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 Replies to “Primula Auricula ‘Old Irish Scented’”

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. Butterscotch is an excellent description. I think the scent may be sweet too, though perhaps not butterscotch sweet.

      I first saw racing pigs in the Mississippi Delta. They did not race very far or with much zeal.

  3. 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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