Making the case for one of the friendliest flowers
Most people already love pansies, but trust me, you’re going to love them even more after you read this. Any plant as pretty as pansies is going to be hailed a hero when it’s one of the first on the scene as winter comes to a close (or is on its way in fall). Not many plants can stand up to frost the way pansies can, and for that, we are grateful.
But it turns out people have been fascinated with them for ages, and still are, because there’s more to pansies than pretty faces.
1) Their names are beautiful and interesting.
You probably already know that pansies came from the Viola species, and that pansies and violets are close cousins.
But some of the other names people have used throughout history are sweet and slightly quirky, like heartsease, heart’s delight, tickle-my-fancy, Johnny Jump-up, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, peeing Tom, three-faces-in-a-hood, kiss-her-in-the-pantry, come-and-cuddle-me and love-in-idleness.
Turns out the word pansy comes from the French word pensée, meaning ‘thought,’ presumably because when the pansy nods forward in mid-to-late summer, it appears to be bowing in deep thought. The French believed pansies had the power to make someone think of you with love.
Preparing my pansies as we speak.
2) They have inspired legend, works of art and love.
Many of the pansy’s names came from famous works of art, where they were hailed as powerful symbols of love.
Take Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, where the Fairy King uses the viola to enchant Titania, Lysander and Demetrius. Or Georgia O-Keeffe, the famous painter of flowers, who painted portraits of both black and white pansies. And don’t forget how Alice sings with dancing pansies in Alice in Wonderland.
Legend has it, heart-shaped pansy leaves were used to cure a broken heart, Ancient Greeks believed the Viola was a symbol of love and fertility and the Celts brewed the dried leaves into a tea that was used as a love potion.
But my favorite? According to legend, pansies were all white until they were pierced by cupid’s arrow, adding their vibrant colors and powers of love.
3) Pansies are symbols of free thought.
And who doesn’t love a flower that can think for itself?!
Because the name pansy comes from the French word ‘to think,’ the flower became the symbol of free thought for many in the late 1800s. And many states, as well as the city of Osaka, Japan chose a form of the violet or pansy to represent them.
So, a porch pot of pansies is not only pretty, it says you can think for yourself and people love you for it.
And who could hope for anything more?