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PLANT OF THE WEEK: Primula petiolaris.

THIS little Himalayan wild primrose is looked upon as one of the aristocrats of the alpine world.

Apart from the common native primrose, which has the odd flower through the winter, it's usually the first primula to flower here - it's just starting to bloom now, running neck and neck with old-fashioned purple Primula 'Wanda'.

I started out with a couple of plants on a peat bed, and treated them with great reverence as they were supposed to be difficult.

They did quite well and I was pretty pleased with myself - then I went to the Himalayas and realised they were just the common native primrose of the mountains, so numerous that we spent days tramping over soggy carpets of them.

It's enchantingly pretty, with rosettes of mid-green leaves strongly toothed along the margins.

The flowers are violety-pink with yellow eyes and a thin white border. They appear in clusters at the centre of the rosette, just like a Victorian posy.

After I'd seen them in the wild, I decided to treat them with a bit less respect. I bust up my clumps and replanted them all over the garden.

They've never looked back and I've since learned that the knack with this primula is to divide it every couple of years to keep it young and beautiful. It likes full or partial shade in peaty, but not waterlogged, soil and is said not to like winter wet.

Mine get plenty of winter wet and seem not to object, but it might be wise to plant it on a bank to give it some winter drainage.

In fact, I think that, as with so many Himalayan plants, the Scottish climate suits it down to the ground, and it's by no means a difficult plant in our gardens.

Look out for it at alpine nurseries.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 22, 2000
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