Right now we are in one of the worst winters I have seen in a while. I am so tired of snow + cold now that it is a joy to start my spring Historic Pansy Mix ( Viola × wittrockiana) inside under lights.I know some people have had them winter over in their garden, but I have not yet observed wintering over in my gardens. Our winters are just too harsh!

I have learned over the years the best way to start pansies from seed is to sow them on top of the seedling soil + keep them in the dark until they first emerge. I keep them moist + covered until they start showing their first leaves above the soil.

 This works every time + by 2 weeks I have many of them emerging. Once the first seed poke through the soil, I set them under lights. I read this little trick somewhere, and it works like a charm. I set them  very carefully in handmade paper pots, and they don’t mind a bit!I usually put the tray back under the lights for an extra week to let some of the slower ones finish germinating, but if you wanted to save seed for traits, you might want to take only the early germinating seeds!

I love edging most of my spring garden beds with Historic Pansy Mix. They just make me smile every time I walk by!

Over the years, pansies have been one of the most cultivated plants that we really don’t know what the original pansies look like anymore, and the past few years I have grown some of the newer types that just don’t have the beauty this Historic Pansy Mix sprinkles across my spring gardens.

I love pansies since they are edible and work perfectly dressing a spring salad!

I am thankful we are blessed with a seedsman as Kees Sahin that take the time to keep a historical flower around  which connects us to our past. He passed away in 2006, so I am grateful he made sure we had this historic mix.

Kees Sahin kept a collection of 13,000 violas in Netherlands. He selected this mixture to resemble those grown by gardeners more than 150 yrs ago.

I can’t imagine spring without these beautiful faces smiling back at me each day!

Smiling like skin horse….

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer

46 comments

  1. Beautiful Robbie. Pansies have always been a favourite in my garden (before all the flower gardens disappeared!), the blues have such a depth of colour you just don’t see in other flowers and I loved that they would self seed into all the wee cracks around. This has me missing them so, I may have to replant them in odd places on the grounds they are edible 🙂

    1. I missed them last summer when I grew some “new ones” that just did not grow as nicely as this Historic Mix. They were okay, but there was something missing. Now that you mention the “depth of colors” I believe that IS what was missing! The lines also in the faces were not as detailed in the newer ones. These are so sweet and there are variations on them throughout the mix. I also kept some seed packets because last year I could only find them in two places! I will be saving more histroical flower seed in the next few years because it is a piece of living history:-)

      1. What a shame the new ones aren’t so nice but great you will same some. They do have the happiest wee faces don’t they?! I love the deep purple varieties, they almost look like rich velvet and I would often just pick one to stare into it’s colour 🙂

      2. I have the little book in my hand now, and grabbed it off the shelf next to me when I read your comment. It is a litte book, but filled with ideas with what you can do. I pressed the faces last year, but I need to do a better job this spring pressing the faces. They make such pretty pressed flowers + you can use them in crafts

      3. It looks absolutely gorgeous and my first thought was “Oooh, I’d love to able to recreate that picture” so I just might have a go at it. Love those colours together. Would love to see some of the other photos. My granddaughter pressed some here one year and we made framed photos of her with mum and dad with dried pansies in, they were very pretty.

  2. I love pansies too Robbie! And how lovely that you are growing the heirloom varieties – and a great quote from the Velveteen Rabbit – another favourite!! Fabulous post full of all kinds of inspirations 🙂

  3. I love pansies too but I never thought of eating them. I like your homemade pots, what a good idea. It is always exciting sowing the first of the seeds.

  4. Robbie, I love pansies, too and your heirloom ones are especially pretty! 🙂 We usually can plant them in the fall down here and they kind of stall out in the winter and then perk right back up in the Spring. Hope this really cold winter hasn’t hurt them much. Pansies are pretty tough for such a delicate flower!

    1. Annie, I hope we all keep growing this sweet little Historic Mix for years to come! Oh please take pictures of your pansies this spring! Do they come up in with spring flowers or earlier with a bit of snow? How neat you can plant them in the fall and they perk up to greet you in the spring:-)

      1. Robbie, I hope they’ll make it….looking kind of puny right now! yikes. Always forget to tell you, but your photos are really wonderful!

      2. aww Annie, thank you:-) I love looking at photos of everyones gardens since I am a visual learner. I love your garden because your beautiful pictures tell a story about your hillside garden. When I first read your blog, I thought it was so neat how you shared your “story” through your photos of the stages your hillside garden went through. I never did that and it is like not having picture of your child when they were a kid! It really is so neat to see the development of a “garden-artist” + their living art creations:-) I feel blessed everyday to have a space to grow things I love:-)

      3. Thanks Robbie. 🙂 I’m a visual kind of person, too…those old pics sometimes help me feel better when I feel like I haven’t got much done in the garden. Although, I’ve been organizing all my pics this last week and right now I’m questioning myself why I take so many pictures! 🙂

      4. There are never too many pictures:-)I need my pictures to remind me why I grew an old variety because I forget sometimes with annuals….they speak to me through the pictures-GROW ME AGAIN-lol:-)

    1. thank you 🙂 I look forward this spring to get some more pictures of these dainty little flowers. They are cheerful! I am so tired of this winter. I usually don’t mind winter, but something about this year is getting to everyone around us. If it is a pretty snow, I am okay, but this below zero weather for weeks is not fun! I agree we need spring!:-)

  5. Great post! I love the idea of your keeping the heirlooms growing in your cottage garden. I have fond memories of when I was very small in my Aunt Viola’s garden full of pansies and Johnny-jump-ups. I still love the little faces. I write a monthly garden column for my town newsletter and Feb. coincidentally is about violas. I sent it in last week, so I laughed to see you beat me to the subject here on WP! You’ll see it when I post it, probably next week.
    My favorite photo is the last one with raindrops on everything and that little rust-red one is perfection!

    1. lol. I will look forward to reading your post about viola’s:-)I love the faces in this Historic mix because they have many of the markings that are lacking in ones today, they also have the most interesting colors you just don’t see today. The johnny jump-ups winter over here sometimes, but the pansies don’t come back in my yard. I am looking forward to see which colors I will have this season, some years there are more purple than yellow or more mixed than solid, and rust-red like you said. I will take more pictures this year + they actually taste good in salads:-)

  6. I love these! I tend to call them Violas and now that you mention it, mine haven’t come back each Spring. I had a patch in ME of all places that would come back and grow to be huge, but then my Sage always came back in ME, too. Last year I planted a container of these in very early Spring and they bloomed all Summer long. I’m hoping to find some volunteers below the planter this Spring – I doubt the container will survive. I will have to taste some this Summer but they are just so cute and adoring that I have a difficult time snipping them off for a salad or such. I wonder if you have ever sown any of this beautiful mix directly in the garden? What JOY to see those seedlings! Very tired of snow here, too, but the sun was out today and I managed to get Mojo to the park without a brain freeze!

    1. I know what you mean about snipping them off for salad eating-lol. They are too pretty sometimes to clip for salad eating, but I have johnny-jump-ups all around and they come back every year. I don’t know why these don’t in my yard It may be because I rotate crops for soil health. I will pay more attention this year and see if they do reseed. I did sow the johnny-jump-ups in the garden, but not these since our humid summers are just too hot for them past june, so I have to start them in January and hope they survive our humid, drought like summers! I have cut them back after the heat starts in june + if they are shaded they do survive, but not in full-sun in our summers:-(…
      I am so tired of snow, but today the sun did shine through, so maybe it is the lack of sun for MANY days + below zero that gets to me. I actually like 25 degrees + sunshine it feels like summer! lol

      1. You are so good to your little seeds. I can’t wait to start some – I am eyeing a shelf in our cellar to make a 3 tier system – ssshhh don’t tell my husband! I know – it feels like a heat wave here today – 30s! Break out the margaritas ha ha!

      2. Home-made are the best:-) I purchased a storage rack ( metal) and hung lights on it and it works great. I looked at some on line one time and they wanted 600-700 dollars for one + that was without shipping costs! They had to be nuts, so I looked at it and found my open metal storage shelf, T5 lights and we were up and running!:-) We are getting more snow tomorrow, but snow does not bother me at all if it is like today 15 degrees is fine today, but that below (-10)zero with wind chills 40 mph + you can’t be out there for 15 minutes or your toes/fingers will freeze off! YIKES!

    1. They really are sweet edging the beds first thing in the spring. I also mix them with signet marigolds, alyssum + sometimes some dwarf marigolds my mother gives me from her saved seed:-)

  7. What a great tutorial on these beautiful plants. I love pansies too and have some that have come back for several years, but they’re not as beautiful as yours are! I’m super impressed… 😉 You have a lovely garden and your posts are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing these with us…
    cheers,
    Steve

    1. aww steve…thankyou, you can get this mix at Baker Creek Heirlooms/Seed Savers Exchange. This year I will be saving seed from these since I do not want to depend on the seed suppliers:-) Last year I could not find it anywhere + Baker Creek did not have any seed for this mix. They have it back this year, but I will be saving seed!

      1. I ordered some of these and the Marigolds you love so much too from Baker Creek seeds just yesterday. I can’t wait to get them. I’m also doing an order with SSE soon too. Thank you so much for the recommendations. This networking stuff really does work doesn’t it? 😉
        Cheers!
        Steve

      2. It sure does Steve:-) Those marigolds are tall and fill out, so I sure hope they work for you, but I have no doubt you will find the perfect spot for them in your beautiful garden. I am so excited to greet the pansy faces this year. They go out usually in March in my garden + they tolerate frost in my area ( March) if I harden them off..spring will be here soon!!!

    1. Oh, I so agree:-) We had another bunch of snow today and we were up at 6am clearing out our driveway. The “freezing” cold is coming back again this week. I can handle snow, but this below zero weather for days is too long! I love these cherry little pansies because they don’t mind the very cold spring weather we get here, I have even had them tolerate ( once hardened off) a dip below freezing, but only a day or two!

    1. They are so sweet:-)Here in our zone 5 weather they do well in the cool weather, when the summer heat comes they may get a bit spindly, so I trim them back and they will return in the cool fall. Our winter gets below zero, so they often don’t survive. The key to starting them from seed is to keep them moist and in the dark until they germinate. Once about 25 percent of them germinate I place them under the light. I try to not let them get spindly. They are such a wonderful surprise and their markings are so vast:-)

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