National Viola and Pansy Society

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Summer Newsletter August 2002

Editorial  |  A.G.M.2002  |  Plant of the Year 2003  |  Seedlings  |  Watercolours  |  Plantsman

Dear Member


It has been a difficult summer for the cultivation of violas and pansies, with fluctuating temperatures and light levels. As was obvious at our annual show the vagaries of the weather appear to have a less dramatic effect on the garden varieties than the more fickle Florists sorts. A full show report will appear in the journal, but I must make mention here of two gentlemen who both put up a number of exihibits between them that really made the show. Our Chairman, Fred Owen, has not enjoyed good health recently, yet he still managed to put a great number of exhibits on the bench, without which there would have been some gaps and empty classes. John Towning from Nottingham, who exhibited for the first time only last year, showed a number of quality exhibits that earned him some of the major awards. It was also good to see an increase in the number of members attending, and from as far away as Ayrshire and the Home Counties. It is worth noting that the majority of the best exhibits were in the garden and species classes, and it is probably worth considering the makeup of future shows in this knowledge. Although formed as a purely Florist society, we have in the past few years evolved into a much more open organization that appreciates more fully the whole of the genus Viola. It is perhaps time that our annual show reflected this more fully.

A.G.M. 2002

This and other society matters will be up for debate at the A G M. Our last meeting was a great success, and we would like to see this year's event follow the trend of increased attendance and participation. Once again we will aim to keep business to a minimum so that we can then enjoy a fine afternoon tea, some viola gossip, and be entertained with some slides and a talk. I am afraid that the speaker will have to be me again this year. I shall be covering the development of the viola and pansy from the 19th century up to the present day. There will also be a plant sale and raffle - donations to both will be gratefully received. In order that Janette Warmer can work out the catering, I would be grateful if all of you who plan to attend could let me know. All are welcome and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible.

Plant of the Year 2003

The British Bedding and Pot Plant Association have designated the Viola as plant of the year for 2003. It will be a major campaign according to their handout. Although they will be concentrating on garden violas this will be a good opportunity to raise the profile of the whole genus. I hope that I will have more to report in the journal. We did not manage to exhibit at Malvern this year, so perhaps we should take full advantage of the "Vibrant Viola" campaign as it has been titled in order to publicise the society and its work. Another boost for us may come from Gardener's World. The Pansy came into the top ten favourites in the recent survey.


If any of you have produced a new seedling this year, I should really like to know about it - please. Apart from my own curiosity as a breeder, there is also the International Register to consider. With a considerable amount of work on the part of Peter Robinson and his team of assitants the Register of names has been compiled from the earliest cultivars right up to the present. The initial task was a long haul simply because it had never been done before, so names, raisers, descriptions and awards had to be scrupulously researched. Now that this has been done it needs to be kept up to date. So each year the Register will be updated. It is a working volume not simply a list. What we do now is for the benefit of future growers. The application form has been designed to be as easy to fill in as possible and consists of two sides of A4. Completion is not an odious task, and will result in inclusion in the register and a certificate of registration. So if you are carrying on the good work with breeding can I please ask you to do a little paperwork that will be of lasting importance for the genus Viola.


I have just received a small collection of watercolours produced by Madeline Peathey-Johns, a member in Devonshire. Working from the plants in her collection, she is building up a series of portraits that really do show the true features of individual blooms. I have reproduced one of the prints here, only in black and white I am afraid, but it does show the quality and charm of Gazania. I am hoping I might be able to persuade Madeline to produce as special edition that we could use as a society card. If there are any other artists in our current membership I would be pleased to hear from you, not only for cards, but also Society displays. Thank you Madeline for being kind enough to let me reproduce a sample of your work that all members can enjoy.


Finally I am pleased to be able to inform you that I have achieved my ambition of working as a plantsman full time. My own little nursery Old Fashioned Flowers is the part-time job, which will continue to produce Florists varieties of Viola and Pansy. The main part of my week is now spent in the growing department of Ashwood Nurseries, where amongst others I work with Auriculas, Anemone Pavonina, Cyclamen and Lewisia. Again thanks to all who have wished me well and recovery of health. I am glad to say that I am delighted to be able to work at what I really enjoy.

Kind regards to you all
John Snocken

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Updated February 2003