Variations on a Theme: Primrose, Cowslip or Oxlip?

Comparison between primroses and cowslips
Primroses (centre) and cowslips (top right)

The third in my series of easily confused plants features some of the UK’s favourite spring wild flowers with a long heritage of lore.

While our native species of primula are well-loved, they are not as familiar and useful as they once were. Farmers are too busy to rub primroses on their cows’ udders on May Day to encourage milk. Most people who grow primroses near their doorway have forgotten the idea that they encourage faeries to bless the household. People no longer make tisty tosties from cowslip flower heads tied into balls, stems inwards, and hang them from sticks in their dozens to tell fortunes or wave in celebration. Few people have recently tasted cowslip wine. Cowslips are not common enough, and like all UK wild flowers, they are now protected.

But these wild flowers have such a dainty, delicate look, no matter how vigorously they grow, that they are rarely dismissed as weeds. Continue reading “Variations on a Theme: Primrose, Cowslip or Oxlip?”

Pink Primrose

Pink primrose

I was struck by the way this hybrid primrose gradually changes from almost the standard pale yellow to pink, the flowers becoming darker as they age. Each petal is heart-shaped with a bright yellow splash, which put together, forms a starry centre. Continue reading “Pink Primrose”

Auricula Gallery from the Northern Section’s Cheadle Show 2019

Flowers with yellow eye, white ring, black feathering and green edge
Green edged Primula auricula

After writing my last post it occurred to me that I might have the chance to realise my long-held ambition and go to an auricula show. It was a timely thought: the N.A.P.S.’s Northern Section’s auricula show was held at Kingsway School in Cheadle on Saturday. Visitors were ‘warmly welcomed’ from 2 o’clock onwards, so I headed on down. Bargain hunters may like to note there was no admission fee and a whole table of cakes were being offered at the knockdown price of £1 per slice.

In the hall, people were peering at rows of circus plants with button shaped flowers in bright, bold colours decorated with rings, stripes, powder, and fancy edges.

Neat cluster of grey edged auricula flowers
Edged show auricula ‘Sea Peep’

Continue reading “Auricula Gallery from the Northern Section’s Cheadle Show 2019”

From The Alpine House at Harlow Carr Gardens: Ten Tiny Treasures

A small primula covered in a mound of flowers
Primula allionii

The northernmost of the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens, Harlow Carr, has so much to see that most repeat visitors must feel torn about where to go first. Not me – the Alpine House draws me in like a magnet. It’s show time there, whatever stage of the year. The gardeners tend a stock of plants behind the scenes, picking out tiny treasures when they are at, or around, their best for their turn in the Alpine house spotlight. This week our treats included several primulas, some flowering so madly that their leaves were hidden, others wearing their leaves with pride.

Lavender coloured primula with toothed, mealy leaves
Primula ‘Tantallon’

Some of the plants in the Alpine greenhouse are inside because they need protection from cold, wind or rain; others would grow outside just fine. Common species plants are treated as carefully as rare or special cultivars, all raised up on broad, sweeping benches so we can admire them at close quarters. Plants are grown in traditional clay pots, sunk into a mixture of sand and sharp grit to help keep the roots cool and stop them drying out too quickly. Continue reading “From The Alpine House at Harlow Carr Gardens: Ten Tiny Treasures”