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Needham celebrates Pansy Day

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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

Anyone who wanted to enter the History Center & Museum in Needham on Saturday, April 13, would have had to walk between an aisle of multicolored pansies - a vibrant variety of flowers in blue, purple, red, and yellow. Some sat in hanging buckets, waiting to be bought and placed on a porch. Others sat in plastic planters, ready to be replanted in someone’s garden. Every year, Needham’s History Center hosts Pansy Day to celebrate the small, but hearty flowers that were created in the town, and every year it brings in crowds of people to explore Needham’s history.

Pansy Day is celebrated every year as a way to recognize the work of Denys Zirngiebel. Zirngiebel was a successful botanist and worked for the Harvard Botanical Gardens in Cambridge. He moved to Needham in the 1860s so that he would have enough space for his growing floral business. Zirngiebel was known for the pansies that he sold, and was responsible for developing several different varieties of the flower. His customers came from all over the country, thus spreading his pansy varieties across the United States.

During Pansy Day, visitors were encouraged to buy pansies. In years past, the flowers have been sold in plastic containers, ready to be planted for spring. This year, the pansies were also sold in hanging potters. These new additions were so popular that organizers had to go get more from their supplier.

The festival has brought people not only their yearly supply of pansies, but for their history lessons, as well. “It’s a good opportunity to get new people in here,” said Gloria Greis, the director of the Needham History Center & Museum. People visiting the pansy sale were welcomed to explore the Center’s many current exhibits, which include a collection of World War I memorabilia and an exhibit of art work by famous former Needham residents. Greis also loves what the pansy represent. For many people, the arrival of the pansies at the Center & Museum represents the first signs of spring. When the flowers arrive, there is often still snow on the ground. By the time Pansy Day comes around, the snow has finally melted and people are ready to plant the tiny flowers. “And they’re so colorful,” said Greis, “like candy.”

For years, Pansy Day has brought gardeners their beloved pansies every year, but it lacked the ability to attract families with younger children. This year, the History Center & Museum introduced some new wrinkles to motivate younger families to come celebrate. "I'm so delighted to see young families," said Kathy D'Addesio. For years, the day attracted a much older crowd, purely focused on the gardening. This year, Pansy Day brought in younger families with pony rides and a live animal show that wowed audiences.

Those who visited Pansy Day on Saturday were given an inside look- not only into the gardening world with a planting container demonstration, but also the History Center & Museum’s hard work to preserve Needham’s history. Anyone who came went home with a plant, and left with some new knowledge about Needham’s long history.

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