March 28, 2012

Primroses - Some Early Primula Care

FOR THE GREENHOUSE OR COLD WINDOWSILL ONLY, PRIMULA OBCONICA CANNOT SURVIVE OUTDOORS IN ZONES 9 OR LOWER. I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED P. OBCONICA, BUT THEY ARE HARD TO FIND TODAY. THEY ARE BEST AS A SHORT-LIVED POT PLANT FOR THE COOL MONTHS.

With the advent of spring, comes primroses - but there are many species available, and although most are cold-growing, many people struggle with keeping primroses in the garden. Later next month, I will review the various types available, and their culture, for you might be surprised that they are not a difficult to grow and one may believe, for now, I share this weeks chores with some of the primula species I keep. 


THE DELICATE TINTS OF PRIMULA OBCONICA COME WITH AN EVIL SIDE EFFECT TO SOME.

 Primula obconica was once more common than it is today. There are three types of primroses sold as potted plants in the winter months for indoor display, but the least common is Primula obconica, due to earlier varieties having more primulin in their leaves, held within tiny hairs that could prick the skin, and cause a contact dermatitis, which some people still get from many primula. Not to scare you, but all primula can cause this problem if you handle them enough, or, if you have a sensitivity to them, and P. obconica is the coomon cause - but that aside, it is perhaps the most beautiful of potted primula, common in the victorian greenhouses and conservatories, growing in an attractive array of violet tints and periwinkle purple, magenta and white, it is helpful to know that modern selections have been bred to have much less primulin in the leaves, and most people never even  know about the risk of rash.

PRIMULA FARINOSA EMERGING IN AN ALPINE THROUGH. THE BIRD'S EYE PRIMROSE, THIS SPECIES IS TYPICALLY SEEN GROWING IN HIGH ALPINE MEADOWS IN THE ALPS. IT GROWS BEST AS AN ANNUAL, FROM SEED SOWN THE PREVIOUS SUMMER.

In the garden, or specifically, in the alpine troughs, high-elevation primula are awakening. Some require a little care, particularly the highest alpine forms of P. auricula and P. marginata, which tend to develop wood stems with a tuft of leaves at the end. These are plants designed to grow in tight, mountain crevices and screes, where tiny gravel and rock chips break off of the highest peaks, and tumble down into the crevice, filling in a sort-of natural mulch all year long. Scree plants often grow in gardened at low elevations with these long, bare stems, since tumbling rocks rarely exist in the home garden. So a little ingenuity is required ( arriving as a bucket of sharp gravel). I apply a new layer to my scree garden plants every spring, placing gravel chips of granite around the plants until only their leaves are left showing. This works well with Primula marginata, which could also be dug and planted deeper every year too as an option.

THE ALPINE TROUGHS ARE COMING TO LIFE EARLY THIS YEAR. NOTICE THE PRIMULA MARGINATA AT THE TOP, WITH DENTATED, TOOTHED LEAVES COVERED IN A POWDER CALLED FARINA. 

A PRIMULA AURICULA IN THE ALPINE GARDEN IN NEED OF A NEW MULCH OF GRAVEL TO RAISE THE SOIL LEVEL.

PRIMULA AURICULA WITH A NEW MULCH OF GRAVEL

SOME ALPINE TROUGHS BADLY IN NEED OF A NEW SET OF PLANTS. SOMETIMES, FAILURE OCCURS, DUE TO CLOGGED DRAINAGE HOLES AND FREEZING WATER. I HATE TROUGHS PLANTED WITH SUCCULENTS OR HENS AND CHICKS, AS I FEEL THEY ARE AMATEUR AND A BIT INAUTHENTIC FOR ME ( I KNOW -PLANT GEEK!) , SO TRUE ALPINES WILL BE PLANTED IN THESE - SAXIFRAGES, GENTIANS AND LEWISIA ARE ON THEIR WAY!
SPEAKING OF ALPINES - SAXIFRAGA SPECIES ARE STARTING TO BLOOM IN THE TUFA ROCK TROUGHS !

4 comments :

  1. I applaud you for your trough snobbery. If you are going to the labor and expense of a trough, why not do alpines? Or small rare treasures?

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  2. I love your new colours.

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  3. While I don't necessarily agree with your trough snobbery, I do agree with your love of Primula obonica. I always loved the first shipment of them we received every spring at the greenhouse. The big clusters of such delicate blooms just make me melt.

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  4. Thanks Everyone!

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