PRIMULA Primrose

A vast genus of garden plants – there are tender Primulas for indoors, water-loving varieties for the bog garden, compact and miniature types for the rockery and several sorts, described below, which are excellent for use in the herbaceous border. The dividing line between these groups is not clear-cut – some so-called alpine varieties are suitable for the small border, and some bog Primulas are quite at home in a peaty flower bed. As a general rule all the Primulas thrive best in partial shade and soil which is rich in humus. The species (but not the named varieties) can be grown from seed but all the Primulas tend to be shortlived. Mulch in spring, water in summer and dead-head faded blooms.

VARIETIES: The Common Primrose (P. vulgaris) has a place in the cottage garden, its yellow flowers appearing on 6 in. stems in March and April. The great favourite, however, is the Polyanthus (P. variabilis)-a hybrid of the Common Primrose and the Cowslip (P. veris). The Polyanthus is much bigger and brighter than the ordinary Common Primrose – its basic details are height 1 ft. Spacing 1 ft.

Flowering period: March-May. Its 1-1.5 in. flowers are borne in large trusses on stout stems. The ‘Pacific Strain’ has a wide range of colours – the ‘Goldlace Strain’ has yellow-edged petals. In P. denticulata the yellow-eyed lavender flowers are small and crowded on 3 in. wide globular heads – hence the common name Drumstick Primrose. P. florindae (height 2 ft. Spacing 2 ft.

Flowering period: June-July) is the Giant Yellow Cowslip, each tall stem bearing a loose head of pendent, fragrant flowers. It needs constantly moist soil and is ideal for a poorly-drained site. A large group of Primulas produce ‘candelabra’ flower-heads – the blooms are borne as a series of whorls up the stem. P. japonica (height 1.5 ft. Spacing 1 ft.

Flowering period: March- May) is a good example – so is the larger and later-flowering P. pulverulenta. Other candelabra types include the orange-flowered P. bulleyana (2-3 ft), the lilac-coloured P. beesiana (2 ft) and the red ‘Chungensis Hybrids’(2 ft).

SITE AND SOIL: Any reasonable garden soil containing adequate organic matter will do – thrives best in partial shade.

PROPAGATION: Sow seeds under glass in March or divide clumps of named varieties in spring.

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