Botanically, Violas, Violets, Violettas and Pansies are all Violas. The Pansy and its tricoloured flowers used to have religious significance as it was thought the central eye surrounded by a collar of radiating light was a sign of the holy trinity, and the lines of colour in the pansy’s petals a reference to this. The name ‘pansy’ is derived from the French word pensee meaning ‘thought’, and was so named because the flower resembles a human face which nods forward as though deep in thought. In the Language of Flowers, it symbolises loyalty.
The popularity of the garden pansy is largely due to its sunny disposition, relative cheapness and obliging variety of colours. The pansy flower is two or three inches in diameter and has two slightly overlapping petals, two side petals, and a single bottom petal with a slight beard emanating from the flower’s centre. The Viola and Violetta are smaller and more compact than the pansy, whilst its wild relative Viola tricolour (Heartsease) has a number of common names such as Cat’s Face and Leap-up-and-kiss-me. Pansies grow almost anywhere and if a number of different varieties are chosen, will provide colour in the garden from February to September.