Yesterday I bought some pansies to put in one of the new cold frames for winter bloom. Pansies sometimes survive the winters outside here, but when we have severe winters the plants are obliterated. The popularity of pansies among the casual gardener crowd thus fluctuates over the years. When pansies in the open are good, they are very good; and when they are bad, they're apt to be on the verge of death.
To get around this uncertainty, I like to have a few in the cold frames during the winter. They provide both color and fragrance, and they bloom so profusely that the flowers can be cut for the house without any concern for the plants themselves.
I bought these particular pansies because among them were some with flowers in shades of brown beautifully blended with violet and rich purple and with the occasional flare of yellow. These are colors I associate with some of the most richly colored broken tulips.
Now let's be nice to ourselves and step back about a century. You've cut a small bunch of these pansies, and you've put them on your favorite reading table. The room is quiet, the chair is comfortable, the book is absorbing, and as you relax you begin to notice the scent of the pansies. It's a scent which combines the sweet and the pungent; with eyes closed it might be confused with the scent of some of the edible crucifers. After you have finished reading, the pansies can accompany you to your writing table; and when the call for the evening meal comes, they can join you at the dining table; and at the end of the day they can be your companion on your night table. Pansies are companionable.
While I was thinking about the pansies it occurred to me that in some ways they are similar to, and in other ways compliment, nasturtiums. Both pansies and nasturtiums have forms which bloom in a rare range of colors which combine red, orange and brownish tones. And they both have a fragrance which while sweet has an undertone of something sharper. And they both are worth growing simply to provide cut flowers: pansies for the cooler months, nasturtiums for the hot months. With a bit of luck, it should be possible to have a little bunch of one or the other throughout the year. I intend to try to do just that.