Richard Cawthorne who died early in November held for ten years the National Collection of Violas, one of the earliest collections to be accepted. After an eventful early life he became a landscape gardener and latterly devoted his considerable energies to the genus he loved. The sentiment he printed on his catalogues
" The Pansies, Violas and Violettas of the world are not ours to dispose of as we please. We must make it our duty to hold them in trust, for other generations to follow"
provides a true rationale for what the NCCPG is all about.
After holding the Collection in various locations he was able to rent the Lower Daltons Nursery at Swanley in Kent. It was here that Richard's breeding programme took off. His interest was in developing rayless Bedding Violas, the Violettas with their tufted habit, which he greatly admired, and the species in particular the Cornuta section. As the years passed so the Collection became more extensive. In 1978 his catalogue listed 62 Violas of which ten were of his own raising and 34 Violettas of which three were his.
Richard made a commercial success of his venture and was a regular exhibitor and Medal winner at Chelsea. He was happier when his stand there was in the open as then the foliage of the plants became less etiolated than in the marquee. He was not happy, I recall, when a helpful RHS Judge informed him his exhibit had failed to gain a Gold because he had not patted his peat smooth ! His Show plants were grown in large black plastic pots and were timed to perfection.
As Richard's plants became more widely distributed a number were brought to the attention of the R.H.S.'s Committee 'A'. The Marchioness of Salisbury was much 'taken' with a number of his cultivars. 'Aspasia' creamy white and yellow received an A.M. when exhibited by her in 1981, and 'Fiona' white suffused pale mauve a P.C. in 1983. Richard achieved a P.C. with 'Fabiola' in 1983. 'Letitia' a red purple self and a new colour of which he was very proud despite its rays selected for Trial at Wisley in 1979. 'Letitia' together with `Lord Plunkett' a pure maroon self with an attractive yellow eye received a H.C. as did 'Purity' an excellent pure white Violetta.