Primula Auricula ‘Old Irish Scented’

Yellow flower with white ring around the eye

There’s something alluring to me about auricula primulas, the racing pigs of the plant world. 19th century Lancashire working men collected these little darlings to bond over, lavish care upon, and to compete with against each other for the grand prize of a copper kettle. Today’s society helps give us an impression of how things were, back then:

Judging was done by passing plants from hand to hand round the table with the decision reached by consensus. There also existed a good deal of personal animosity and gamesmanship, happily almost entirely absent today. The proceedings ended with a meal or feast together with, one suspects, much consumption of ale. – The Auricula and Primula Society

Almost entirely? I see!

Most pictures of auriculas portray them with straight, discreetly staked stems supporting a neat truss of identical flowers, in a variety of patterns, each petal preened for the show bench.

The rakish angle makes Primula auricula ‘Old Irish Scented’ appear wayward in comparison with the trussed up show darlings. Once we set aside any expectations of stiffness, its classic white eye gives a hint of order while the ruffled, wavy-edged, golden-yellow petals have undoubted charm. One flower (technically a pip) is swamping the others. [With a contest for Prime Minister imminent, if any UK readers spot a likeness to one of our politicians, let’s keep that to ourselves.]

Primula auricula ‘Old Irish Scented’ is another of the rotating treasures on display in the glasshouse at Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate.

I’m adding another variety that caught my eye below. It was labelled Auricula ‘Nonchalance’, although it only has a smidgen of the golden centre described by others. Still, it’s sweet, no matter what the name.

Primula flowering in a small terracotta pot in a greenhouse

34 thoughts on “Primula Auricula ‘Old Irish Scented’

    • susurrus says:

      I’m sorry. This is a burst of nostalgia for me too. Did you try them in the garden or in a greenhouse? My favourite bit is popping the offsets off from the carrot, untangling the thinner roots and potting up a new plant. It’s really satisfying. Mum has some fine denticulata primulas and I’m dying to dig them up and split them, but they are tightly jammed in a narrow crevice between paving stones and it would take brutal treatment to dislodge them.

  1. Timelesslady says:

    I just ordered a packet off of Amazon and was really surprised when it arrived as it was from England. I didn’t think I could get seeds from anywhere without some kind of approval first. I am excited about starting them, but I have tried once before and had no luck. I’m going to have to do a lot of research and really attempt to follow through on everything they say to do. This was a very timely post to see just now. Thanks.

    • susurrus says:

      There is advice on the society’s website. It might be worth trying just half the packet if you plan to sow them now and keeping the rest to sow next winter. Ashwood Nurseries advice on how to sow seed is here.

      Good luck!

      • Timelesslady says:

        Thank you so much! I will definitely try the half pack idea…I haven’t opened it yet, but from past packs (I don’t think the seeds were viable) I know they are very small. Thanks so much again.

  2. Chloris says:

    I agree, auriculas are irresistible. I would love an auricula theatre to display mine if only the Pianist was a bit handier with his woodwork. He probably could make me one but it would be held together with gaffa tape.

    • susurrus says:

      I’ve seen old wooden ladders used to display collections, though you might not care to risk one in a bad storm. I suppose the Pianist could always gaffa tape the ladder to something.

  3. Oddment says:

    It’s a sad state of affairs when we see politicians in flowers, but it’s an apt description of the way of things at the moment. Your comment above, about masochism, applies in so many places! I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out the yellow of “Old Irish Scented,” and I finally got it: butterscotch! I begin to suspect I’m always thinking of dessert.
    Thanks for more of my continuing education — up to now, I knew nothing about auriculas or racing pigs, which I now adopt as the perfect metaphor for life.

  4. bittster says:

    Those rich colors and the subtle shading are fantastic, and the dusting of farina makes them so exotic to me. I just wish I could grow them better!

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