2018 was a good year for Primula auricula, the species. These plants stood up to the weather better than many of the hybrid auriculas. They bloomed well and went on to set plenty of seed, as they always do.
Not every yellow-flowered auricula is an example of the species. How do I know my yellow-flowered auriculas are species and not hybrids? I don’t. All are from seed labelled Primula auricula. But a name on a seed packet is not a guarantee of purity. My first auricula seeds came from a botanic garden, where cross-pollination with related species can produce hybrid seeds. Some of my yellows are raised from wild-collected seeds. These are likely to be true. Others simply look and act like species plants. Or maybe I should say they don’t act like hybrids. They are slower to spread and increase, lacking the sort of vigour that causes hybrids to produce lots of offsets. And when hand-pollinated with another yellow that resembles the species, their seeds produce more yellow-flowered, species-like plants. Also, they have a stronger, truer auricula fragrance. (Or do I imagine this?)
Below, examples of yellow auriculas that are not the species, including show self ‘April Moon’ and border ‘Kate Haywood,’ photographed in 2017.
Of course, true auriculas are not all identical. There is variation within the species. Maybe all of these are true. Or do the corn-coloured ones have a little too much farina around the eye? (And a little too much corn in the colour?)
Centuries of breeding with Primula auricula have produced a vast range of impossibly beautiful flowers. Along with the red selfs, blue stripes, and green-edged fancies, every collection needs a few true auriculas. Some more seeds just came in the mail and I started them today.
Good leaves for propagation are mature size, or close to it; that is, they have started producing flower buds, or soon will. Healthy leaves are best, of course, but are not always available. A small piece of green tissue, even a square centimeter, may be capable of producing a new plant.
Leaves can be cut lengthwise through the middle rib or crosswise. New growth arises from the damaged tissue (the cut) in contact with moisture.
Additional small incisions may provide more new growth points, but would not usually be necessary.
Roots will form first. The propagation containers have a little potting mix for the roots to grow into. One advantage of a clear container is that roots are visible soon after they begin to grow, usually in around 6-8 weeks.
The cuttings are inserted into moistened sphagnum, above the potting mix. The sphagnum helps maintain a humid environment. The cuttings could be inserted straight into moistened potting mix. The containers are then loosely closed or covered. A little warmth may hasten new growth, but room temperature is usually fine.
New plantlets can stay in the propagation container until they are large enough to handle easily, but they can also be removed when very small. Cut or break off each leaf with a bit of root, or pot up the entire mass and have a large plant sooner.
A leaf stood in water may root and produce new plantlets. This leaf with two flower stems rooted while standing in a small clay vase. The old leaf and stems can be cut off and the little plant(s) potted up.
These are new seedlings, two or three years old, blooming for the first time. The three plants with round flowers and broad stripes have ‘Seen a Ghost’ parentage. ‘Fleet Street’ is a parent of at least two of the others.
In this mixed group are a couple of picotees, a couple of doubles (or semi-doubles) that were slow to open and better in bud than in bloom, and a red-orange self.
A group of stripes, including singles, semi-doubles, and flowers with extra petals in the centre. These seedlings had the good fortune to be planted on the cool side of a large planter.
The pink one here, in two pictures, was the most-photographed auricula last year. I never did capture what made it stand out, and my editing attempts haven’t helped much. Something in the fade to the edge gave it a silvered effect. This was its first year, and next year it may come back with stronger, more decided colour and thicker paste. In this instance, I hope it doesn’t. The other pink, though, could stand some improving. The little blue has a round, white centre without needing any farina. A neat, compact plant, flowers that open flat. It comes from seed out of a blue self called ‘Watchet.’ I don’t remember the parentage of the other two. I’ll add that information after they bloom again this spring.
Two new Primula marginata seedlings, blooming for the first time:
Not bad? Seed came from the Alpine Garden Club of British Columbia. I have raised marginata hybrids from seed; these are my first true marginata seedlings. There would be more, but marginata seeds don’t germinate at the same high rate as auricula seeds. Nor do marginatas produce seed as readily (in my garden, at least). You might think the pair above, thrum and pin, produced seed. And I did what I could to help. Maybe next year. The marginatas that did produce well were in shadier spots, sheltered from the heat.
The two whites, Primula marginata alba, were purchased in different years from the same nursery and may be — most likely are — pieces of the same plant. One has a hint of colour (not apparent in the photo, or maybe it is?), while the other does not. Could it be that soil chemistry, temperature, light levels, or some other variable (the plants are in different gardens) may affect the colour of the petals? The two little purples are ‘The Best’ and Wrightmans’ ‘Plum Brandy.’ They are both selections of the species, as far as I know. More pins, more seeds perhaps, next year. I will pollinate the thrums, as well (cut off the corolla and anthers, shake pollen into the tube), but I’ve never got more than a few seeds out of a marginata thrum, while pins have produced full pods.
The best marginata hybrid, as far as I’m concerned, is still ‘Herb Dickson.’ The two seedlings ex ‘Herb Dickson’ have also appeared on the blog before. The blue one’s round leaves indicate an auricula parent. The other’s soft, toothed leaves suggest the involvement of Primula hirsuta or Primula villosa.
The first Primula up and blooming were the oxlips. For a few years, I have had three purple oxlips (P. elatior ssp. meyeri, or P. amoena), all pins. I need a good purple thrum, or a few good thrums, to pollinate the pins. Among 2018’s first-timers were two pink thrums, and I used the strongest of these to pollinate one of the purples. Why only one? This was a difficult year for a lot of plants (January in April followed by July in May), and only one of the purple oxlips bloomed really well and didn’t shrivel in the heat.
Purple oxlip, Primula elatior ssp. meyeri, early May
Besides the two pink thrums, this group of new seedlings includes a light pink pin (centre), a few yellows, and a pink-blushed white from a yellow x purple cross.
New Primula elatior seedlings
In January, as I look at them now, these don’t look bad. Back in May, hoping for good purples, I wasn’t too impressed. Maybe the good purples will be in 2019’s new crop. Or 2020’s….