PRIMED FOR ThE SPRING; RIGHT AT HOME Winter has finally gone and there is no better sign than cheerful clumps of primroses, wild or in gardens, dazzling in brilliant shades.
The primrose - prima rosa, the first rose - is the harbinger of spring.
Right now the steep Devon banks facing west around Glebe Cottage are smothered in compact clumps of their pale pretty flowers - egg-yolk centres suspended on pink stems the colour of baby birds.
Their flowers show up even on dull days to lure in insects and their sweet scent is offered at nose level. It was said that children who eat primroses see fairies. Gypsies used to pick primroses to sell door to door, filling pillowcases with them.
The wild primrose has to be my favourite but there are hundreds of cultivars and selections to grace our gardens in every colour of the rainbow.
Silver-lace polyanthus have flowers like black velvet, with each petal ringed in silvery-white. Flowers are held symmetrically at the top of a straight stem. With the precisely silver-edged petals, it creates a formal impression. This quest for perfection was ridiculed by the "natural gardening" fraternity - William Robinson, Gertrude Jekyll and Ellen Willmott all scorned the artificiality of this pursuit.
Nowadays, along with auriculas, these intriguing flowers find favour with many gardeners who love the quirky and the whimsical. What's more, gold-lace and silver-lace polyanthus look wonderful with other plants.
Most primulas really look best in a naturalistic setting but they can be used formally too. Primula gold-laced group and Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens make a cutting-edge combination in a shady container, perhaps with the silver spikes of Astelia chathamica as a centrepiece.
Nestle primula Black Jack under the crimson-backed leaves of rheum Ace of Hearts with red-eyed Euphorbia martinii in the background. Plant a drift of primula Blue Riband, Tawny Port or any of the purply bronze-leaved hybrids among dark hellebores and blue pulmonarias. There are a host of primroses from which to ch oose, whatever your taste. Most of us would love Guinevere, a dark-leaved beauty with pale lilac-pink flowers. It is immensely useful among early spring bulbs. P. Blue Riband and Hall Barn Blue are even more ground-hugging, with vivid blue pe tals.
host of primroses from which to ch oose, whatever your taste. Most of us would love Guinevere, a dark-leaved beauty with pale lilac-pink flowers. It is immensely useful among early spring bulbs. P. Blue Riband and Hall Barn Blue are even more ground-hugging, with vivid blue pe tals.
Or if you love the wild primrose, Primula vulgaris, try it with puschkinia, sci llas or chionodoxa and anemone nemoro sa, our Or if you love the wild primrose, Primula vulgaris, try it with puschkinia, sci llas or chionodoxa and anemone nemoro sa, our native wood anemone.
native wood anemone.
Our wild primrose is easy to grow from seed and you can sow it in an exciti ng way. After the wonderful show of flowers we're enjoying now, seed pods form.
Take a few seed pods from your primroses when they are fat but still green, te ar back the outside casing of the old calyx, then burst the membrane with your nail and squeeze to expose seeds.
Carefully remove the seed - it may be sticky, in which case you almost need to scrape it off with your nail - and sow it on the surface of damp compost. Cover it with a Carefully remove the seed - it may be sticky, in which case you almost need to scrape it off with your nail - and sow it on the surface of damp compost. Cover it with a thin layer of grit and leave it outside in a shady site where rain can't wash away the seed. Germination is rapid and after a few weeks you'll notice a green haze on the tray surface as the seedlings begin to emerge. They will grow rapidly and can be pricked out and potted on when true leaves are visible.
When plants are big enough they can be potted on into individual pots during late summer and planted out in autumn.
Or if you prefer, you can increase numbers by division. They love to be divided fairly frequently - the old, hard, rhizomatous roots should be discarded and the new pieces from the outside of the clump should have their white roots trimmed back to about 4in - the length of your palm. They don't get this treatment in the hedgerow but there they can spread outwards from their old crown and make fresh roots or seed themselves about. This method can be practised to keep most cultivated descendants of Primula vulgaris and its alpine cousin, Primula juliae, in vigorous growth indefinitely.
THEIR FLOWERS SHOW UP EVEN ON DULL DAYS AND THERE ARE HUNDREDS IN EVERY COLOUR OF THE RAINBOW
CENTREPIECE Astelia chathamica
HI HO SILVER LINING Silver-lace primula is a head turner
PERFECT YOLKS Primula vulgaris
BRIGHT SPARKS Primula 'Hall Barn Blue'
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|Publication:||Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Mar 29, 2015|
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