"The pretty Pansies then I'll tie,
Like stones some chain enchasing,
The next to them their near ally
The purple Violet placing."
One of the first flowers children learn to love is the Pansy, and the love thus early acquired is preserved to the end of life. To what shall the preference be attributed? Is it to the modest habit of the flower, its sweet fragrance, its rich velvety texture, or its easy culture and adaptability? When a town dweller first succeeds in obtaining a small plot of ground for the cultivating of flowers, he invariably begins with Pansies and Violas. He may aspire to higher things, but he starts with Pansies, than which no flowers are more suited for cultivation in the suburban gardens of our large towns. In many situations they become almost perennial, whilst some of the Violas are so precocious in spring they will bloom under the snow. The reader has probably seen the effect of a snowstorm in April on a bed of Crocuses, when the yellow or purple flowers appeared as colour lines on a ground of pure white; an equally charming effect is sometimes, though less frequently, seen with Violas.
Top flowers (reading from left to right): Wild Pansy and Cultlvated Pansy of 1830.
Bottom flowers: Show Pansy of 1870 and Fancy Pansy of 1910.
It may be well to explain at the beginning of this book the different meanings which have come to be attached to the names Show Pansy, Fancy Pansy, Viola, Tufted Pansy, and Violetta.
Prior to 1850 there was only one kind of Pansy known and grown in Britain-it was entitled to be called simply "The Pansy" because there were no others. It was the progenitor of what are known as Show Pansies (see coloured illustration). The colours were confined to yellow, white, blue, and purple, but the remarkably fine velvety texture which so many associate with Pansies was most apparent in the rich purple shades. Show Pansies are now suffering comparative neglect, their place in popular appreciation having been taken by their more gaudy sisters the Fancy Pansies. These latter are of continental origin, and were first known as Belgian Pansies. The colours of this race are varied as the rainbow, and include, besides the old colours which appeared in the Show Pansies, shades of pink, red, rose, orange, salmon, mahogany, and others blended and mixed in the most beautiful and often fantastic manner. The old school of florists regarded it as essential that the eye of the Pansy should be clearly cut, and to this day any one who has had a florist's training instinctively protests against the rayed or ragged eyes seen in so many strains of Pansies. However, with new times come new ideas, and if a Pansy is big enough and gaudy enough in these days it is approved by a large section of the public.
Viola is the Latin name for the whole genus, and from species within this genus all modern Pansies and Violas have developed. Why, then, has Viola been made an English term and applied to merely a section of the genus? It is impossible to say, but the term has come to stay, and every one recognises that the so-called Violas provide the finest hardy bedding plants known. By some who object to the term "Viola" this strain is called "Tufted Pansies"; but this term is more misleading than the other, and its use should be discouraged. The name "Violetta" is applied to a small growing strain of Violas which has very sweetly scented flowers; the plants are very floriferous and dwarf and tufted in growth.
Sweet Violets, which are well known even to dwellers in the great cities, where they are constantly offered for sale in bunches in the streets and shops during the winter and spring months, are descendants of the wild species Viola odorata, so plentiful in the pastures and hedgerows of Southern Britain, but rare in Scotland.