National Viola and Pansy Society Newsletter Autumn/Winter 1999

Bits and Pieces

Suspect Labelling

I have written before on the confusion caused by incorrect labelling of varieties by non-specialists. A further "howler" was brought to my notice a few weeks ago the label printed "Etain (Helen Dillon)" Both margined varieties, but as 'Etain' has a deep yellow ground and 'Helen Dillon' a creamy white, I cannot see any possible reason to consider the varieties as synonymous. Again this brings me to repeat what I have stated in previous issues:

"Support the specialist viola nurseries!"

Japanese Violets

Ian and Sue Pickup from Bristol write: -

"We were visiting Rosemary Verey's garden at Barnsley House near Cirencester when we discovered that they stocked a few varieties of Japanese Violets, apparently raised from seed obtained directly from Japan. The leaves of some varieties seem a similar shape to our home grown ones, although appearing much larger. One variety, however, was completely different with almost fern like foliage.
"All the plants have produced some seed, which I collected and I also hope to propagate the runners sent out from the mother plant. We eagerly await next Spring to see the colour/form of any flowers that appear."

As a postscript to this I must say that there does appear to be a large interest in violas and pansies in Japan. I have answered a number of requests for seed and information in recent years, and while in Holland earlier in the year, viewed some Japanese pansies. These were bred with very long stems for cut flower work. I also found a very interesting book on pansy cultivation on Kees Sahin's library, rather a pity that I could not read it.

Viola Studies

Following on the subject of foreign literature, Dr. Erben (apologies Mattias for mis-spelling your name in the last issue) of the University of Munich, sent me a good deal of interesting work relating to violas in the Melanium Section. Included was a copy of Wittrock's Viola Studies of 1897. This is an academic history of the development of the pansy and viola in nineteenth century Europe: It is well illustrated, and the centerfolds of the newsletter are reproduced from it. The text is in Swedish, but I am surprised just how much information I can get from it with the help of a pocket Scandinavian dictionary, a remnant of my travels in Norway.

Other Shows

My plans to exhibit at both Southport and Ayr this came to nought. The heat took all my blooms for Southport and illness stopped my journey to Scotland. Thus I can only report secondhand. Two Society members, Mrs. Tomlinson and Mr. Stringe, both Lancastrians, got on the bench and in the cards at Southport. Mrs Tomlinson took the trophy for the best exhibit. This is most encouraging as it is the first step towards improving the standard of showing at Southport, and making it a showcase for violas and pansies once again.

Ayr saw an increase in exhibitors on last year, and chairman Tom McClatchie taking the Scottish Championship. This is a real test calling for 6 Show Pansies, 6 Violas and 6 Fancy Pansies - 18 distinct varieties a real challenge to present well. A white ground Show Pansy that has circulated in the last few years was finally given a name; 'Alex Blackwood'. Mr. Blackwood was the last breeder to really specialise in Show Pansies; 'Ann', 'Penelope', 'Wendy' and 'Lorna' are still in cultivation, although differentiating the varieties is always good for lively debate!

I am told that there were but two exhibitors at Kings Heath in September. With this level of support it must raise question of the Society's continued attendance, as poor displays do the Society little credit.

"Eye of the Tiger"

A new viola released by Thompson and Morgan. I first saw mention of it in R.H.S. Garden Magazine where it was described as striped. On receiving the Thompson and Morgan catalogue, I found it to be heavily rayed on all petals. Pedantic if you like but such striped violas as we have show the stripes running vertically, where the lines emanate outwards from the centre I consider it rayed.

The catalogue states that it is the result of an impressive breeding programme, so it is good to know that someone is taking the time to work on the viola. Here they have produced an eye catching bloom, which I cannot help but think has some 'Irish Molly'< in it; the eye of the Tigershape of the bloom and that hint of blotching towards the centre. I am sure that someone will correct me if I am wrong, indeed I should like to know more of the raisers work so that we could compare notes. This would be especially interesting as I concentrate on producing garden violas that are completely rayless.

Within the main Thompson and Morgan seed catalogue are some additions to the viola species namely:- V. jooi from Romania, V. pumila from France and V. koreana "Sylettas". I think that I shall give all three a trial.

Shirley Gale

A letter arrived just after the Spring Newsletter had gone out from Shirley telling me of her success in the Leeds Show, winning the "Birchall Challenge Cup" with ' RebeccaRebecca' , 'Etain' and Myfanwy'Myfanwy' . Clearly very enthusiastic, and I shall be sending her a few exhibition violas to hopefully encourage further success.

Container Growing

It is always interesting and rewarding to be able to read of other growers' cultural methods. Here Ian Pickup describes how he produces his blooms, in a restricted town garden.

"When faced with the problem of limited growing space, I decided that the ideal solution was to try growing some plants in containers.

I have tried both clay and plastic pots, but from experience I have found that black plastic buckets (from the flower shop with holes drilled in the base) are of a good size, and their extra depth provides plants with the deep root run.

With both types of pot I place a good 2-inch layer of crocks at the bottom, followed by half an inch of gravel then one inch of well-rotted manure. The compost is a mix of a proprietary brand, well-rotted garden compost and grit. I vary the amount of grit according to the type of pot (more for the plastic, less for the clay) After planting I mulch with gravel to keep moisture in.

The position of the containers in a semi-shaded spot is very important because clays can dry out and plastic can overheat if in full sun! Each container can then be easily given individual attention with regard to watering, feeding and staking.

The old Show favourites, 'Mina Walker' , 'Betty Dale' and 'Mrs. G. Robb' seem to do particularly well in pots, as do the bedding varieties, 'Lady Tennyson', 'Elaine Quinn' , 'Etain' and 'Irish Molly'"

Ian has some red cards to prove his system, and perhaps this might just provoke one or two other members to share their cultural details with us.

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