National Viola and Pansy Society Newsletter Spring 1997

An Introduction to the Pansy, Viola and Violetta.

All who share a love for the Pansy, Viola and Violetta will have been heartened to have seen in recent years a steady, if modest renewal of interest in the cultivation of these splendid little plants evidenced by the substantial increase in the membership of the National Viola and Pansy Society.

It is unlikely that the 412 founding members who originally gathered together in Birmingham in 1911 to form the Society would have envisaged that within about 50 years the membership of their Society would have dwindled to a mere handful and that most, if not all, the fine named varieties of Pansy and Viola with which they were then so familiar, would have been lost forever.

It is thanks to the devotion and determined efforts of a few enthusiasts during the last twenty years or so that we are able to say that the tide has now turned and named varieties of Pansy, Viola and Violetta are once again attracting the attention which they so richly deserve. Whilst the large commercial seed houses have kept the gardening public well supplied with some admirable strains of Pansy seed, and to a lesser extent Viola seed, it has been left to just a few enthusiasts and dedicated specialist nurserymen and nurserywomen to cater for what can only be described as the more discerning gardener. It is thanks to their efforts alone that a few of the fine old named varieties have been saved from almost certain oblivion, vegitatively propagated and made available to a new generation of gardeners. At the same time a considerable number of new and worthy varieties have been introduced to swell the ranks.

The plants allow for a variety of tastes and can roughly be divided into three categories :-

Show Pansies, Fancy Pansies and Exhibition Violas.

These are the large flowered varieties, selected primarily for the impeccable quality and marking of their blooms and they are strictly for those who enjoy the competitive world of show and exhibition. The novice should be aware that they are not the most suitable of plants for general garden bedding but require considerable cosseting and attention to detail if the blooms are to be fit to triumph over opposition on the show bench.

Unless grown in a protected environment the plants will almost certainly require staking to prevent wind damage and once they are in bud and flower they must be protected lest heavy rain or predators disfigure the petals.

Bedding Violas and Violettas.

Available in a wide range of colouring and size these are the plants to provide a mass of colour throughout the entire summer. The plants are of a more rugged and tufted nature which enables them to shrug off the buffeting of wind and rain. They are not unduly fussy to soil and site and will thrive and flower with great abandon in virtually any good, cool, moist, weed free soil.

The Species.

Of all the various viola species available to the gardener 'Viola cornuta', native to the Alps and Pyrenees is undoubtedly the most valuable and the most satisfactory. Originally only available in white and shades of lavender and violet, the range has now been extended to include creams, yellows, shades of pink and rose, sky blue and even varieties with variegated foliage. Unattended cornutas have the engaging capacity to survive severe, wet winters and hot dry summers the likes of which would impose considerable stress upon bedding Violas and Violettas and probably prove fatal to the aristocratic Show and Exhibition varieties.

Rodney Fuller.


Spring 1997

Secretary's Notes Nursery News Cultural Notes Society News
Bits and Pieces Plant Profiles New Varieties Pansy, Viola and Violetta
My First Show! Thinking of Showing?

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