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Primula 'Vivid' -The Polyanthus Primroses

from West Virginia
by Barry Glick - New Writer
by Barry Glick


Barry Glick has been involved in the plant world since 1954, when at the young, impressionable age of 5, he witnessed Don Herbert (Mr. Wizard on TV) put a cutting of a plant in a glass of water only to sprout roots a few shows later. Barry replicated the experiment with his one of his mother's prized Coleus plants, and as he watched the roots grow, knew that he was hooked for life.

Barry owns Sunshine Farm & Gardens in West Virginia - Zone 5

January 21, 2001

primulavividl.jpg (75356 bytes)

1pt.gif (86 bytes)Put on your sunglasses kids, and get ready for a really cool or should I say "hot" addition to the front of that warm border. While I'm not usually on the lookout for flowers in this color range, I couldn't help but be astounded by the brilliance of this selection that arose spontaneously out of my breeding work with the x polyanthus primroses. This serendipitous discovery took place in the midst of my desire to produce a copper colored flower, a project that's still ongoing, but more about that in the future. OK, you want a sneak preview of where we are on this project? Go to:
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Perhaps you don't know about the Primula x polyantha, "The Polyanthus Primroses" ???. They're a supposedly naturally occurring hybrid between Primula veris, the "Cowslip", Primula vulgaris, the "English Primrose" and Primula elatior, the "Oxslip", that has been cultivated since about the 18th century. The x before the name signifies that it is an "interspecific" cross, or simply put, a cross between two or more species. To be quite frank about it, it really gets a lot more complicated than this, but I'm getting a headache sorting out all of the fine details of botanical nomenclature and historical conjecture involved. Let's just leave it at this for the moment and enjoy the flowers.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)We owe a great deal of thanks for the diversity of these plants to a truly amazing woman, Florence Bellis, an unemployed concert pianist during the "Great Depression". She lived in an old cow barn in Portland, Oregon in the1930's, with orange crates for tables and chairs, an old rusty cooking stove and two pianos. Legend has it that she spent her last $5.00 on four packs of Polyanthus seeds from English seed company, Suttons Seeds 1934 catalog, and with 1,500 polyanthus seedlings, created the "Barnhaven Primroses. Florence's skill at hand pollinating her polyanthus and selecting the best from her progeny led to the finest colors and forms available today. Upon her retirement in the early 1960's, she passed along the Barnhaven line to Jared and Sylvia Sinclair of England and when they retired in 1990, Angela Bradford of Plouzelambre France took over the breeding work.

Just the facts M'am:

Kingdom - Plantae

Phylum - Anthophyta

Class - Dicotyledonae

Order - Primulales

Family - Primulaceae

Genus - Primula

Species - x polyanthus

Cultivar - 'Vivid'

Common name genus - Primrose

Common name species - "Polyanthus Primrose"

Native of - Europe

Height - 3"-8"

USDA Hardiness Zone - zone 5 at least, probably 4, maybe 3

Light preference - Light shade in the North, full in the South

Soil preference - Average to loamy

Moisture preference - Average to moist

Bloom time - Early Spring

Bloom color - Brilliant deep Magenta

Foliage - Medium to dark green

Spread - 8" - 12"

Uses - Front of the shady border

Medicinal uses - None that I know of, how bout you?

1pt.gif (86 bytes)A fantastic book about the Polyanthus Primrose was authored in 1963 by Roy Genders, and although it's obviously out of print, can usually be found used in bookstores . It goes deeply into detail about history, breeding, propagation and culture of the Polyanthus Primrose.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)My friend, Ken Alston, an expatriated "Limey", has a GREAT Primula website, . Don't let the name Auricula fool you, Ken is knowledgeable in the entire genus of Primulaceae and all of its sections. He has many different selections for sale and lots of resources.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)The American Primrose Society was founded in 1941 and is one of the oldest American plant societies in existence. I have been a member for many years, and enjoy the colorful, quarterly journals. Dues are only $20.00 per year and the seed exchange is fantastic. You can visit the APS website at:

Visit Barry at

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row