Some may have a name, not a name that a taxonomist might accept, but functional names that recall their origins: “Michael Gallagher’s Primula”, “Rosaleen Power’s Mother’s Primula”, “John Howley’s Mother’s Primula” or “The Balbianello Primula” – an exotic one that, a gift from the gardener when we visited. Some garden seedlings merit identification so there is “the one outside the kitchen window” and “the one outside the dining room window”. As you may see, my naming is more functional than imaginative but, perhaps, that reflects the position of primulas in our garden. They are never the highlight plant but, nonetheless, make a valuable and appreciated contribution to the garden.
Our native primrose, Primula vulgaris, is one of those treasured flowers of the Irish spring, growing best in damp conditions and in shade while Primula juliae, an alpine species native to Georgia and the northern Caucusus is also perfectly at home in our conditions. Primula juliae is often referred to as the purple primula and along with its attractive purple flowers has a beautiful silver/white edging to the petals. Its introduction to our gardens in 1901 brought almost an avalanche of new cultivars and it crosses very well with our native primrose.
When in the same garden these two will invariably give rise to a range of new primroses for the gardener. Colours will range from deep purple to light pink and even white and, of course, as there will be a selection of other primroses already in the garden the potential for interesting new plants increases.
These primroses are truly a gardener’s delight. They are easy to grow; they multiply well; divide easily and are always available as gifts to other gardening friends. Indeed, some of them not only benefit from regular division and replanting but demand it for, if left without attention, they can become congested so the foliage loses vigour and flowering diminishes.
These primroses may be without names but they are certainly not unloved and are likely to remain treasures of our gardens for generations to come.