By HPS NE Group Chairman Heather Russell – from her garden in Bolam, Northumberland.


I am really looking forward to our next meeting when Janet Beakes, our very own ex nursery woman and ace propagator, will be demonstrating how to propagate and care for violas.

Favourites in my garden, they thrive in the light, free draining soil, growing and seeding well – sometimes a bit too well!

Elizabeth MacGregor Nursery
Elizabeth MacGregor Nursery

Now the neat green mounds of my favourite Viola cornuta are beginning to flower. Charming little faces in blues and yellows, light and dark, some with charming whiskered markings, some plain. Many have come from Elizabeth MacGregor’s nursery in the Borders where she has produced many tempting new varieties. We visited her impressive nursery and garden on last year’s bus trip. (They do mail order!)

I am grateful to her for advising me to shear plants back in early autumn so that they can enter winter with a protective cap of short new growth well prepared for Spring flowering, and to spray for greenfly about now. Not easily seen, these pests are often the cause of unsightly collapse.

Viola cornuta ‘Tony Venison’
Viola cornuta ‘Tony Venison’ or a ‘looky-likey’?

One clump in my garden sports yellow leaves with pale blue flowers. I can’t remember buying it- I am pretty sure that I didn’t – but it is not easily missed! Its neighbour has a few yellow leaves, and there are two yellow-leaved seedlings close by, so it could just be a chance seedling. Trawling the net reveals a ‘looky-likey’ by the name of V. cornuta ‘Tony Venison’, with a listing on Bob Brown’s ‘Cotswold Cottage Garden’ website. Both the website and his Nursery near Evesham is always worth a visit.

This renowned and entertaining plantsman scores plants out of 10, giving this viola a 6, but owing to its sick looking summer foliage adds that he destroyed all stock! I will have to remember to assess this plant later on, and will probably agree with Bob. It is a matter of individual taste, but I must say, I prefer the green leaved plants. I will pot up the golden leaved seedlings for the May plant stall.

By the way, I have booked the knowledgeable and entertaining Bob Brown for our ‘Celebrity Lecture’ in October 2017!