Documents: Gardening with Annuals:

Primroses
March 1, 1997


Primroses are loved by people everywhere. Their ease of growth here makes them a wonderful addition to the spring garden, and being perennials, they will come back year after year.

Primroses (Primula polyanthus) form an attractive rosette of crinkly leaves, and send up bright flowers in tight clusters. They need partial shade, and thrive in well-drained, rich soil.

Other forms of primroses are becoming popular as well. The old-fashioned, richly coloured 'Wanda' series (Primula polyantha 'Wanda'), is wonderful for planting in containers or in flower beds. They bloom very regularly, sending up new flowers anytime the temperature drops slightly, even in mid-summer.

If you're looking for something different in a primrose, watch for the rocket primrose (Primula vialli). In late spring, it's bright red flower buds open to violet blue blooms with a slight fragrance.

Another oddity in the primrose group is the auricula (Primula auricula). This favourite of rock and alpine garden enthusiasts has pale-bluish-green, leathery leaves, and except for in really cold winters, they will remain evergreen. The clusters of flowers come in many odd colours, including maroon, cream, and lime green, but what sets these flowers apart are their deeply set and strikingly coloured "eyes" in the centre of each flower.

All types of primrose flowers have been the subject of myth, and a saying dating from the Middle Ages refers to "the primrose path", which refers to a life of pleasure. Primroses have a mystical connection with fairies and elves, and in England, children are led to believe that fairies take shelter under their leaves during a rainstorm.

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