Spring for Pansies

I am too eager. In my haste for summer and its abundance of flowers, herbs, and vegetables, I tend to put out my basil and eggplant seedlings in April—only to have them stunted by cold snaps. When will I learn? There are flowers for spring, and there are flowers, herbs, and vegetables for summer, and they are not the same.

Tulips in Madison Square Park--photo copyright Anne Underwood EnslowTulips in New York City--photo copyright Anne Underwood EnslowFor spring blossoms that really deliver, none can match pansies as far as I’m concerned–at least, not for the urban gardener with limited space. Tulips are glorious in their intense, variegated beauty (photos, left). Hillsides covered in daffodils are spectacular. Hyacinths smell heavenly. Snowdrops are charming.

Pansies in my garden--photo copyright Anne Underwood EnslowBut none of these fragile beauties have the staying power of pansies. For almost two months now, I have had pansies outside (right), and they’re still going strong, pending summer’s scorching heat.

And here’s an unexpected bonus—you can add them to your salads, as some high-end restaurants do. Unlike tulips or daffodils, pansies are edible. They’re even nutritious, according to James Duke, Ph.D., author of The Green Pharmacy. “They’re one of the best plant sources of rutin,” he says—rutin being an antioxidant that strengthens capillaries and helps prevent bruises and unwanted clotting. In Dr. Duke’s fabulous pharmacy garden in Maryland–divided into 80 sections from Arthritis to Wrinkles–he plants pansies under Heart. As little as a single pansy can deliver a meaningful dose, he says–though whites and yellows are more potent than blues and purples. So if you’re buying them for your salads, Dr. Duke prescribes white or yellow. But if you’re like most of us and you just want them because their cheery blossoms make you happy, any color can be therapeutic. These Pure Light Blue pansies (below) sure work for me!

Pansies in my garden--photo copyright Anne Underwood Enslow

Related post: Pansies–Not Just for Spring Anymore

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