Welcome to the latest gardening column with Paul Andruss.. This week Paul is sharing the wonderful varieties and colour of the Primula family.
Paul’s Gardening Column- Primulas
Primrose Hybrids (Richard Jacksons garden)
Primroses and Cowslips are fashionable once more as gardeners are being encouraged to have wild flowers as food for insects in the garden. In folklore they are associated with the fairies as they were believed to grow along fairy paths. They are thought to be flower associated with the Welsh Celtic heroine Olwen of the White Track.
They are extraordinarily eye catching and cheap, so you can get hit of early spring colour. In fact that is the origin of the name: primula means ‘first’ flowering.
Although cousins, their main difference between primose and cowslip is the primrose bears many single flowers on individual stems while the cowslip has a rosette of flowers on one stem. You find the same difference in their cultivated cousins.
Hybrid Cowslips (Barnhaven)
The domestic polyanthus, or many flowered, comes in a full range of small to large flowers, single or multiple varieties (the ballerina) and in a complete rainbow of colours. Some are entirely one colour; others are edged with a second colour. Recent varieties can be flecked, frilled or even like a washed out demin.
There are some 500 species of primulas growing across Eurasia, with cousins in Indonesia, China, Japan, New Guinea and temperate South America. They are mountain plants. Half the known species come from the Himalayas, and often like shade damp and many species tolerate deep cold.
Drumstick primulas (Hilltop nursery)
From the Himalayas comes one of my favourites the tough as old boots Primula Denticulata or the drumstick primrose, comes in the purple, blue and white.
Candelabra Primulas (Suttons)
Another favourite is Candelabra Primula family, a small number of species that flower in early summer reaching up to 2 and half feet high, perfect for a damp shady corner. The colours are yellow red and pink and this plant is promiscuous, which believe me is a good thing. It means the seeds are a different colour to the parent and no two seedlings will produce the same coloured plant. It produces hundreds of large seeds which readily germinate, plus you can divide mature plants.
Primula Vialli (Suttons)
Primula Vialli is a pretty little summer primrose with a cone flower they is also known as the orchid primrose because they resemble wild European orchid blooms.
The above are all commonly available at garden centres and other plant sellers
Dodecatheon (Flower and Bulb Company)
So is the related Dodecatheon, or shooting star. This is another plant that produces large seeds and grows easily. But be warned. After flowering this plant dies back to nothing. So do not panic. From a rosette of large smooth or hairy leaves it sends up flower spikes (some almost a foot high) of spectacular red or pink reflexed flowers looking as if they have been turned inside out.
The prize of the primula world and one that inspires deep passions is the Auricula Primula. These primulas come from the alpine regions and need specialist care. You should never water the leaves. Instead water from the base, but do not let the plant stand in water. They were traditionally grown in auricula theatres, specially designed roofed display cases, where they can be kept cool (they do not mind having their roots frozen, and are shaded from the midday sun.
Dutch Auricula theatre (Claus)
Auriculas have always been prized. There is an advert from the 1760s advertising 10 auricula seedlings to be sold at a guinea per plant (£1:1 shilling). This was when a gardener earned £4.00 a year.
The same paper also carried an advert suggesting you electrified your plants and vegetables to encourage them to grow. It was the period of Anton Mesmer and Votla’s experiments with electrical batteries. Electricity was seen as a life force that caused severed frog’s legs to kick when wires were attached to the nerves. It later gave rise to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Victorian Primulas (Jelitto Staudensamen)
If you like the way Auriculas look but are not confident caring for them. Victorian Primulas mimic the spectacular flowers but are much tougher. Again these are available at garden centres.
Before we go let us have a look at 2 indoor primula type plants.
Primula obconica is known as the German Primrose, comes from China. It is also known as the Poison Primrose. Apparently primroses have edible leaves and flowers. Something I believe to be true after watching a flock of sparrows devour my primula flowers. However I suggest you get independent advice if you plan to eat them as I don’t want to be sued when you come down with food poisoning.
Primula Obconica (A garden for the house)
Primula obconica is a large handsome free flowering plant with mauve, lavender, salmon, rose or white flowers. I have never been able to keep one alive through a full year… probably because I run out of space and when it stops flowering I neglect it. So I don’t buy then anymore, but it really is spectacular. If you buy one look up its care on the internet, but it is not too demanding.
The last is Streptocarpus. These are not primulas, even though they are commonly thought of as South African Primulas as their leaves are so similar. These plants come in an astounding range of colours, with large jewel like flowers, sometimes veined or frilled. You will fall in love at first sight.
Streptocarpus (Glendoick Garden Centre)
I have grown them from seed- which is fiddly as the seeds are like dust. If you want to know how leave a comment. They are also promiscuous. You will get hundreds of different colours with seedlings, but will have to grow them on for a few years to see which ones work. If you want to try leave a comment and I will give you some tips.
In South Africa they grow in shaded glens usually over water seeping across a rock, so their roots are permanently damp but never water logged and they are shaded from the hot sun. There are two types of developed streptocarpus varieties: summer flowering and winter flowering. Summer flowering are more spectacular. Recently growers have been developing varieties which will flower all year long and are large flowered like the summer parent.
They do need some a lot of care, in warmer areas they will happily grow outdoors in a shaded greenhouse but need to be protected from cold and direct sun. As with any specialist plant there is lots of advice on the internet and usually local societies that are only too happy to help out… I got my seed and advice from a Streptocarpus Society at a flower show.
You can also take streptocarpus cuttings by cutting a mid-sized leaf into horizontal strips and tucking then into damp compost. Allegedly roots and small plantlets will appear after a month or so, which can then be potted on. Whenever I (half- heartedly) tried the bloody things just rotted.
Enjoy your Primulas!
©Paul Andruss 2018
I hope you have enjoyed this re-run of last year’s gardening column (this much work needs to be shared frequently) and as I plan what to do with my planters this year, it has given me some new ideas.
About Paul Andruss.
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
Thomas the Rhymer – a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen
When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.
Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.
The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.
The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC
When the fairy folk deliver a soldier called Finn (the first outsider in plague-stricken Ireland for a decade) Erin believes he is Finn Mac Cool – returned to kill the tyrant King Conor Mac Nessa of Ulster. and free Great Queen Maeve – Ireland’s true ruler & Erin’s dying mother.
The druids kidnap Finn – planning to turn him into the hero Finn Mac Cool – who will save the world by destroying it.
Erin goes in looking for Finn – so he can kill Conor Mac Nessa before her mother’s dream of a free Ireland dies with her.
Erin’s quest draws her ever-deeper into Ireland’s ancient mythological landscape; a place…
… Where dream and reality merge
… Where a man’s fate is written fifteen hundred years before he was born
… Where books are legends & a library a myth
… Where people hate Christians for defying the gods
… Where phony druids use real magic
Find out more and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY
Connect to Paul on social media.
My thanks again to Paul for another informative post to help us fill our gardens with colour. If you have any questions for Paul on gardening, please put in the comments.. thanks Sally
You can find Paul’s posts and the Gardening Column in this directory https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/