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10 Neat Things About Primroses
by Shauna Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

April 7, 2019

1. Grocery store primroses.

It's the time of year when indoor primroses are springing up all over. These colourful varieties, in reds, yellows, purples, whites and pinks are the result of hybridization. They grow best between 10 and 18 Celsius and bright light, so keep them close to the window where the chill will cool them while the light keeps them growing. They require a lot of water, but don't leave them standing in it. You can plant them in your garden once they're done blooming and it's done snowing.

2. Wild primroses.

Which ones? There are about 500 different species and they grow throughout the world, particularly in temperate climates. About half the species are from the Himalayas.

3. Primula vulgaris.

The name vulgaris refers to the most common type of a plant. Because of how plant nomenclature came into being, it typically refers to the most English type of a plant. These little yellow bloomers are a breath of springtime and were loved by Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th century prime minister of the UK.

4. Primula veris.

The common name for this species is cowslip. You may think, as I did, that it referred to the lips of a cow. In fact, it is so named because the plant typically grows in cow pastures, where one may slip on various mucky things. Other common names are herb peter, peggle, key of heaven, fairy cups, petty mulleins, crewel, buckles, palsywort and plumrocks.

5. Eating cowslips.

The leaves of P. veris have been used for ages in traditional Spanish cuisine as a salad green. P. vulgaris is used in England, both the leaves for salads and the flowers as flavour and colour in wine, vinegar and desserts.

6. Primula bulleyana.

This is one variety known as candelabra primula. The stems rise up a couple of feet from a whorl of leaves and give forth one bunch of blooms at the top and a second ring a few inches down. The buds are red, turning to yellowy orange when they open. P. bulleyana is from China. It was named by the fellow who "discovered" it.

7. Primula marginata.

This one makes the list because it has a fine margin of cream around the rather leathery leaves. It comes from the Alps and looks like it was carefully designed but in fact it was born this way, in the wild.

8. Primula parryi.

You won't find the scent of this species in any kind of perfume because it smells like skunk. It is native to the Rocky Mountains, but of the US, not Canada. It was named after an American botanist; we will presume that he was honoured because of their beautiful magenta blooms rather than offended because the plant stinks.

9. Primula denticulata.

These have the look of allium, with a sphere of flowers at the top. It and its cultivars are often grown in gardens. In addition to its obvious good looks, it contains the contact allergen primulin.

10 . Primula vialii.

Originating in Sichuan, China, this is the primula most unlike other primulas. It grows to 16 inches and the flowers make it look like a red and pink variety of red-hot poker plant. The species enjoyed over a century of growing in gardens. Then a fellow, John Holland, noticed one that had pure white flowers (blooming from creamy green spikes). A keen gardener, he propagated the new variety and a couple of years later, debuted it at England's Canada Blooms on steroids, the Chelsea Flower Show. He named it after his daughter-in-law, Alison. It doesn't bear seeds but propagates readily from cuttings.

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