Pansies are glorious in early spring; you can have a fine display of them at small cost by sowing seed yourself indoors. Seed may be available at large garden centers or they can be ordered from any of the major seed companies such as Burpee Seeds, Warminster, Pa. 18991, or Park Seeds, P.O. Box 31, Greenwood, S.C. 29647. Write for their free catalogs.
Actually in the Washington area the best time to sow pansy seed is early fall outdoors. They are much tougher than they appear to be and can stand usual winter weather in this climate.
Most gardeners wait for the first dry day in early spring, rush out and buy plants, either pansies or violas, and plant them immediately. They bud and bloom despite light frosts, rain or snow
Sow the seed infinely sifted soil in a lightly shaded place. Press seeds into the soil and barely cover them. They need light to germinate and too heavy a covering will delay it.
Keep the seed bed moist with a fine spray of water. Within 20 days your plants should be up.
Pansies have fancy painted faces, violas do not. Pansies have large flowers, up to 3 inches in diameter during cool weather. Violas are slightly smaller. Traditionally, pansies are massed in beds and violas are used in edgings. This custom makes sense when you see the lovely straight colors of violas: yellow, gold, violet, blue and white are favorites for edging. Conversely, pansies excell for incredible variations in clors and markings.
Pansies poop out in warm weather. First their blossoms decrease in size, then plants begin to die. Don't fight it, you are better off putting in a new planting for fall bloom.
One of the most important things is to remove the flowers when they fade. If seed are allowed to form, the plants may not bloom very long. If you like them enough and want them to last, it is worth while going over them every day to pick off the spent blooms.
Plant them some place where they get three or four hours of mornning sun and light-to-medium shade the rest of the day. In shade all day long, the plants will become spindly and the flowers less brightly colored.
They should be watered at least once a week during dry weather. A light application of liquid fertilizer every three weeks will keep them growing nicely, particularly the giant varieties.
It doesn't pay to try to save seed from your plants. The chances are they will not come true. Instead buy fresh seed and plant them in early September for fall and next spring flowers.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Q -- I have a willow oak that's rapidly growing into some power lines. It must be cut back, but I hate to have a lopsided tree. Wouldn't it be better to cut all the branches back to within a few feet of the main trunk and start over ?
A -- You're talking about "dehorning" your tree, whichis even more unnatural and unsightly than a lopsided tree. Why not start over with a tree more in keeping with the space available, such as crabapple, or dogwood?
Q -- We have never grown celery. When should the seed be planted and what does it need ?
A -- Sow seed indoors in early March, put the plants outdoors after danger of killing frost is over. Celery needs full sun, good soil and must be watered regularly during dry weather.