July 22nd, 2016 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 1 Comment
The Victorians were great ones for developing new forms of old favourites. This was often driven by the enthusiasm of factory, mill and mine workers, often first or second generation city dwellers, for exhibiting auriculas, pinks and other plants including even gooseberries and rhubarb.
Some of the types grown a hundred and fifty years ago are still with us, others have disappeared and are lost forever while some have recently been upgraded. Two of plants which have benefited from recent improvements are frilly pansies and laced polyanthus.
Frilly pansies had almost disappeared. But since seed was rediscovered about thirty years ago they’ve been brought back and although the flowers of ‘Fizzy Fruit Salad’ are less frilly than the old types (‘Fizzy Fruit Salad’ and ‘Fairy Queen’ from 1900 – above, click to enlarge), the straggly growth of the old types has been eliminated, plants produce more flowers for longer, and there are no plants without the waved petals.
Laced polyanthus, in which each petal is edged in silver or gold, were special favourites but with so many men away at the two world wars – many, of course, never to return – stocks declined and varieties were lost.
In the last thirty or forty years members of the National Primula and Auricula Society worked hard to bring laced polyanthus back and now commercial plant breeders have added contemporary qualities.
The ‘Victoriana’ polyanthus come in red edged in gold, and in black edged in silver. The plants are compact, the stems are stout, the heads are full of flowers, the lacing is neat and consistent, and the plants produce more stems than older types. Grow them in containers where you can admire the flowers close up or cut them for posies.