National Viola and Pansy Society Newsletter Spring 1999


Specialist Nurseries

May I take this opportunity to encourage members of this Society to support the specialist nurseries. There are now only 3. Were they wildlife, certainly to be considered an endangered species. They maintain stock, supply plants true to name and which are well grown. This cannot be said of much of which appears in garden centres or on market stalls.

Consider the words of John Ruskin: -

"It is unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money that's all. When you pay too little you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought is incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.

"The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better"

Southport Flower Show

Once the premier venue for violas and pansies, now reduced to a few classes only and those filled with garden varieties. Last year one of our members benched a few exhibition blooms, and raised a little interest. Two more members, both from Lancashire expressed an interest in Showing this year and I have supplied each of them with a small collection of exhibition stock, and I shall also exhibit. Hopefully this display will generate further interest, and who knows where that may lead.

So keen were John and Ann Stringe that they came to collect their plants, and we spent a fine day together. They brought some blooms of garden varieties for my verdict. Well if they can bedders that good they should produce real stunners from exhibition stock.

Angus Wares also came and spent a pleasant day, returning to the very North of Scotland with a few additions to his collection. My "open house" offer in the editorial is a genuine invite.

I should love to see Southport return to something approaching its former glory. With regular exhibitors we could ask for an increase in the classes.

Black Spot

I have received several requests from members on how to deal with this problem. Mycocentrospora acerina infects a range of plants, and in pansies it is recognized by unsightly black spots on the leaves; very similar to that which appears on roses. The fungal spores are carried by rain splash, and resting spores in dead plant material can remain dormant for years in the soil. Prevention being preferable to cure I suggest that you inspect plants carefully, the majority of member's enquiries have related to winter flowering pansies, so do look thoroughly before you purchase a trayful. I do spray with a preventative, and have used the fungicide mancozeb (BioDithane 945 ) however as "Roseclear" is once again available to us I shall be using that this year. For any members who grow organic, and I know of at least one, I can only suggest removing the plant at the first sign of infection and burning it, along with any attached soil.


In recent years I have received much mail in connection with the sweet violet. To my shame I have had to admit to only a wealth of ignorance. In an attempt to rectify this sorry state of affairs I began a little collection last year. I chose what I thought would be simple varieties from Elizabeth MacGregor's catalogue.

I prepared a bed in partial shade, digging well, adding humus in the form of leaf mould, but not manuring. A wonderfully vigorous group of plants arrived in April of last year, and with the exception of D'Udine, which is not fully hardy, I am told, they were planted out in their bed. A small but wonderfully fragrant crop of blooms arose. Following instructions from H.H.Cranes' volume on the subject, circa 1912, I dead -headed rigorously and potted runners in much the same fashion as for strawberries.

Thus in Spring of this year I was rewarded with some wonderful clumps in my shaded border, providing most welcome fragrant cut flower early in the year. By bringing my pot of D'Udine into my Auricula house, I had bloom in early February. The outside varieties were V. Odorata Alba, and Coeur d'Alsace. I ventured two more plants from Kirkcudbright this year Large Flowered Blue and Rosina. Again I received first class plants which have got away to a good start.

Although very much a novice I can at least now answer queries with the fact that I do grow a very few.

To anyone who might be tempted I would say 'have a go 'I expect that many members already receive a catalogue from Elizabeth MacGregor, and I can thoroughly recommend the varieties therein.

In search of a challenge I shall be looking through the catalogue of Devon Violet Nursery, Raffery, South Brent, Devon TQ1O 9LG to seek out some of the old varieties that are described in such mouth-watering detail in Roy Coombes' "Violets" a good read! Two high in my list are both doubles,

Countess of Shaftesbury and
Mrs. David Lloyd George.

A symbol of modesty and unobtrusive worth. Victorian Poets praised such qualities

"The violet droops its soft and bashful brow
But from its heart sweet incense fills the air <
So rich within - so pure without - art thou,
With modest vein and soul of virtue rare"
Mrs. Osgood


Our 'national' title sometimes seems a little too grand for such a small Society. However members may be interested to know of our international links.

Elsewhere in this journal you will already have read of Kees Sahin in Holland and Doctor Evbent in Germany. We also have Ina Dufour Narnelli in Italy who has recently completed a book on Violas, the translation of which I eagerly await.

Across the pond in Idaho is Billee Howard, raising garden varieties from seed, and achieving some success, if the flowerheads that she sent are anything to go by.

Finally the Antipodes give us Rob Peace who works away with old varieties in Melbourne and is trying to raise exhibition varieties from seed that I have sent to him, despite the postal services best attempts to reduce them to powder.

Preparation for Chelsea

Bouts Cottage Nurseries is now in its fourteenth year of exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show. Even after all this time the importance, high standard and international status of Chelsea make it stand out from all other flower shows.

The extensive preparation for this event begins in late February with the planting up nearly 200 bowls. They are then watered, weeded, deadheaded, berated and counseled at regular intervals! As well as the normal threats to their well-being such excess rain (which marks the larger blooms), diseases and pests, they have faced destructive children with footballs and Frisbees together with the persistent attempts of dachshund at organic fertilisation.

By mid May the bowls are ready. Of the original 200 only approximately 120 will be used in the display. A replica of the stand is constructed on the nursery and the exhibits then created.

On the Sunday before Chelsea, all plants and people are transported up to London. The setting up of the exhibit goes well on into the night ready for judging in the morning.

After so much effort, the feelings of relief and satisfaction when everything is finished are enormous. It is our hope that the display gives pleasure to all the visitors at Chelsea.

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