More primulas and some other stuff

So, this weekend it is Gardening Scotland, which is not at all like Chelsea, because it has pipe bands and show gardens made by primary schools, and people selling seafood from Loch Fyne and other people demonstrating steam mops, and best of all a stall all the way from the deep south (ie Nottingham), which is the only place in the world that sells the thornproof red gauntlets without which I could not live. It also has some weird and wonderful plants, such as this calceolaria uniflora.

I took the chance to add to my primula collection. This, Primula reidii var williamsii, is a plant I’ve bought and lost more times than I care to think about. Yet who could resist it?P1010646

Not just the colour, nor the ridiculous disproportion of the flowers, but the heady sweet scent as an additional virtue make this a plant I willingly shell out on whenever I find it, however much I know it is hopeless in the long term. It belongs to section Soldanelloides, and is the only one of that section regularly in cultivation. And no wonder: Professor Richards, guru of primulas, has this to say:

“They are in the main the most maddeningly difficult of all primulas…species which emerge from under the snow in an almost dry dormant state to encounter immediately a torrential and continuous monsoon while growing in a water culture supported by a largely soilless medium of stones and grit, might well prove to be difficult in cultivation.”

I can do the monsoon, but not the six months of snow cover.

Let’s turn to something easier:P1010648

Primula Pulverulenta, about which I’ve written extensively here and here, is a robust candelabra for a damp soil. Normally deep violet, this pink version is ‘Bartley Strain’. I’m not wild about pink on the whole, but this is a delicate colour, well set off by the farina on the stems and by the yellow eye. I only have a few plants, but I can see it making an interesting bloc of colour somewhere – if only I can find a place where it can be delicately pink all on its own, unbesmirched by red or orange competitors

This, on the other hand, I can probably do without:P1010647

This is one of a batch of pulverulenta seedlings I planted out last summer, and its parent has obviously bred with something yellow – in all probability p.chungensis. It’s close enough to the officially recognised cross primula xchunglenta for me to describe it as such (although there are more restrained versions than mine). It’s extremely vigorous, and is shouldering its way past all its properly purple siblings, demanding attention and throwing up more and more flower stems of that….colour. How to describe it?  Orange with a tint of salmon, lightening to fried egg with strawberries? It’s not unimpressive, but it’s not for me. Compost heap, I think, unless anyone out there wants it?


14 thoughts on “More primulas and some other stuff

  1. What a lot of remarkable images. I like the first one of the little gold steam mops– or really are those flowers? The fragrant blue primula is heavenly and you have to make it happy and productive in your garden even if you have to rent a winter snow machine Kininvie. What a gorgeous bloom and fragrance adds a whole other dimension. But rather than compost the salmon colored Primula maybe just give it a lovely poetic name (like Scottish Sunset or Sunrise Blush) (probably not Fluffy) and set about making it famous.

    • I did think about fame and glory when the first flowers came out, because they were a nice deep orange, like ‘Inverewe’. But then the pink and yellow crept in, and I realised that all I had was a not-especially-nice xchunglenta. I’ll try ‘Scottish sunset’…but if it’s a hybrid,as I suspect, it won’t set seed, so I won’t be able to supply its thousands of admirers. If only the pulverulenta would breed with the blue poppies, I might be onto something. I shall leave it, since you plead for its life, just in case it sets seed.
      I need to find a substitute for snow. I know exactly how to do it, and have attempted to interest a number of thermal engineering geeks in my ideas. But since few of them are gardeners, they just look askance, even when I describe the benefits….

      • Who makes up these laws about what plants can set seed anyway? I must have a talk with that person…

        I’m afraid engineers are typically not romantic enough to comprehend the need for a particular flower in a particular garden but good luck anyway with the snow machine. (They do have those on some ski slopes I think.) Oh I forgot to say how admire the post header photo of the blue poppies, which I assume is a recent one?

        • Indeed. Taken yesterday. They’ll be at their best in another week, at which point I shall no doubt be tempted to post some more pix…
          Anyway, it’s not a snow machine; it’s an insulated hollow dome with temp held to 1 degree C inside. Powered by solar or battery. Simple heat pump. I knew I should have done physics….:-(

  2. Oh I like your primula cross but then I am a sucker for primulas. Seen some wonderful primula chungensis alongside primula pulverlenta (I think) at Tredah in Cornwall today, growing en masse alongside a stream

    • Dear Helen, if you e-mail me a postal address,, I’ll send you some offshoots in spring, and you are welcome to make of it what you will. Maybe you could show it alongside your marginata? So glad you like it…perhaps there’s a market after all!

  3. Too good to put on the compost heap! Your little blue primula is divine, if anyone can get it to grow and survive, you can, will look forward to next news bulletin and photos of your meconopsis, yes , you must do a post about them. Mine have only just started to open, very late this year.

    • I think the blue primula really needs some high-tech care, ie an alpine house and people to pollinate it with paintbrushes. It can’t really be described as a garden plant, at least not for this climate. Northern Norway is about the closest place where it could reliably over-winter, and I’m not moving there! So I’ll have to go on treating it as an expensive bedding plant. That said, I have over-wintered it before, but it had obviously had such a miserable time that it refused to flower again, and then vanished….

  4. No wait, you are worshipping that oversized light blue fussy teapot and you want to get rid of the fried egg with strawberries with the silver farina on the stems? Man, you don’t understand a thing about primulas… 😉
    I can’t say I want the orange ones because they would die on me after a few hours I think, but really you shall reconsider their ridding.

  5. Come on, Alberto, we’ve had this discussion before about always dreaming we can grow things that just don’t suit where we live. The fussy blue teapot makes me happy. The fried egg and strawberries one doesn’t. But since you too are pleading for its life, I shall spare it for the time being.

    • Impressive certainly, but maybe just a little monotonous. A potato is not the prettiest of objects, and gathering several hundred together in one place does not, IMO, make them any prettier!

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