The Anonymous Primulas

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.

Primula (11)
Primula juliae and Primula vulgaris in the garden.
Primula seedling outside kitchen window (1)
A garden seedling between the two in the photograph above. I have since moved  it and spread it about a little. This is “The Seedling outside the Kitchen Window”!
Primula seedling in front of dining room window
Another interesting seedling in the garden – The Seedling outside the Dining room Window!

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.

Primulas on roadside
Prumula vulgaris, the common primrose, growing on a north-facing roadside bank outside our garden. Some gardens primulas have manages to seed into the bank also and colour variants are beginning to pop up there.
Primula (5)
Variations on the roadside bank.

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.

Primjula Jack in the Green seedling under birch (2)
A pretty “Jack in the Green” seedling – a name applied to primulas which have this ruff of leaves to the back of the flower.

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.


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12 thoughts on “The Anonymous Primulas

  1. A lovely introduction to the To bin form of nomenclature! I particularly enjoyed it as today I noticed growing beside a clump of cowslips an obvious cross that resulted in a tall primula type.It wasn’t there last year! I’ll have to call it ‘de want in de wall’!


    1. And you will then be a fully operational taxonomist. LOL They’re great fun, obliging and promising something new.


    1. I think it must have come from one I have in the garden called ‘Marie Crousse’ which is very similar but a much stronger reddish pink.


  2. I too rather fancy “The one outside the dining room window” and would happily trade a small division for a few of “The snowdrops under the Holstein Cox” if we are ever passing each other. At the moment I’m enjoying “the cowslip that always comes out a month before all the rest”


  3. Paddy, how I envy you this wonderful collection and look forward to mine bulking up! Would you ever trade one for a Sissinghurst White Pulmonaria … purchased from there?


  4. Nice article Paddy. I love the primrose. I have many Asiatic species which provide an infinite fascination for me. Have you picked ip that one Primula heuherifolia? Is the jack in the green Tipperary purple?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s hard not to like them – such variation and most are very obliging garden plants. P. heuherifolia is new to me. Nice one? The Jack in the green is just a seedling here in the garden. ‘Tipperary Purple’ is small, inclined to become congested very easily and much darker.


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