The pansy (also known as the pansy violet, Johnny-jump-up, and heartsease) is a hybrid plant, cultivated as a garden flower in England during the late 1830s. Because it is a genetic hybrid, the pansy has been modified by horticulturalists to grow in every imaginable color, including purple, violet, red, yellow, gold, orange, white, and even black. Some pansies feature large, smudged markings on the “face” of the flower. While the pansy cannot be identified by its color, its flower is easily identifiable. When looking at pictures of pansies, you’ll notice it is always a round flower with overlapping petals: two top petals, two side petals, and a fifth bottom petal that almost always features a slight indentation. Although pansies are biennials (that, more often, behave like annuals), they are a surprisingly hearty flower. They do best when they only receive partial sun and avoid too much direct exposure to heat, but they can also endure light freezes or even survive through a short period of snow cover.
Since its initial cultivation, the pansy has been an especially vibrant symbol in arts and culture. Its round flower, which vaguely resembles a human face, has come to represent thoughtfulness or, more specifically, free thought and loving thoughts. In fact, the flower derives its name from the French word “pensée,” which literally translates to thought. In August, the flower of the pansy leans forward, suggesting a person lost in contemplation. Of course, nothing consumes a person’s thoughts quite like love. Perhaps this is why William Shakespeare chose to use a concoction of pansy juice as a love potion in his play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Today, a gift of pansies expresses that the beloved is always on one’s mind or, more feverishly, that the beloved is all the lover can think about. If you are looking for a “thoughtful” bouquet to let your sweetheart know that he or she is consuming all of your waking thoughts, pansies are the perfect flower.