Meadow Croft Pansy and Viola Festival

WD Smith & Son's annual festival, held at its garden centre in Essex, had nearly 1,000 different varieties on show for the trade and public. Andrew Eames presents a selection of his favourites from this year's event.

- Viola Carpet 'White with Yellow Eye'

There are many whites in both pansies and violas, and they vary to a surprising extent - in whiteness and habit, how well they hold their flowers and how many they have. This stood out as unusually good for all these characteristics.

- Pansy Carrera 'Deep Orange'

Orange colours used to be a nuisance, flowering later and erratically, and with blooms that faded or were wishy-washy. This one - part of a new series from breeder Rudy Raes - ticks all the boxes for colour and size, and it holds flowers well.

- Pansy Baby Bingo 'Red-Yellow'

A new variety in the Pan-American series, it has spectacular colours that would stand out wherever it was grown. It has a good plant habit and with its pedigree we would expect it to give a good garden performance.

- Pansy Delta 'Fire Surprise'

A new colour in the long-established and deservedly popular Delta series from S&G, it is another of the bright bicolours that can't help but attract attention. It looks good at this time of year but should be a good autumn performer too.

- Panola XP Sunburst

This pansy/viola hybrid has flowers more pansy-like in size but has more of them than the very large-flowered series. It is a bright orange-red with a yellow flash in the centre, living up to its name. A very attractive colour and a stunning overall effect.

- Pansy Maxi 'Yellow-Purple Flash'

This Maxi series from Sakata is under development and comprises pansy/viola hybrids, which of course means they have lots of flowers like violas but more pansy-like in size. It is a bright, free-flowering plant that is likely to sell well.

- Viola Rocky 'Violet Blue'

Another good colour from S&G's popular established series. This cultivar displays an excellent bicolour effect with lots of flowers and is early into bloom. On the day, they were making a very attractive potful that could be just the job for times like Mother's Day.

- Viola Valentine 'Black'

Like many "blacks", it is actually a very, very dark velvety blue, which is a joy close up. If it sells as well as the original Valentine this will be popular with the public. It is certainly very different from the conventional range of colours.

- Pansy Maxi 'Little Miss Sunshine'

This is a delightful bright two-colour mix from Sakata's Maxi series, and this year is an exclusive to Meadow Croft. The mix should be generally available next year, but perhaps under a different name.

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