Big new launch planned for Viola festival

Ball Colegrave will launch a major new pansy at the seventh annual Viola and Pansy Festival at Meadow Croft Garden Centre & Nurseries in Suffolk on 4 March.

The company predicted that the new breed will have a "significant impact", comparing the breakthrough to the introduction of the Matrix pansy four years ago.

Marketing manager Stuart Lowen said: "Pansy Matrix has been a major advance in pansy breeding and as a result of its performance in production it has actually become a first choice for producers of bedding. I think this new product will have a significant impact. We are expecting it to be quite a significant introduction to the market and it will complement Pansy Matrix and Viola Sorbet."

The new breed was developed in conjunction with Ball subsidiary PanAmerican Seed. Lowen said the first plants would be delivered this summer with retail sales beginning in autumn 2010.

"We have been testing it for three years and it has been tested all over the world," he added. "We are now at a point at which we are really keen to introduce this to the market, especially after the results we have seen in all the trials."

The launch will form part of a special event at the opening of the festival, when speakers will include Smith & Son's director Michael Smith, PanAmerican global product manager Scott Rusch, breeder David Kerley and HW and Sun journalist Peter Seabrook.

This year's festival is set to include more than 900 varieties of pansy and Viola, each independently trialled by Smith & Son's.

The event was developed as a means for Smith to promote Meadow Croft Garden Centre, which the nursery bought 10 years ago.

From humble beginnings it has developed into a highly successful event that attracts many of the key figures in the bedding world.

Smith said: "We contacted the seed companies about using their seed and before we knew it we had 700 varieties. We were going to have a little festival but we felt obligated to set up as a proper commercial trial. It is an independent event but it would be nice to get more growers there to see it. I think the breeders deserve that."

The trials are open to the public who are encouraged to vote for their favourite varieties. At the end of the week, the votes are counted and a list of the top 10 festival favourites is published.

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