A pansy for remembrance

If there is one thing that I’ve learned about flowers is that sometimes they just show up.

Most of the time they should be seen as a harbinger of a plant that will fill your days with weeding. If only I could remember that part.

Oh sure, it’s fun at first. You see a seedling that is unfamiliar and wonder how it got there. Did a bird drop it? Has it been lying dormant in the soil waiting for the right conditions to awaken?  I’m not a very patient person but, I am curious, so, I wait. Then comes the reward when it blooms into a flower; a pretty poppy with crepe paper petals, love-in-a-mist with its out-of-this-world blue flowers and larkspur. Yes, they came to me from gardens unknown.

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The problem is, these plants don’t need you. They can “naturalize” on their own and they often do. I really don’t mind too much. Each spring they come up everywhere. Each spring I decide where they can stay. Then I spend the rest of the season weeding them from every little nook and cranny of my garden. In some ways it’s nice to have flowers that will naturally fill up any empty space with no effort from me other than just not pulling them. In other ways I’ve become less welcoming to newcomers. Now I see something unfamiliar and I think, “Uh, nice try, but, I don’t think so!” Then came the pansies…

The pansy comes from a European wildflower. A kind of viola.

Yes, it is considered invasive, but I don’t care!  The leaves have a ruffled quality that is very distinctive and much too pretty to be mistaken for a weed. I’ve had pansies show up from time to time but, never like this.

This summer they came up in three good sized patches in an area where I took out a Peanut Butter tree. This tree was spreading underground (a crazy year with the trees) in a similar fashion to morning glory with its long white roots. We dug down a couple of feet and really disturbed the soil, sifting through it and raking it around. Somehow it seemed fitting with one of its common names being “Johnny Jump Ups” that the pansy seeds were brought up from below with the soil from my garden of years past.

I’ve been wanting  to write all summer about pansies and the meaning of flowers. The word, pansy, is from a 15th century French word penser meaning to think or ponder. That was derived from the latin word pendare meaning to take everything into consideration. Most of the flower’s meaning flows from these origins;  Loving thoughts, to think, free thinkers, to consider, remembrance.

So, why all the pansies? What was I needing to remember? The flowers with their bright, nodding heads seemed to bring me cheer, comfort even. It’s not surprising that over the centuries they have come to symbolize our feelings and emotions. You feel it from them.

Here’s a fun thing to do.

If you want to tell someone something personal and private you can say it with flowers!


I don’t know if this started with the Victorians but, they would give flowers to express the feelings that their painful social discretions wouldn’t allow. You could do this with the type of flower and then get even more specific with a color.

“Oh,  la-la, what a lovely bouquet! What does it say?”

“The violet  is passion, yellow means happiness and white says let’s take a  chance!

Bridget's phone 262
All I need is a garden and a flower to remember it by.

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6 thoughts on “A pansy for remembrance

  1. This is so true I will get flowers or trees starters that come from I don’t know where and I think how pretty then I remember why didn’t I pull that out when I had the chance. I love the pictures and knowing the definition of pansies. Thank you for the wonderful information and pictures.


  2. A book entered my life for my 22nd birthday.. one of my sisters gave me a Barnes and Noble gift certificate and I purchased ‘The Victorian Grimoire’ by Patricia Telesco. It was all about these lovely practices of flower language and fan language and tramps in the woods.. nature worship through the proper and charmingly poetic guise of Victorian times. It brought forth a big magical shift to my life ! Especially my home life. I feel a big kinship to this aesthetic, and it has been beautifying my world some two decades since.. LOVE IT . . thank you for writing about this, and opening that door again, it’s been missing a bit ! xo


  3. I have very fond memories of flowers in association with my grandmas–one grandma will forever be associated with pansies, and the other grandma with dianthus–on visits, we would leap from the car and dive head-first into the flower beds, gulping their fragrance. What a lovely reminder!


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