10 June 2014

It all starts with one...primula

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. 

 Not all primula are hardy to all zones. These little cuties are annuals that I purchase from a local nursery, enjoy while they bloom, and then let drift away. Same with the 'grocery store primulas' that pop up in those stores every winter. Some of those will overwinter, some don't. I enjoy them, plant them out, and if they do survive, fantastic. If not, there are always more next year.
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. 
 This is my absolutely favourite primula, with its fresh green flowers, P. polyantha 'Francisca'. It is simply stunning, and I have it planted near brunnera 'Jack Frost' and several blue-flowered pulmonaria to provide great contrast.
 I love candelabra primula , which produce whorls of flowers on their stems, then extend the stem and produce MORE whorls. These absolutely must not dry out or they will pout, so they are well suited to growing near a stream or pond, or in otherwise moist soil. Later blooming and long blooming.
 There's a delightful new series of primrose hybrids from an Irish grower named Kennedy, and not surprisingly, the series is called Kennedy Irish. This one is 'Ennisfree', and caused me to get very excited when I saw it, both for the deep red flowers and for the bronzy foliage. A whiteflowered one called 'Drumcliff' is also available locally, and I see there are several other cultivars available.
 This itty bitty darling is an alpine variety, P. allionii, and I'm too lazy to go outside and find the cultivar name. As you can see, it is mostly flowers and leaves, and not very big. It can be grown in a trough provided you do not let it dry out. I have mine in a trough near other container plantings, so it doesn't run any risk of drying out, I hope!
 P. sieboldii are Asian plants, sometimes called cherry-blossom primula or snowflake primroses. Some of them have fancy edges to their petals, and all of them are exquisite.

 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.

 In the past, this Chinese Pagoda primula (P. viallii) has given me rather large headaches to overwinter, but this year I succeeded and it's even multiplying. It doesn't look like any other primula I grow, and that combination of hot red and fuchsia just tickles my fancy.
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! 


  1. They're just beautiful! I adore primulas too.

  2. I love primulas. I am planning on putting more in my garden. Thanks for the ideas

  3. They are lovely group of plants. I grow Auriculas and just love them.

  4. I can see why you have this fondness for primulas. They are the prettiest of plants and I remember the cowslips as a child in England and the hedgerows of primroses. I would buy my mother a primula for Mother's Day. I recently saw the Chelsea program where they showed the exhibitor of auriculas. Gorgeous beyond words. Happy Bloom Day

  5. Never knew there were so many varieties. I'm comforted to know that you buy the grocery store ones and plunk them in the garden and it's up to them whether they survive or not ...


Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment! It might take me a bit, but I will return the compliment whenever possible.
Spammers--need not apply. Because I delete your comments and they will never make it here. Kthxbai!

Search Bloomingwriter

Custom Search