National Viola and Pansy Society Newsletter Spring 1996

Maintaining a Collection

For many members, this may be the first season of growing Exhibition Violas and Fancy Pansies. Having obtained some precious stock, how should one go about increasing the collection ?

The selection of cutting material is one of the most important factors in producing strong, healthy plants. It is difficult to make a poor cutting into a flourishing plant capable of producing high quality blooms. Good plants come from good cuttings and in order to obtain these, stock must be managed to produce sound material.

There are three types of cutting.

A) A shoot growing from a node or leaf axil. this type roots easily and makes a vigorous plant. I remove them with a sterilised blade.

B) A basal shoot from the root stock below the soil level. This type roots easily and quite often the blanched portion of the stem from below the soil level will have some root attached. I cut these away from the plant, again with a sterilised blade. It is tempting to pull them up: but this will cause them to stretch and rupture, subsequently ending in the demise of the cutting.

C) Old flower shoots. These root slowly, if at all. However, with stock being so scarce it is always worth a try. Cut directly below a node and you may find some solid material rather than hollow stem.

Many varieties are shy of throwing cuttings in quantity, and one learns from experience how to watch for suitable material. Others, for example 'Mina Walker' can be relied upon to produce a reliable crop. Most members will have some experience of the bedding varieties which usually respond to hard cutting back by throwing up a good number of basal shoots. With the exhibition varieties, beware! Many of the long jointed types have little or no rootstock; cutting these back hard will not induce basal growth. However, by removing the growing tips, these plants can be coaxed into providing a potentially good crop of cutting material to grow in the axils.

Having the responsibility for maintaining the Society's collection, 1 take to heart the advice of "The Practical Florist", ... "in short, Pansy growing must be a constant succession of cutting back, striking cuttings and replanting, the whole year round."

In order to produce plants for distribution from a small stock, I 'Mother Plant' the collection. That is, the plants are allowed to produce one bloom to check correct naming, then they are grown on for the sole purpose of producing new plants. The success of this may be measured by the fact that in 1994 I had one plant of Fancy Pansy 'Elizabeth McCallum', this year I have 50 plants. This is another 'reliable' variety, there are many more that refuse to multiply faster than more three or four plants a year.

When to take cuttings? As the old gardener said, "when they are there." Although it is generally accepted that cuttings are taken through the Autumn months, if the aim is to produce an increase in stock rather than plants for bloom, then it may become a year round process.

I root in a 50/50 mix of peat and grit, and this is spread into polystyrene trays (begged from those people who buy a lot of bedding plants). During spring and summer, these go into a raised and well shaded frame. Autumn and Winter sees the cuttings in a cold greenhouse. If I find cutting material in December or January, I put the trays onto a heated cable which is then in service for chrysanthemums. Once rooted they are into 2.25 inch pots and out into the frames.

I have not mentioned either 'division' or 'layering', and this is no oversight. Both have been used by me as last resorts with scarce or 'difficult' varieties. However, I found that layering gives about the same success rate as method 'C' and division leaves old, woody material that seems to impede strong, new growth.

This is a personal approach to the subject. I hope that it will give some encouragement for members to go on and build up strong collections.

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 main Journals page or contact us.