Pansies so colourful they help lift pandemic’s gloom

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A year ago we were shut down. A few staff came in to water plants in the greenhouse, but the store was closed. Nobody knew how long the closure would last. Nobody knew what the impact would be on business. Uncertainty was the new norm.

We chose to continue watering and caring for our newly planted bedding plants, trusting and hoping that we would be able to sell them some time later in spring. We heard of other greenhouse growers who simply walked away from their production, thinking they might never get to market.

Our immediate issue were the pansies that were days away from being in their full glory. Pansies are the season’s first greenhouse crop and were bursting with colour.

Rather than have the pansies go to waste, Cheryl and I loaded 48 pots of mixed pansies on a truck and we began to spread cheer. We started with Cheryl’s parents, then dropped some at Cheryl’s aunts, then moved on to as many seniors as we could think of, mostly members of our church family.

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A few days later, without permission, I planted pansies in two large planters at Landmark Village, a retirement home hard hit with the horrible pandemic. More pansies were brought to friends, families and clients, and we placed a few on front porches of random houses that looked as if they could use a little cheer.

On Monday, April 6, 2020, two weeks after the retail shut down, the province gave the green light to nurseries, enabling us to sell by e-commerce, for curbside pickup and delivery only. Three of our savviest staff members hunkered down and built our own webstore, which went live on April 9. Friday morning, we filled our first six online orders and Saturday morning the number rose to 19.

A few weeks later, our pansy inventory was sold out and we could have sold hundreds more.

Pansies are the most cheerful of flowers. Their long-lasting, brightly coloured petals are sure to put a smile on the gloomiest of faces. Pansies are among the first flowers to bloom in spring, as if to reward us for surviving a long dreary winter.

Depending on where you live, pansies are considered an annual (one year) or biennial (two years) or perennial (forever). In our climate, we mostly consider pansies to be annuals, planted in early spring and tossed in mid-summer when hot weather arrives.

Pansies are cool season crops and can be planted as soon as ground can be worked in March. Pansies don’t mind frost and can easily withstand a blanket of snow cover in March or April.

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Pansies don’t like heat. Through April, May and June and into July, pansies will put on a riot of colour, but by the end of July, they will lose their lustre and make way for summer blooming annuals and perennials.

Plant pansies in rich garden soil or in containers. They prefer a spot in full sun or partial shade. Add fertilizer if you would like, but overfeeding will cause pansies to stretch. Enjoy pansies in spring and early summer and move them into a less important corner of the yard during the hot summer months. If you are so inclined, transplant the pansies back to a prominent spot for late fall and early winter enjoyment.

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