In these days, as the persistence of the sun in the sky increases, the days are getting longer and the air is warm and fragrant, the pansies are blooming in my garden.
The spectacle of their bloom and their colors, all different and equally amazing, are adding a touch of grace and joy throughout the whole garden. It is a joy to watch them bloom every year, so I could not avoid writing an article for praise them, telling their botanical characteristics, their origin in ancient legends and myths and their various and great medicinal properties .
It is an herbaceous plant, annual, and it has a small root. The stem can reach 40 cm in height and is very simple, covered by tiny hairs, almost invisibles. The leaves are oval in shape. The flowers are brought individually by a thin stem. The corolla has five petals, their color is highly variable, it can go from blue to purple (all combinations are indeed possible: yellow, gold, orange, purple, violet, red, white, and even black very dark purple, many with large showy face markings. A large number of bicoloured flowers have also been produced). These aren’t small blossoms you have to strain to see. Pansy flowers are huge and held high above the plant, like colorful little faces looking at you.
Finally, the fruit is an oval-shaped capsule, and when it reaches maturity, it opens in three parts that contain many brown seeds. It grows naturally in meadows and cultivated fields. It is often cultivated for its beautiful and striking colors. When cultivated, one must choose a limestone and clay ground, well fertilized and exposed to the sun only for few hours in a day, because this flower prefers the shadows.
It should be watered abundantly in spring and scatter the watering in summer to suspend almost all in the autumn and winter. Growing pansies could be very successfully during fall and winter. Experts recommend to sow seed indoors in mid-summer, six to eight weeks before transplanting. The pansies can be transplanted into the garden once the summer heat has been broken and cooler weather arrives. It does not fear the frost of the winter, for this reason it is a plant that is also widespread in the wild. Protect your pansies during cold weather by temporarily allowing them to wilt. The dry leaves are not damaged by cold; they recover nicely when warmer temperatures appear. But if the soil is frozen while dry, with frigid winds howling across the leaves, the roots of the pansy plants will be unable to transport water back to the leaves. For this reason, keep beds thoroughly mulched with at least two inches of a living organic mulch during the winter. In fact, that’s the real secret of pansies: the only time they won’t grow well is in the hottest months of summer, generally July and August. So if you plant them early in September, you have a chance of enjoying an amazing ten months of bloom, especially if we have a mild winter.
The pansy must be harvested when blooming in spring; the parts used for medicinal purposes are the flowers. When harvested, it must be cut close to the ground, removing any leaves and woody parts. The flowers must be provided to dry in the shade, in thin layers. The dried flowers should be stored in paper or canvas bags.
The pansies are used as an expectorant and emollient in respiratory diseases, especially those due to phlegm, but the most important property of these flowers is that of purifying the skin. Some researchers have reported the utility in case of acne, eczema and pimples, and even the milk crust of childrens. I read that the pansy has also a diuretic and slightly laxative property. The better exploitation of its virtues need a contemporary interior and exterior treatment with infusions and skin applications.
Tells the myth that the young Attis, Prince of Asia Minor, dying, gave birth to the pansies from his blood. Desperate for his death, his betrothed, Atta, took her own life and also from her blood sprang other pansies; those born from the blood of Attis are the pansies with reddish petals, while all other varieties grew from the blood of Atta. In the imperial Rome it was celebrated the cult of Attis, and his feast day, March 22, was called “dies violae” the day of the Pansy.
In greek, the pansy is called “ion”. Ion was the founder of the ancestry of the Ions; one day after the hunt, he came on the river Alpheus where the Ioniades, the nymphs of pansies, offered him a crown of yellow pansies as a symbol of human and divine kingship. These flowers, among the Greeks, were always called “flowers of Ionia”. The Athenians, the Ionian race, had a particular fondness for the pansy, Pindar also called Athens “City crowned with violets”, crowned by the sacred flower which gives kingship and power.
Even in England this flower has always been loved, by the Celts and even during the Middle Ages: it is said that the Knights of the Round Table consulted the pansy to know their fate by interpreting the number and arrangement of rays from the center of the flower: seven lines (a lucky amount) meant constancy in love, while more meant fickleness and even disappointment in affairs of the heart.
The legend of the pansy says the flower was originally white but turned bright purple where it was pierced by Cupid’s arrow. It’s said that you can see a loved one in the face of a pansy. Even the flower’s named is derived from the French pensee, meaning thought, reflecting the flower’s reputation for bringing thoughts of loved ones. Shakespeare clearly understood the meaning of the flower when, in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” , he wrote that the sleeping Titania will fall in love with the first creature she will see when she will awake, thanks to the pansy juice on her eyes (“the juice of it, on sleeping eyelids laid, will make a man or woman madly dote (fall in love) upon the next live creature that it sees.”. The pansy is also known as Heart’s Ease, for it was believed that carrying the flower would ensure the love of your sweetheart.
The pansy was one of the ingredients in a Celtic love potion, because the pansy was supposed to have magical love powers. The petals, being heart-shaped, were thought to cure the broken hearts of the lovers.
According to a german legend, the pancy once had a wonderful and strong scent. People came from miles to smell the flowers. By doing this, the people destroy the grass around the pansies. The pansy prayed to the Gods for help because the feed for the cattle was being destroyed. So the Gods took away its loveable scent, but gave it great beauty instead. The pansy is associated with the St. Valentine’s Day and has long been exchanged by lovers. According to a legend, the pansies should not be picked while the dew is upon them, for that would cause the death of a loved one. The pansy should never be picked in the middle of a spell of fine weather, or it is said that the rain will surely soon return. Oddly enough, to dream of this otherwise delightful little flower is said to forecast an unpleasant experience or misunderstanding with someone of the slumberer’s own sex.
To read the whole article, with many recipes, curiosities and many photos of my garden: