Perennials forum: Primulas

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Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
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SunnyBorders
Feb 23, 2018 1:06 PM CST
A January question in the Ask A Question forum involved florists' primroses; namely, planting them out (at weather appropriate times) in the garden. My own experience trying this over years is that it seldom works. In rare cases when it actually does, my experience duplicates that of David Tomlinson, at Merlin's Hollow, Aurora, On., with the survivors tending to be those with white or blue flowers.

Nevertheless, many primulas purchased in late winter and spring from greenhouses, given appropriate growing conditions, do survive very well in gardens here. At this point in time, they really are something to look forward to.

A random sample of primulas flowering in our own garden (pictures, various years, but all the first two weeks in May).


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Japanese primula (first week in June).


Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Peonies Lilies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing
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CarolineScott
Feb 24, 2018 10:32 AM CST
And have you started any of these from seeds ?
Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
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SunnyBorders
Feb 24, 2018 2:53 PM CST
Hi, Caroline.

No, though the Siberian cowslip was originally grown by David Tomlinson from seed.
In addition, the Japanese primula ('Miller's Crimson') self-seeds yearly and has spread itself through part of the garden.

All other primula spreading has been done by me by division of plants originally purchased as such.
Name: Debbie
Manitoba, Canada (Zone 3a)
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DebbieC
Feb 24, 2018 3:30 PM CST
Beautiful Primulas! One of my favourite perennials although they certainly can be hit and miss here. I keep trying though! I have a small clump of a yellow florist primrose that has survived for several years; we haven't had a lot of snow cover this winter so it may not make it through this year.
One I've had very good success with is P. veris "Sunset Shades"; that may be one of your posted pics. Also P. cortisoides and P. auricula. I had a beautiful clump of P. florindae but sadly it disappeared after a few years. I've tried and failed with p. beesiana and bullesiana; probably too dry conditions for them.
Love that Millers Crimson!
Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
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SunnyBorders
Feb 24, 2018 5:08 PM CST
Thanks, Debbie.
Very interested to read your comments.

You're right about the identification of 'Sunset Shades' above. My experience is also as per yours, plus that of some others I've read; namely, that cowslip-type primulas, species and hybrids, (e.g. Primula veris 'Sunset Shades' ) are likely among the most hardy primulas in our sort of growing conditions. The Siberian cowslip above seems to go on for ever in our garden; also the English-type cowslip below (May 22, 2016).



Further re longevity, we've had the few P. auricula we have for five to ten years; example below (May 18, 2011):



We've also had several of the other primulas you mention above, but as per your experience, they didn't last more than three or four years.

I can't get over the 'Miller's Crimson'. We've previously had a few other Japanese primula cultivars, but the only one that has survived is the 'Miller's Crimson'. In our growing conditions, it gently seeds around, looking after itself. I also think we now have a mutation in the direction of a more maroon flower colour.

We do watch moisture conditions in our garden and would always agree that moisture is a key consideration. Below: P. aurantiaca at Merlin's Hollow (July 4, 2009 ). I've loved that primula display for years. It's in a bog bed, set in a scree part of David Tomlinson's garden and out in the sun. The bog beds are discarded children's wading pools, full of muck with water added by hose.



Rightly or wrongly, I'm currently convinced that our attention to watering, but also the location and the style of maintaining our mixed perennial flower beds contributes to our relative success with some primulas. In and from June, the lower spring perennials, in our mixed perennial beds, get fully shaded by the taller summer-flowering perennials, although there's still ongoing deadheading and cutting back of the summer perennials once they've flowered. We have a long relatively wet fall here and by that time most of the tall perennials have been cut back, exposing the spring flowers, like our primula, to the lowered sunlight intensity of fall and to rain and/or the sprinkler.
[Last edited by SunnyBorders - Feb 24, 2018 5:14 PM (+)]
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Name: Debbie
Manitoba, Canada (Zone 3a)
Hostas Cat Lover Annuals Bulbs Container Gardener Critters Allowed
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Houseplants Foliage Fan Butterflies Bee Lover Native Plants and Wildflowers
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DebbieC
Feb 26, 2018 3:53 PM CST
Wow, that bog garden of primula is spectacular! I've heard you discuss Merlin's Hollow before; sounds like a wonderful place to visit, lucky you. I also have enjoyed your many contributions, comments and pictures you have posted here on garden org. Although you garden in a higher zone and enjoy a longer season than I do, I can easily relate to what you post. Thank-you.
Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
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SunnyBorders
Feb 26, 2018 9:44 PM CST
Thanks, Debbie.
As said, I'm very happy to hear about your experiences with primulas.
Primulas have certainly always been one of my favourite plants;
in fact, my first favourite; right from the time of collecting primroses (as children) on Primrose Day in High Wycombe, England.

Merlin's Hollow really is an exceptional garden. David designed and constructed the 3/4 acre garden himself. It has "rooms" like Sissinghurst, but is outlined by curved rather than straight lines. It contains around 1500 different perennials. It's just my luck that Merlin's Hollow is in Aurora, On, where we live. In the perennial gardening courses David taught, he emphasized efficient, cost effective, ecologically sound gardening that also supports local wildlife. David's every bit as efficient as I'm still not!

Am always happy to hear about how whichever perennials fair, in mixed perennial beds, in whatever growing conditions.
Appreciate your comments, Debbie.


[Last edited by SunnyBorders - Feb 26, 2018 9:47 PM (+)]
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Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
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gemini_sage
Feb 28, 2018 5:17 PM CST
Charlie, I'm so happy to see this thread and love the photos of your gorgeous primulas! For many years I've grown what I think is Polyanthus Primrose (Primula elatior subsp. elatior). I find them among the most charming spring perennials. Mine have grown in areas that dry out during summer, but have just gone mostly dormant during summer. I would love to find others that will prosper here. The florist types are always so tempting, but never last long here.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
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SunnyBorders
Mar 1, 2018 5:41 PM CST
Thanks, Neal.

Feel as you about the traditional hybrid primulas. There's numbers of fancy and exotic primula species to try but the traditional primrose-cowslip (+) hybrids are still my favourites with all their cheerful spring colours; as you say, the Polyanthus-type Primula.

We have a number that look along the line of florists' primroses; namely, members of garden series like Pacific Giants, Supernova and Danova. Generally, these last maybe three or four years, but replacements can be raised from seed. As said above, I do think our longest lived Primula are the cowslips.

I'm finding this a bit confusing. We do have pure cowslips, namely Primula veris, grown from wild collected seed. But I believe that many of our "cowslips" are really primrose - cowslip (P. vulgaris - P. veris) hybrids (that takes us back to them being Polyanthus-type Primula). Was reading that, in wild population, when cowslips and primroses interbreed, the offspring tend to have more cowslip than primrose characteristics (e.g. the taller stems).

Although we do have real cowslips (with no primrose admixture), I'm assuming that that many of our "cowslips" contain primrose genes as well.

[Last edited by SunnyBorders - Mar 1, 2018 5:41 PM (+)]
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Name: Frank Mosher
Nova Scotia, Canada (Zone 6a)
Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Birds Roses Clematis Lilies Peonies
Region: Canadian Photo Contest Winner: 2017
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fwmosher
Mar 24, 2018 2:00 PM CST
Charlie, I always buy two or three at Christmas time through to Easter, and then plant them out against my cement foundation in the Spring. They do very well, come back every year, and in my case, on an Eastern side of the house. Love them!
Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
Image
SunnyBorders
Mar 24, 2018 3:11 PM CST
Thanks, very interested to hear about your experience with Primula purchases, Frank.
Sounds like making the most of microclimates in your garden.

I really love primulas; they really provide lots of cheerful flower colour in spring.
Don't think that they have to be the rare or expensive ones to star in any perennial garden.

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