It seems only a short time ago that I managed to acquire a small stock of exhibition pansies and violas. So rare and precious did they appear that I was very loathe to subject then to life in the open ground. Reviewing the literature, I found that pot culture received in general rather brief notice in the volumes of this century, but rather more in the likes of 'The Practical Florist' from the mid 1800's. Cuthbertson in 1898 notes, "Charles Turner and the other heroes of long ago cultivated their pansies in pots for the summer shows". Pots it would be! I reasoned thus. I was already growing a wide range of plants in pots, including chrysanthemums, auriculas, tulips and pinks.
While each plant required different compost and cultivation, they all produced tolerably good blooms and stayed free from pests and diseases in the soil. The viola family being a hardy, if somewhat imperfect perennial, I decided to treat them much like my chrysanthemums. For each plant a 7, 8 or 9 inch clay pot. At the bottom of each, a good layer of crocking on top of which I put an inch of gravel. Next an inch of Irish Moss Peat and a good handful of Morgro 6X manure. I mix my own soil using the standard John Innes recipe of Loam, Peat and Sand. Over the years, I have tinkered with this to suit my plants growing needs. Growing auriculas and other alpines, I like a well-drained pot and so I increase the Sand fraction (in my case Grit) by as much as 15%. This does mean more frequent watering, but I do not suffer any rotting in the roots or stem. I also add a good dusting of superphosphate, finding that this does encourage more rapid root development.
Autumn cuttings are moved from 2.25 inch pots into 4 inch pots and from there into their final pots in March and April. The feeding is kept simple, while in 4 inch pots the plants will receive a high nitrogen feed to give a boost to growth. Once in the final pots, it is a steady diet of Phostrogen used at half strength every watering, a foliar feed every week with a seaweed extract (Maxicrop), and in last year's extreme temperatures a couple of nitrogen boosts to keep the plants in growth.
I find it easier to control the plants in pots, but as Pat Tipping had won most classes in recent years, I did wonder if I should not follow her example and grow in the ground. I experimented in 1995, growing 2 varieties from each section in the ground - Show pansies, 'Ann' and 'Tom', Fancy Pansies, 'Jessie Taylor' and 'Bishop's Gold', Violas, 'Agnes Cochrane' and 'Mina Walker'. With the exception of 'Mina Walker', the best of my blooms came from the pots, and indeed the few of my blooms that achieved a red card were all pot grown.
For those interested in bedding varieties, I have found the following respond well to the same treatment: - 'Mrs Chichester', 'Mina', 'Ruth Elkins', 'Admiration' and in particular the violettas 'Little David' and 'Rebecca'.
The overall control that I can exert in feeding, siting and maintaining plant health means that I will stick with pot culture for the foreseeable future.
If anyone has experimented with soiless compost and plastic pots, I would be keen to hear from them.
|Editorial||News||Pot Culture||Spreading The Word|
|Exhibition Violas on Shallow Soil||The Future||Staging for beginners||Nursery News|
|Species||Maintaining a collection|
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