Some thoughts on the need for a Viola Census

After reading about the nineteenth century curiosity with the splendid name "Beaton's Good - Gracious Double Bedding Pansy" in the Summer Newsletter, my thoughts turned to the question: -Why has such a seemingly attractive and interesting plant disappeared? Was it because it was difficult to grow and to propagate? Was it a naturally weak plant with a genetically built in susceptibility to disease? Was it a change in gardening fashions or was it indifference on the part of growers, who left it to others, to raise cuttings, until it was too late? My own view is that it was no single factor but, as is often the case, a combination of some or all of them.

If the competent gardeners of past generations could allow a botanical variety like this and many other viola genus to fade away, are we doing enough today to safeguard our rich heritage or will our grand children and future generations be writing similar views, bemoaning the loss of the many cultivars that today we take for granted and which give us all so much pleasure?

I know that there are holders of the N.C.C.P.G. National Collections and some specialist nurseries, who work so hard to preserve old and sometimes non commercial cultivars, but we as ordinary viola growers, must not take their dedication and commitment for granted. Remember the old adage "use it or lose it" and I would urge you when considering adding plants to your collections to try, whenever practicable, to buy from such growers show that, in our turn, we support their objectives and value their efforts. This year, I bought some plants from Bouts Cottage Nurseries and received by post, first rate healthy plants, true to name and at a fair price to boot. What more could one ask for than that?

From bitter personal experience, l am well used to losing violas. Sometimes, they merely turn up their toes for no apparent reason, but more often than not, their death is my guilt - either neglect, accident or sheer stupidity. (Once I mistook weed killer in one of my sprayers for rail, water and very efficiently wiped out my complete collection and many other prized plants as well) As I had no rare or unusual violas, it was relatively easy to rebuild a small collection but what if I had had unique cultivars?

This led me to consider another question - do we know what cultivars are in the possession of our members?

I would like to see a census made of all of the cultivars grown by individual members of the Society. I am sure that most would be willing to co-operate, as it would provide a data base of what is grown and how widely in the year 2000

Any Data, so obtained, should give a fascinating insight into what is going on and should help to identify any cultivars potentially "at risk" so that appropriate action can be taken to build up stocks where necessary, to avoid our descendants saying how short sighted we were to allow such jewels to fade away and to exist in memory only, as photographs or illustrations in dusty old books and catalogues - a full circle? I hope not

C. Andrews
Frindsbury, Rochester, Kent


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