Prepping for the pansy hunt

Pulsegleaner

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Well, it's getting to be that time of year again; time to begin the search for notable pansies and violas.

Based on family schedules, it sounds like I'll get my fist stab at trying to track down the elusive red violas this upcoming Monday. Probably a BIT too early, but I have to be in the area anyway, so what do I really have to lose?

I just wish it wasn't so darn HARD for me to keep pansies going. I don't mean keeping them alive through the year (that part's easy). I mean keeping them going from generation to generation. Pansies and violas seem sort of capricious when it comes to whether or not they will actually fertilize and set seed (in particular it seems that, generally, every time I find one I really like, it seems to seed poorly, if at all.) . And the very small pods and thin stems make getting a bag around the pods to catch the seeds when the pod opens and throws them everywhere is difficult (I wonder if they make smaller bags?). And even after I do all THAT, getting the seeds to actually GROW is sort of tricky (doing them one by one tends to end up making plants that are too weak to make the transition to outdoor plants. I've had better luck with broadcasting them over a pot and just leaving it outside, but then I face the problem of massive overcrowding, which cuts down on flower production (and since the flower genetics of pansies and violas is so jumbly, I can't really make a good criteria for deciding which ones to thin out to improve this.)
 

meadow

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What size bag are you using?

What about bagging the entire plant? I'm thinking organza bag; not sure if that is what you're using. I've absolutely no experience using organza bags, so please pardon me if it is a really dumb suggestion. Ignorance is bliss. 😅 I did purchase some though and I'm sure if you'd like a smaller bag that these could be modified with needle and thread.
 

Pulsegleaner

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What size bag are you using?

What about bagging the entire plant? I'm thinking organza bag; not sure if that is what you're using. I've absolutely no experience using organza bags, so please pardon me if it is a really dumb suggestion. Ignorance is bliss. 😅 I did purchase some though and I'm sure if you'd like a smaller bag that these could be modified with needle and thread.
Assuming organza bags are the little cloth gift bags I think they are, the kind that are used for rings and things, that IS what I am using! Those are actually a bit to heavy for a pansy stem (too heavy, and the bag can snap the pod off, so it never ripens).

As for bagging the whole plant, that has two problems 1. It would cut off all later flowers on the plant from being pollinated (so I wind up with less seed) and 2. If I put a bag over the whole plant, the opening of the bag would be pointing straight down. So unless I basically cinched it super duper tight (which would probably cut into the stem and strangle the plant as it grew) all of the seed would just fall out the bottom onto the ground.

I saw somewhere recently red pansy seeds for sale. This caught my attention and I thought, hmmm, wonder if I should try that? But I googled 'red pansy' and a chart said it was a hybrid. 😕
Red PANSIES are easy to get, they are available anywhere. It's red VIOLAS (the smaller ones) that are so elusive.

As for the hybrid thing, technically, all modern pansies and violas are hybrids, and pretty complicated ones at that. The may ORIGINATE with Viola tricolor, the Johnny-Jump-Up (or Heartsease, if you are European) but they have been crossed and recrossed with so many other Viola species that their genetics are a hodgepodge mess. THAT'S why there are so many variations in flowers.

They don't even necessarily inbreed with themselves reliably. A few years ago, I planted, and took seeds from a massive planting of the viola Blackberry Sorbet that I let inbreed with itself. When I planted the seeds again, about half reverted to Johnny-Jump-up colors (purple banners, yellow standard with black lines). A quarter turned completely purple, and the final quarter stayed Blackberry Sorbet (purple banners, black standard).
 

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Okay, updates.

As yet, the place where I normally would find my red violas doesn't have any (actually, at the moment, they don't really have anything of interest). Don't know if they'll get them in later.

I did buy three small round pots at the farmer's market stand of primarily pale yellow flowers with black faces since each pot contained an aberrant plant (where the yellow was reduced to a dab on the bottom petal, and the rest of the background is white.) I'll see what I can do about getting those three plants separated for the rest of the ones in each pot and plant them next to each other, to increase likelihood of getting seed with the same trait.

And I finally got to the other main nursery around here, and I DID find a few red violas! That is, they aren't the exact kind I was looking for (with the bright red edges and the black face), but some of them ARE somewhere between sort of red and clearly red (the "base color" of most of the flowers in those six packs seems to be a sort of magenta purple, so those "reds" are probably some sort of interaction between that purple and yellow,)

Actually, I wonder if it is possible for a pansy to be brown? Probably not (in general in flowers, to get brown you need some green, and just as I can think of no brown pansies, I can think of no green ones.)
 

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Correction, I realized I HAVE seen brown in pansies, just not the chocolate brown I was thinking! looking at the ones I just bought, I realized that, when purple and yellow mix, they DO make a sort of greenish brown. I've never seen a flower that was ALL that, but it certainly happens on parts.
 

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I think I have identified my elusive red viola.

It looks like what I am looking for is Syngenta's Rocky Red with Blotch.

Doesn't actually help me find it any easier (since they don't sell to the private sector). But at least I now know the name I need to be searching under (and therefore might be able next year to convince one of the nursery's to simply order me a flat.)
 

Pulsegleaner

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Well, it looks like I'm not getting any Rocky Reds this year either. I bumped into the owner of the nursery when I was there yesterday, and she said she didn't ORDER that particular mix this year (actually, I think she said she didn't order it last year either, so I actually DIDN'T miss them due to the world being in lockdown.)

I also seem to have lost a LOT of the pansies I HAVE bought so far this year, due to either an unexpected freeze or me taking too long between watering for them (when they are outside in the cold frame, it's easy to forget they are there.) Fortunately one of the six packs with crimson ones seems tougher than the others (either that, or it happened to be under the place where the top slid down and the rain has been able to get to it, because it is FINE.)
 

heirloomgal

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I always thought pansies were biennials, but I guess they're annuals then? Do you ever start from seed? I would love to try a pansy (not the tiny wild johnny jump ups though) from seed. Years ago I bought some greenhouse pansies that had flowers faces that were a mix of orange, purple and white. I think 'Jester' was in the name. They were so unusual, somewhat like clown makeup faces. I never saw them again after that one year.

This time of year, under lights, with all the bushy plants, I'm finding it hard to not have the odd one wilt right out on me because I missed it while watering.
 

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Yes, I DO sometimes start from seed. However, doing it from seed is a LITTLE harder, since the seedlings are VERY tiny and VERY delicate, too delicate to transplant. That basically means that the only way to grow them from seed is to basically scatter the seed over wherever you want the plants to grow, and hope for the best. So there is little control over exactly where the plants will show up, and you end up wasting a LOT of seed in thinning (which is not a great thing when you don't have that much seed to begin with and really want to maximize how many actually make plants).

There IS a pansy (or rather, a pansy series) called Jester, but the pictures don't seem to match. What you had sort of SOUNDS like Jolly Joker, but Jolly Joker doesn't have any white.
 

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