April 12, 2006

Primula auricula season

Red Self  Primula auricula

Primroses come in many shapes and forms, with hundreds of species with alpine primula that generally bloom at the first hint of snow-melt to the Asiatics that bloom in high summer. The most choice of all primula, are these, the Primula auricula, or, more commonly referred to as Auriculas.

In the United Kingdom, these are all the rage, but, of course, thier growing environment provides ideal conditions. Cool damp summers and mild winters. Auricula are one of the oldest potted plant grown my man. More accurately, outside of China, they ARE the oldest potted plant. The word FLORIST comes from the florists of the fifteenth century who collected these plants in the high alps, and potted them up to force for spring bloom on London streets, these men became known as florists.

Primula auricula
Primula auricula in the potting shed

Today, Primula auricula are separated into groups. There are garden or Alpine auricula, the easiest auriculas to grow for Americans, which can be planted in the alpine garden where they can receive good drainage, yet moisture...always a tough combo; and there are Show auricula,like the beautiful 'Red Ensign' above. Show auricula are by far the most collected, and in England, there are two societies just dedicated to these plants. Historically, especially in the eighteenth century, Show auricula we're grown by the wealthy and displayed in special theatres,where they could be displayed against a painted backdrop and protected from rain.

If you wish to grow these fascinating plants, keep checking in. The season is just beginning, and since the American Primrose Society's national show is in my home town
this year, I just started repotting some auricula to see if I can get some to bloom on time. In future posts, I will cover details and share more photos of many imported vintage Primula auricula, including historical details, where to buy them and how to grow them.

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