November 22, 2017

Caroline’s Garden Diaries 17.8.15 – Making Faces

I’ve been meaning to write about pansies for a long time. I managed a paragraph last August (and even took the photos to go with it), saying that I’d finally grown what I consider “proper pansies”. I can’t define these except in terms of whether they take me back to my childhood, to Mrs E’s garden.  Mrs E was like a second mother to me, the one who taught me about gardening; the pansy she grew outside her back door was so beautiful.  So every year, I try a new variety from seed. In 2013, I hit upon Adonis, truly a handsome young god, and not just for a one-year stand either – he’s still here, another criterion of perfection.

With desire satisfied, I’ve experimented this year with “Historic Florist Pansies”, lured by the description: “very different pansies! .…recreating in form, shape, patterns and colour combinations the Scottish Exhibition-style pansies that were fashionable 150 years ago…..unusual greys, browns….medium-sized flowers with cheeky faces”.  It’s been a nice little project, growing these; not only that each one is different and all are pretty and interesting, but it also prompted a bit of reading e.g. what’s the Scottish Exhibition? Can’t find the answer to that but have learned that it was in early 1800s that pansies were developed from different species of Viola, and especially that the aim was to create flowers with “faces”.  So the point of the recreated ones must be the “cheeky faces”.

It’s true that these pansies have an appeal that I think is down to the faces. I look at them a lot, and last week it suddenly dawned on me that the feeling I have is the same as I had with Anthony Gormley’s wonderful creation, “Field” which has thousands of little clay figures all looking at you.  I found that very moving, and I feel the same with my pansies; because they have faces, they’re looking at me, and we connect.

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