Wild And Cultivated Primulas

Primroses growing wild

It’s a relatively small step from these pale yellow primroses (primula vulgaris) I found growing wild to the pink double below. Both plants are romantic in their way.

Double pink primula

The fresh pink and cream colouring of this cultivated double gradually gives way to a faded parma violet as the flower ages. I can see how, for some, this might seem a flaw, but for me it adds an old world charm. 

The individual flowers of the cultivar don’t have the perfection of some doubles, or the grace of their wilder sisters. They are ruffled, a little unruly: a side effect of so much beauty being packed in such a little space. The flowers are falling over each other in their desire to come out and be admired like the debutantes at one of Jane Austin’s high society balls. I dare say for them, a dalliance with a passing bee is the equivalent of a dance with Mr Knightley.

I’m always fascinated by the excess of double flowers but love the natural beauty of single flowers too. I’m glad plant breeders have given us so many variations on a theme so we can match our characters and moods to the plants we grow.

Three primulas


19 Replies to “Wild And Cultivated Primulas”

  1. I understand some people finding the cultivated doubles charming, but I prefer the simple and delightful singles. Inarguably better for our little pollinators too!

  2. I’ve only recently realised that my distinction between primroses and primulas is rather simplistic. If it was yellow it was a primrose, if any other colour, a primula. So, thanks for this, Susan

    1. Even in the common, wild yellows there can be differences. My (very rough) rule of thumb is pale yellow with thin, short, individual flower stalks = primrose; bright yellow with thicker, taller stalk that the flowers all come off = cowslip; primrose colour with cowslip form = oxlip.

  3. I have yet to encounter a wild primrose. They are sold as annuals here, starting in late January. However, being one who prefers to nurture perennials, I bought a few of the double flowering primulas a couple years ago and they have been very hardy. Now I have a nice planting of double and single flowering that provide year long flowers — so long as I care for them!

    1. I prefer perennials too, even if they are short-lived. We don’t often think that the distinction annual/perennial is sometimes more related to climate than the potential life-cycle in ideal conditions. I was quite shocked when I first heard that some gardeners in Russia grow roses as annuals rather than provide the elaborate winter protection they would need.

    1. I took that at one of the Gresgarth Hall opening days – there are always little details thoughtfully left around as if to woo photographers!

    1. It’s interesting that vulgar doesn’t have the same connotations in the Latin. I like the definition ‘shared by all’.

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