National Viola and Pansy Society Newsletter Autumn 1997

In and Around the Gardens

I have been privileged this year to see a good few members' gardens, either in person or in photographs and what has struck me is the quality and the variety of what is grown.

Angus Macdonald in Amersham sent a photograph of his collection in full bloom, and mentioned that his wife was a little put out that visitors failed to notice her hanging baskets. The answer? Fill your baskets with violas. Angus has not confined himself to all the easy cultivars as I noticed some very good Gladys Finlay in floriferous and bushy form.

I paid a visit to the garden of Gerald Oakes close by Bridgmere after seeing some of his photographic work. Gerald is just starting to build a collection so I took along a few stock plaits to show him how to propagate. My morning visit extended to an hospitable lunch and much viola chat. He too grows vigorous and healthy specimens despite the attentions of the local rabbit population. I did not leave empty handed as I was kindly permitted to visit his pink collection with my cutting knife! Gerald had even ventured to enter his local show, and another of our members in Wales, Ceri Bowen, is making a name for himself around south-west Wales as you may read in his article. Again the photographs show well grown plants and clean blooms, enough for an exhibit at our Annual Show perhaps.

Harry Culshaw of Wigan pressed some blooms and sent them to me for identification, and I was impressed by the size and cleanliness shown. Harry tells me that he has been out and about with the pollen brush, so hopefully we shall look forward to some new seedlings.

Colin Andrews in Kent sent me two plants of a seedling that he had grown on and hoped to name for his wife Jennifer. I was flattered to he asked to trial them, and was delighted to report that, in my opinion, this was a winner. Pale yellow petals suffused mauve on the top with a picotee edge on the bottom three, it has more than a hint of violetta in its shape, and a most pronounced fragrance. Rayless and with a good garden habit, this will be a variety to look for in the coming years. When I tell you that this is also a chance seedling you might all be rushing to the viola beds to look for those pods.

I have named just one garden variety this year, Gill Elwell. This is from a Pickering Blue x Woodlands Cream batch of seedlings, in fact the only one worth growing on. It has circular blooms of soft blue with a cream rayless centre. It has some fragrance and is compact of habit. Although I make direct crosses I do pot up every chance seedling that I find, just in case something should turn up. It may be worth weeding with a little extra care.

My garden experiment this year was with water retaining gel. Steve Thompson of Nottingham kindly sent me some at the start of the season, having used it himself. Always eager to try something new I used the gel in some pots of violettas that I like to have near to the house for their fragrance. By way of control I left a few pots with only compost. June was so wet as to make no difference but by the end of July and into August, the gel really came into its own, we all know just how much violas dislike the heat and being dried out at the roots. Those plants with the gel stayed in reasonable growth despite my frequent absences and lack of watering, those without....... Well I had got some cuttings just in case. Broadleaf P4 comes as crystals; a teaspoon to a pint of water. the resulting gel is mixed with four parts of compost by volume. On emptying the pots, I found that the wet had really penetrated the gel, yet the surrounding compost was not soggy.

Finally, a few words on top dressing. While chatting to John Hamilton at the Ayr Show, the subject of top dressing plants came around. Both of us had top dressed our plants with a general feed compost and had noticed a subsequent flush of good cutting material. As not all of our favourite garden varieties oblige with as much basal growth as we might like this little fillip may well be what the plants are asking for.


Secretary's Notes Subscriptions Awards to Blooms Schedule Changes for 1998 A.G.M. Annual Show Shrewsbury
Ayr Show Kings Heath The Pansy Around the Gardens Ceri Bowen Plant Distribution 1998 Society Library


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