.
When you get two weeks zero and below on bare ground it goes hard with these little plants; thousands perish. Some straw, very thinly laid between the plants will help a great deal. It will catch the fast driving, drifting snow that otherwise would fly along to join the other particles at the fence row. Hemlock boughs with their arching stems upwards are an excellent covering; they do not lie heavily on the plants. Whatever you use don't put them on early; there is never any harm done till the middle of November.
Florists who have a demand for some good pansies by the end of April, either for those who have the good sense to plant early or for vases in our cemeteries, should sow not later than the middle of August. You can sow in cold-frame and shade the seedbed, but uncover as soon as well up or the little plants will be drawn.