National Viola and Pansy Society Newsletter Spring 1996

The Future of the Pansy and Viola.

When one looks back to the time when the old English or Show pansy held the field, and the Fancy Pansy, as it then was, was looked upon as a usurper, and trace the progress through the succeeding years to the time when the Fancy Pansy was at the zenith of its fame, and the Show Pansy gradually retiring, it becomes interesting to surmise what the future may hold for such flowers. The Show Pansy has almost departed this life, and it will be a great pity if it is allowed to become extinct. In its misfortune it has a full cousin in the Stage Carnation and Picotee. Nearly thirty years ago the late Mr. B. Simonite, of Carnation fame, and at that time an old man, expressed to me his great regret at the decadence of the Stage Carnation, at the time when the Border Carnation, through the activity of the late Mr. Martin Smith, was attaining popularity. Mr. Simonite then feared that his favourite flower would be lost or nearly so. He predicted that some future generation would see a beauty in the flower and begin anew to do over again the work that he and his colleagues had been engaged in for over three quarters of a century. Will the Show Pansy follow in the same course, or will they both pass beyond without any hope of return? It will be regrettable but "time and tide wait for no man."

The Fancy Pansy came into public favour by leaps and bounds, but in common with all Florist flowers the pace slackened as it became increasingly difficult to improve on existing sorts. Pansy Shows sprang up in many centres and great enthusiasm prevailed for a time, but eventually it was found that special Societies running their own favourite flower were not generally a financial success, and one by one they succumbed or barely existed. In more recent times a new enthusiasm has prevailed and successful exhibitions are held both in Scotland and England.

I have been dealing with the Fancy Pansy from an exhibition standpoint, but there is another and more popular side and that is the Fancy Pansy for bedding purposes. The great popularity of this section can be best judged if one sees the enormous quantities - don't mention the quality of some - that are daily offered in Covent Garden, the retail shops and on the costers' barrows in London. Without a doubt good Bedding Pansies have come to stay.

The Exhibition Viola was no doubt a serious rival to the Fancy pansy at a time when the latter had a good grip of public favour, and while it cannot be compared in size, texture or colour with its more gorgeous cousin, yet it fills a place all by itself. What advances have been made since the late Mr. John Baxter, of Daldowie, placed on the market his new creations, 'Duchess of Fife', 'White Duchess', and many other varieties notable in their day; there were no 'D Lloyd George's, 'Drummer Wilson's or 'William Burr's in those days. The plants as a rule are stronger in growth and looser in habit than the Bedding class, with correspondingly long stems, fitting them for many systems of table decoration. A few varieties, while producing fine flowers, are also capital subjects for bedding, and as a rule more showy than the ordinary self colours.

For Exhibition purposes the Pansy and Viola are generally seen at their best in the cooler climate of Scotland, and particularly so on higher levels where the dreaded disease troubleth not the grower. I have proved this over three seasons by planting stock at an altitude of nearly one thousand feet above sea level. In such a trying season as 1921 I did not lose a single plant through disease. I have, however, seen flowers grown in the North and Midlands of England which were equal to the best I had ever seen in Scotland, a sure proof that given the talent in the grower and a soil suited to their requirements Pansies and Violas of excellent quality can be obtained in unexpected localities.

Whatever may betide the Exhibition Viola in the years to come, one thing is practically certain, and that is the Bedding Viola has come to stay. A plant that is hardy, early, continuous, late and free flowering, requiring little attention and no staking, and with, in many cases, a delightful perfume, cannot be easily displaced, and I am confident it will not be put out.

The Bronze Bedders - one does not know well whether to class them as Violas or Pansies or neither - are certainly distinct in colour, and on this account are much in demand, but there is no need for a great range of varieties.

The Violetta section has never, I think, been fully appreciated, and its usefulness for a variety of purposes, such as edgings to paths, massing or carpeting, has yet to be recognised. That it will stand a severe test those who have tried it will readily admit.

To my mind, the situation may be summed up in this way. The Show and Fancy Pansy for exhibition will have a hard struggle to keep their heads above water and may eventually succumb, but the Bedding Pansy with a good constitution will never fail in public admiration. The Violas for exhibition purposes will, I fear, follow closely in the wake of the Exhibition Pansies but not so rapidly, while the Viola for purely bedding arrangements will as the saying goes, "last as long as the hills"


Spring 1996

Editorial News Pot Culture Spreading The Word
Exhibition Violas on Shallow Soil The Future Staging for beginners Nursery News
Species Maintaining a collection

Back to the NVPS home page or old Journals page or contact us.