Get Growing: Pansies are here!

  • Deb Fusia shopping for pansies. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • The author planting pansies. PHOTO BY CHRIS BENFEY 

For the Gazette
Published: 4/13/2020 6:30:01 AM

April always tests our patience with chilly damp weather, but I know that spring is here when Andrew’s Greenhouse in South Amherst hangs out a sign saying that pansies are ready. 

This year, I feared that plant nurseries like Andrew’s would be closed due to COVID-19. I know that these businesses work from January on to grow the plants we look forward to come spring. I was despondent at the notion that all their hard work would come to naught and that all of us gardeners would have to do without any new plants this year. There’s only so much digging and dividing one can do, after all. So I was relieved to learn that Andrew’s is open for business and that its pansies are as stunning as ever. 

I stopped by Andrew’s on a recent cool, sunny day. As happens every year, long tables are set up outside laden with flats of pansies in every color imaginable, from velvety ebony to creamy white, deep purple to pale lavender, apricot to sunshine yellow. And the blue shades … don’t get me started. There are violas, with smaller, more numerous blossoms, and pansies with broader, larger petals. Some even have crinkly-edged petals. 

As I perused the offerings at Andrew’s, I chatted — from a socially appropriate distance — with a fellow pansy shopper named Deb Fusia (her name is pronounced “few-sha,” like the flower). I complimented her colorful fabric mask, far more fashion-forward than my boring white one. I was relieved that I could smell the pansies’ delicious scent through my mask. I still wasn’t quite at ease wearing a covering over my nose and mouth. We agreed that picking just a few pansies from so many choice possibilities wasn’t easy. “It’s so hard to decide,” she said. “I want to get the right color combinations.” 

I love the elegant simplicity of the single-color flowers. What could be more perfect than a pot of periwinkle-blue pansies? But I can rarely resist the temptation to throw in another color, or two. And somehow, I always end up adding an assortment of kaleidoscopic blooms that remind me of Rorschach inkblots. For all those beauties I have to leave behind, I tell myself, “There’s always next year.”

Pansies look like smiling faces, and they will put a smile on your face. You can plant them directly in the ground or in planters. Deb and I are certainly not the only ones looking to pansies for a touch of cheer; the supply at Andrew’s is going fast. For everyone’s safety, Andrew’s is accepting checks and cash only, to be put into a collection box. 

It’s good to know that garden centers and plant nurseries are considered “essential services.” In this crazy time, they’re a kind of life support. 

Mickey Rathbun, an Amherst-based lawyer turned journalist, has written the Get Growing column since 2016.


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