The garden pansy is a type of large-flowered hybrid plant cultivated as garden flowers. It is derived by hybridization from several species in the section Melanium ("the pansies") of the genus Viola, particularly Viola tricolor, a wildflower of Europe and western Asia known as heartsease. Some of these hybrids are referred to as Viola × wittrockiana Gams ex Nauenb. & Buttler. For simplicity, the older name Viola tricolor var. hortensis is often used.
The garden pansy flower is two to three inches in diameter and has two slightly overlapping upper petals, two side petals, and a single bottom petal with a slight beard emanating from the flower's center. The plant may grow to nine inches in height, and prefers sun to varying degrees and well-draining soils.
English common names, such as "pansy", "viola" and "violet" may be used interchangeably. One possible distinction is that plants considered to be "pansies" are classified in Viola sect. Melanium, and have four petals pointing upwards (the two side petals point upwards), and only one pointing down, whereas those considered to be "violets" are classified in Viola sect. Viola, and have two petals pointing up and three pointing down. Another possible distinction is made by the American Violet Society " the International Cultivar Registration Authority for the genus Viola. It divides cultivated varieties (cultivars) in Viola sect. Melanium into four subgroups: B1 " pansies, B2 " violas, B3 " violettas and B4 " cornuta hybrids. On this classification, modern "pansies" differ from the other three subgroups by possessing a well-defined "blotch" or "eye" in the middle of the flower.
Modern horticulturalists tend to use the term "pansy" for those multi-coloured large-flowered hybrids that are grown for bedding purposes every year, while "viola" is usually reserved for smaller, more delicate annuals and perennials.
The name pansy is derived from the French word pensée "thought", and was imported into Late Middle English as a name of viola in the mid-15th century, as the flower was regarded as a symbol of remembrance. The name "love in idleness" was meant to imply the image of a lover who has little or no other employment than to think of his beloved. The name "heart"s-ease" came from the woman St. Euphrasia, whose name in Greek signifies cheerfulness of mind. The woman, who refused marriage and took the veil, was considered a pattern of humility, hence the name "humble violet".Source: Wikipedia
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