PRIMULA

P. These are of the same family as primroses and mostly thrive under much the same cultural treatment, I.e. cool, moist soils. Heavy, clayey land will grow good primulas, provided it does not dry out at any time, particularly just after flowering. In practice this means that nearly all primulas are grown in part shade, although some of the alpine species, e.g. Primula marginata in its various forms, prefer a sunny position so long as they do not become dry at the roots. Brief cultural notes are included with each recommended species. The greenhouse primulas, e.g. P. malacoides and P. sinensis, are dealt with later. These are increased by seed and this also applies to the outdoor species, seed of which is best sown as soon as ripe in a shady corner or in a cold frame. Note that many species produce mixed shades when grown from seed and if an exact replica of the parent is desired it is better to propa- gate by division after flowering. All outdoor primulas bloom in spring and early summer.

P. Beesiana: rather crude magenta flowers borne in tiers. Easy in any soil which is well supplied with moisture. Grows to 18 in.

Bulky ana: crimson buds open to golden-yellow flowers. Habit and soil requirements as for P. Beesiana.

P. capitata Mooreana: grows to about 1 ft. Tooth-edged leaves and heads of drooping bell-shaped, violet-coloured flowers, borne on mealy stems. Fragrant. Blooms over a long period. Will grow in sun if soil does not dry out in hot weather.

P. denticulata: one of the easiest species, growing in sun or partial shade, given moist soil. A strong grower, producing a number of stems, each with globular heads of mauve-blue, white, rose or purple flowers. Grows to about 1 ft.

P. Edgeworthii: sec P. Winteri.

P. Florindae: lush, broad foliage and tall stems with umbels of nodding, soft yellow flowers. Attains 4 ft. in cool, moist soil.

P. Forrestii: prefers a sunny wall crevice with some lime. Deep yellow fragrant flowers on 9 in. stems. Does not object to summer drought.

P. helodoxa: prefers a sunny, moist position. Tiers of rich yellow flowers on 3 ft. stems.

P.japonica: one of the easiest species which grows to about 18 in. It must have plenty of moisture at the roots but will flourish in either sun or shade. Grown at the side of a pond or stream it will often increase by self-sown seedlings. There are crimson and white forms.

P. Juliae: semi-creeping habit, growing to about 3 in. with heart-shaped, glossy leaves and magenta flowers. A slightly moist position will ensure a wealth of bloom.

P. marginata: a relatively easy species to 3 or 4 in. with silver-grey, toothed leaves edged with golden meal. A sunny position and some lime are desirable. There are several colour forms, all fragrant, I.e.

P. m. grandi-flora which is lavender, Kesselring’s variety, light purple, Marven, deep violet-blue with a white eye, and Linda Pope, with extra large lavender-blue flowers, probably the best.

P. nutans: among the most beautiful of all primulas, but tricky to grow. Tends to die out after flowering and is best raised annually from seed which is produced quite freely. The fragrant, violet-blue nodding flowers are covered with white meal, as are the stems. Grows to about 10 in. and demands a moist yet perfectly drained soil.

P. pulverulenta: warm crimson flowers on 18 in. white stems. An easy species on moist soils and a really sound perennial. The Bartley strain embraces various light pink shades.

P. rosea: wants a waterlogged spot where it will soon make big clumps with leathery, pale green leaves and rosy-carmine flowers. Height about 10 in. Delight is a warm pink and P. rosea gr audi flora a rather brighter red than the type.

P. sikkimensis or Sikkim Cowslip: bears very fragrant clear yellow nodding flowers on tall stems, to about 2 ft. An ideal plant for the edge of a pond or stream and usually a sound perennial.

Primula Winteri (Edgeworthii): of incomparable beauty, this species blooms during winter and early spring. Though perfectly hardy as far as frosts are concerned, detests moisture in autumn and winter and is accordingly somewhat difficult to grow well outdoors. A cool north aspect is desirable, the soil being enriched with compost or leaf mould to help keep the roots cool. An overhanging rock will give some protection from heavy rains or a pane of glass will provide an effective covering. On balance this species is probably best grown in a cool greenhouse. The colour is superb, a delicate lilac-blue with a white eye. The slightly fragrant flowers are borne on 2—3 in. stems.

Greenhouse Primulas. The Chinese primulas (Primula sinensis)> P. obconica and the fairy primrose (P. malacoides) are the main groups, with various strains and varieties. The yellow-flowered P. kewensis, is also popular. By careful timing of sowings different forms will provide a succession of bloom from November to early spring. All these primulas are treated as annuals, the plants being discarded after flowering. They only need a slightly heated greenhouse in winter — average temperature 50 degrees F. — and are best grown in John Innes Potting Composts, requiring cool, moist conditions. Never allow the soil in the pots to dry out. The final potting should be in 5 in. pots, although extra large plants in the P. obconica group are better in 6 or 7 in. pots.

Sow P. kewensis first in February or March, following with other primulas at intervals from April to late May. All greenhouse primulas grow to about 1 ft. The sinensis or Chinese primulas include the Stellata or Star varieties which are rather easier for the beginner than the large-flowered kinds. Coral Pink (Princess Marina), the light, rose-pink Gaiety, the orange-red Guardsman and the crimson-scarlet Fire King are good varieties.

P. malacoides have rather smaller, more dainty individual blooms. Recommended varieties include Blood Red, Monarch Radiant Rose which bears luminous carmine-rose flowers with bright yellow eyes on long stems, Lilac Queen with fully double blooms and Enchantment which is mauve-purple with a purple-brown zone surrounding the brownish-gold centre. Dobie’s Perfection is a good mixture of red and rose shades.

P. obconica is mostly offered in separate colours or mixed shades, rather than named varieties, although Fasbender Red (deep red) and Wyaston Wonder (warm crimson) must be mentioned.

P. obconica is often grown in living rooms but its needs are by no means always understood. Keep the soil in the pot reasonably moist, place where the plant receives the maximum sunlight but on cold winter nights do not leave against the window panes. The fumes of gas or coke fires are harmful. Remember that primulas of all kinds like a cool atmosphere. The skin rash which some people experience after handling P. obconica and to a lesser extent P. malacoides can easily be avoided by wearing gloves when handling the plants.

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