Needham celebrates annual Pansy Day

Members of the community purchase pansies at Needham’s annual Pansy Festival. Photos by Laura Drinan

By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter

After a long winter, spring weather is finally making an entrance. Trees are budding, peepers are peeping, birds are chirping, and, of course, pansies are blooming. Years ago, the Town of Needham declared the pansy to be the town’s official flower, and each April, the Needham History Center and Museum celebrates the flower with the Pansy Festival.

But why?

“The pansy was developed in Needham, so it’s Needham’s official flower,” said the History Center and Museum’s director, Gloria Greis. “It was developed in the late nineteenth century by a botanist named Denys Zirngiebel, and he came here in the 1850’s and lived in Cambridge for a while. In the 1880’s, he moved to Needham to open his own nursery.”

Zirngiebel’s home and greenhouses were located on South Street, and it was there that he developed many varieties of pansies, which he sold the seeds for across the country. The Swiss botanist was also the grandfather of the famous illustrator Newell Convers Wyeth, a Needhamite who featured Zirngiebel and his home in one of his illustrations.

“So, April is pansy month in Needham, and we do this every April,” Greis said. “It’s our signature event.”

With the weather’s cooperation on April 7, the annual Pansy Festival saw a great turnout. This year, the History Center and Museum offered more events for children, including pony rides, a scavenger hunt, lawn games, face painting, and quill pen letters.

Elise Morgan from the Needham Science Center joined the celebration this year with science lesson featuring a white snake named Amber and a 60-year-old tortoise named Tort.

Of course, the festival also offered activities for adults. Members of the community were invited to join for a planter demonstration put on by the Needham Garden Club. Lining the walkway into the History Center and Museum were pansies for sale.

In the schoolhouse, attendees could purchase gifts and books, and they could indulge in baked goods, hot dogs, pizza, and free coffee.

The History Center and Museum’s exhibits, including “The History of 100 Objects in Needham” and the Needham Art Association gallery show, sat on display and showed event-goers that there is always something to enjoy at the museum.

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