Exhibition and Garden Pansies and Violas From Seed
The amateur will buy his seed (if he does not take the easy, less interesting path, and buy the plants outright) from a reputable seedsman; but it may interest him to know how it has been made to conform to or vary from type.
Growers plant large beds of each single variety, in order to prevent the irregular results of cross pollination by insects. When they wish to obtain new hybrid varieties, they deliberately take pollen from one specific plant, and with a fine brush place it on the pistil of another chosen specimen. When this has been done they enclose the flower in a muslin bag, to ensure that no marauding insect shall spoil the experiment, and when the pod ripens and straightens it is gathered and put into a labelled container. Thus, the natural bursting of the dried pod causes no loss of seed, which in the normal course of events would have been shot out to considerable distances. New varieties thus obtained are selected and grown on for several seasons, “rogues” that appear among the plants being carefully removed from time to time, so that eventually a strain of seed is produced which will come almost true to type.
Seed is sown, in beds in a semi-shady spot in the open, about July, or it can be kept for sowing in forcing-boxes in the following February or March. In the former method, the bed should have been deeply dug and treated with well-rotted manure, the surface being finely broken up and powdered with bonemeal. Shallow drills can be drawn 12 in. apart and the seeds sown thinly along these drills.
Showers, either natural, or from a fine-rosed watering-can, are the next essential. The amateur who is trying by cross-breeding to raise a novelty seedling, will leave these plants until they have flowered. Then he must harden his heart, and ruthlessly take out the least desirable plants, till his chosen varieties have a clear 12 in. space between them each way.
If more convenient, the seed is sown in February or March in boxes. Thefor these consists of two parts leaf-mould, two parts good loam, and one part sharp sand, all well sifted and mixed. About 3 in. of this should cover a layer of broken crocks, with the usual drainage holes at the bottom of the box.
Thisis moistened sufficiently to hold together when squeezed in the hand, and filled into the box to within 1 in. of the rim.
The seed can be mixed with fine sand and sprinkled evenly over the surface with another light sprinkling of sand to cover it. The box is then covered with ghss to prevent excessive evaporation, and shaded by a sheet of paper.
Any water collecting on the inner side of the glass should be periodically wiped away. It may otherwise cause theto “damp off.”
When the seedlings appear the glass should be raised a little at one side, in order to give air to the plants, and the paper may be dispensed with altogether.
As soon as the plants are large enough to handle, they are transplanted to a prepared bed, where they are grown on until they are wanted for the border. Overfeeding must be avoided but an occasional dose of artificial fertilizer is useful. At the onset of very hot weather a leaf-mould mulch can be given.
When grown for exhibition, Violas and Pansies need definite restrictions, and three, or at the most four, shoots only are allowed to develop, each of which is secured to a small stake. Summer storms may otherwise damage the flowers. Frequent breaking of the surrounding surface aerates the soil, and gives free access to rains or water.
In addition to this, about two weeks (for Pansies), or three weeks (for Violas) before a Show, all buds showing colour are removed, leaving only one bud on a stem to mature. (Light colours mature a little more rapidly than dark.) The blooms are shaded from rain and splashes, and protected from wind. They are gathered early in the morning, or, if preferred, the night before the Show, and placed in water in a cool place.
A green, deep tray, filled with sand, forms a good staging. Each bloom is placed in a tube of water and inserted at such a slope as to show the full face well to the judges. Similar sized blooms are better than a “Triton among the Minnows,” and the better blooms show to greater advantage in the top row.
Cultivation of Named Violas
Named Violas are more often propagated by, though some strains of seed breed true to type.
Cuttings for autumn planting and early blooming can be taken at the end of July. Short growths pulled from the centre of a vigorous plant, with a bit of root attached, are generally most successful. If too long, the stalk can be cut across, under a joint, with a sharp knife.
Insert the cuttings with a dibber (ie. a small stick) into the soil of the cold frame, prepared as for seedlings. Leave 3 in. between each cutting in the row, and 6 in. between the rows. Set them firmly, water thoroughly with a fine-rose can, and then shut the frame for ten days.
Should the weather be hot, whitewash the glass and, if necessary, give an occasional fine-spray watering.
After ten days raise the sash a little, wash the glass and, having hardened off the plants, gradually dispense with glass altogether, unless the weather is unusually severe. In the North of England, and exposed positions, protection may be needed all winter.
March is the accepted “planting-out” month, and a trowel the best tool, for a good ball of soil should be lifted out with each plant, as stem and rootlets are alike somewhat brittle.
The bed will have been prepared with deep manuring, surface fertilizer. And lime, and young exhibition plants will be grateful for temporary(ie. cloches) at night. The plants must be 12 in. apart both ways, and occasional evening syringing to discourage insects, periodic hoeing between the lines to keep down , and for the first week or two a stringent picking off of buds to encourage root growth, all help to produce the healthy plant and fine bloom that rewards the good gardener.
In mid-June a mulch of leaf-mould, and either well-rotted manure or spent hops placed on a loosened and previously well-watered soil, will be advantageous.
A month before the Show, begin feeding twice a week with weak solution of guano or a general artificial fertilizer.
Keep the liquid off the leaves if possible. Liquid manure made-from stable manure and soot, diluted to a pale straw colour, is also good.
In very dry weather well soak the plants in clear water before applying any fertilizer. Staging, etc., is on the lines already described.
Violettas in Cultivation
Violettas are the result of a cross between the Blue King Pansy and theCornuta, and were first grown by Dr. Charles Stuart in Berwickshire. They are propagated on similar lines to Violas, the cuttings being rooted in frames. When transplanted, they thrive best in open soil well enriched with manure. In heavy soil they seldom outlast the winter. They flower rather later than the ordinary viola, but with their dwarf, bushy habit and bright foliage they are ideal for rockery work and bordering.
The Sweet Violet – Viola odorata
These are propagated either by detaching the rooted crowns from the underground stems, or by seed. Seeds are uncertain. They are produced singly in the cleistogamous flowers, and may be dormant for a year or two. Some varieties, such as the Parma Violet, never form seed at all.
Planted in an open sunny position they will thrive in medium loam, in clay or in chalk. Farmyard manure is their best fertilizer, varying in amount according to the nature of the soil. Lime is needed in plentiful quantities. Their chief enemies are red spiders and surface grubs. Violets flower freely and for a long period, some from October to April, and some varieties for ten of the twelve months.