For years I have been very fond of certain primulas, also known as primroses, and sometimes as cowslips, although those are a particular species. There have been some I've had challenges with, and some I've been besotted with, and some that have been hardy and some...that I haven't found the right spot for just yet.
The fascination started in earnest a few years ago when I saw these auricula primulas (right photo) in bloom at the NSAC rock garden. Then I was given several auriculas by my late friend Diana Steele (left photo), and shared them with Rob Baldwin, who obediently propagated them. And then...
A bunch of us plant addicts had the absolutely pleasure of taking a workshop from Pam Eveleigh of Primula World several autumns ago--a wise, knowledgeable and generous authority on primulas haling from Calgary--and that pretty much sealed the deal for my love of primulas. Now I have a steadily growing collection--it had to be restarted after my relocation, but it's well underway, now.
Primulas like partially shaded sites with a loose, rich, moist but well-draining soil, although there are some exceptions to that rule. They tend to be greedy feeders, so apply compost and well rotted manure and/or other fertilizers to the area where you're going to plant them.
(This is 'Sunset Shades', a Primula veris cultivar, and a heavy bloomer. )
The drumstick primrose (P. denticulata) like to grow by a stream or pond, so they'll take more moist soil than some species--and if they are in consistantly moist soil, they'll handle full sun quite nicely.
I developed a fondness for the double English primula, in part because of the great colour blends, and the fact that they are doing well for me in my new garden. Among the varieties I have are 'Sunshine Suzie', a cheery yellow'; 'Miss Indigo, which has deep blue-purple flowers with contrasting centres and delicate silvery white dusting on petal edges; 'Ken Dearman' (not shown), a mixture of yellow and coral; and 'Pink Ice' (below), which is cream and soft pink.
Primula capitata 'Noverna Deep Blue' is another interesting species/cultivar; it can also be cranky to overwinter, and the buds on the top never open, but the deep blue-purple blossoms are eyecatching and worth trying.
I love the 'laced' varieties too, which have been around for many years: deep wine petals are edged in silver or gold, making for an eyecatching display. I seem to have two of these now, which isn't a bad thing. You can never have too many primula, in my books!