Visits with interesting plants

Visits March 2019 – Meadowcroft Garden Centre Pansy and Viola Festival

Every March, Meadow Croft Garden Centre hosts the Viola & Pansy Festival, a showcase for new varieties from around the world.

Violas in the Viola & Pansy Festival at Meadow Croft Garden Centre

It may come as a surprise that the humble pansy and viola gets so much attention from some of the world’s biggest breeding companies such as Ball Colegrave, Floranova, Takii and HemGenetics, but it’s a huge market and the need to introduce the next big colour break, or to create something a little bit different to stay ahead of the competition is paramount.

In recent years we’ve seen more trailing and spreading varieties being introduced for growing in hanging baskets and containers. Conversely we’ve seen a lot of varieties that stay neat and compact, as so many pansies and violas can become leggy and straggly over time. And longer flowering varieties are always in amongst the mix, too, especially ones that will flower at lower temperatures, as the majority need a certain amount of warmth in the soil to flower well. Which explains why they suddenly take off in spring, and look their best just as you want to replace them with summer plants!

The range of colours available is very impressive, and whether you like things bright and bold or more sophisticated and subtle you should be able to find something you like in this lot. Plus the scent, particularly from the violas, is gorgeous and carries a long way.

The last time I went to this festival (probably 5-6 years ago) there seemed to be far more pansies on display than violas, but I’m pleased to say (because I’m a viola lover whose not quite as fond of pansies) that the reverse is now true. It seems that the large flowered pansies may be less popular than the many flowered violas these days, as there were far more of these on display this year.

And in case you’re wondering about the difference between pansies and violas, here it is:

Pansies vs Viola: What’s the difference?

In fact they’re all viola of course, because they’ve been bred from different species of the same genus (viola). There are differences, though, and the most obvious is that pansies usually have bigger flowers than violas, plus, as they come from different species, there’s a difference in the structure of the flower. Pansies have four petals pointing up and one pointing down, while violas have three petals pointing up and two pointing down. You don’t need to remember that though! You just need to know that pansies really do have larger flowers but sometimes not that many, and their size means they can get damaged by wind and rain. Meanwhile violas have smaller flowers but many of them and they tend to be more robust in our climate. Plus, they’re  beautifully scented.

From top left going clockwise: Viola Tiger Eye Yellow, Viola Rocky Peach Jump Up, Viola Sorbet XP Yellow Burgundy Jump Up, Viola Caramel Donna, Pansy Xtrada White with Blotch, Pansy Cool Wave Strawberry Swirl, Viola Teardrops Pink Blush, Viola Sorbet Honey Bee, Viola Sorbet Antique Shades.

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