I worried that by going on vacation during the last week of June, I'd miss out on the best days of my garden. Many things were blooming or beginning to bloom when I left, and I was afraid that I'd be greeted with nothing but spent blooms upon my return.
But sometimes, the garden takes care of the gardener.
The pansies I'd grown from seed were already blooming prolifically when I left town on June 22, and they're still adding wonderful color to my cottage garden.
Pansies are related to the violets I wrote about a few weeks ago - I'm no expert on taxonomy, but I think it's safe to say that my pansies and violets are cousins.
As a student of French in high school and college, I should have made the connection between the word "pensee," which means "thought" and the name "pansy." The name came about because the dark markings on the flower resemble a face, and if the flowers droop, it looks like someone deep in thought. In the language of flowers, sending someone a bouquet of pansies means, "Think of me."
Pansies also have been used in love potions. When I was a sophomore in high school, the Warren G. Harding Drama Club put on a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." (I was a nameless fairy.) Though I recalled that in the play Oberon created a love potion, I didn't know that the primary ingredient, the flower Oberon sent Puck in search of, was the pansy - Shakespeare used one of its other names, "love-in-idleness." According to Oberon, "The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid / Will make or man or woman madly dote / Upon the next live creature that it sees." I wouldn't recommend trying this at home - Puck and Oberon's potion wreaked havoc among the men and maidens of Athens.
I don't pick flowers from my garden - they're prettier outside than they would ever be inside the house, and anyway, I have a very curious cat who would tip over a vase of flowers at the very least and isn't above snacking on them. But as I was researching this column, it occurred to me that perhaps I should start picking my pansies. Folklore suggests that picking pansies on a nice day will bring rain, and other gardeners would agree with me that we could use the rain. I know my husband, who fishes at Mosquito Lake State Park, has commented on the low lake levels.
However, on these humid mornings, make sure you don't pick a pansy with dew on it if you're a believer in folklore - doing so could bring about the death of a loved one.
Share your gardening tips and advice with me at firstname.lastname@example.org