Primulas, Spring 2021

Many of these plants have appeared here before. Species new to the garden were still too small to bloom (Primula scotica) or did not like the weather this year (Primula luteola, Primula auriculata, Primula kisoana, a few others). Maybe we’ll see them next year….

Primula halleri

My Pimula halleri had stopped increasing and were looking tired. I started new plants from seed — here they are. Last year, I started new Primula denticulata for the same reason, and this year I will have to start new Primula frondosa.

By the time the snow has gone, the winter resting buds are already rising and beginning to open. I took a lot of pictures of them. They were fascinating to watch and there was not much else growing at the time.

Primula elatior

The planting of pinks and yellows are from various sources — including the APS, Jelitto, and my own plants. They are supposed to be subspecies meyeri; some of them may be.

Juliana Primroses

The narcissi are getting weedy but the shade they provided in this very hot, dry summer may have kept the julianas alive.

Small alpine hybrids

These are two seedlings from seed out of the Primula marginata hybrid ‘Herb Dickson.’ The second has fleshy leaves suggesting Primula villosa or Primula hirsuta as the other parent. The orange seedling is a slow-grower that came from seeds out of a poor P carniolica x P auricula. The pink flower in the lower corner is a sibling. And the eyeless purple, as well as the budding blue below it, are two good little plants that came from my mixed Small Alpine Hybrid seed. This fall I am going to move them to a better position. They are still small plants after four years in the ground.

Named Cultivars

This was one of the few crosses that produced seed this year — ‘White Lady’ on ‘Wharfedale Bluebell.’ Don’t know yet whether the seeds are viable. I am testing a few. After five days, they are not rotting or attracting mould — that’s a good sign.

Primula rusbyi


named cultivars

New Seedlings

Older, Established Plants

Primula auricula (species and subspecies)

Other Primula (all seedlings)

Primula relatives

Look closely and you will see a couple promising buds on the Soldanella (montana?). Unfortunately, they did not grow any further. Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too bright, too dark? I have tried everything with this plant. (Or have I?) Year after year, it grows well but fails to bloom.

The Cyclamen had a good 2020 and produced lots of seed pods. The pods open just before the plant begins to bloom the following year. Here that is July. The seeds are sticky and sweet, and if they are not collected before the pods open, ants may carry them away. The leaves in this photo, taken in May, are also the previous year’s. They will die in summer to be replaced by new leaves that will stay green over the next winter. The plant bloomed heavily this year, and bees were all over the flowers, but the hot, dry summer did not afford the right conditions for seed pods to form.

Late-summer growth amidst leaves cooked under #HeatDome21.

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Strep Notes, Spring 2021

This is interesting, I think.

Someone who bought Streptocarpus seeds in February asked whether cold temperatures during transport could destroy the seeds. I didn’t think so, hadn’t heard of any problems. Still, they wanted their order mailed when the weather was warmer. I wanted to be able to give a more definite answer, and I started a trial: two packets of seeds placed outdoors for three days and nights when low temperatures were between -25C and -30C. One of the packets had travelled to the other side of the globe and back, and then sat in a drawer for a year. The other packet was newer seeds that had been stored in the refrigerator.

I brought the seeds back indoors and started them 13 February. This first set of photos was taken 9 March when I transplanted the seedlings. Germination would have begun around two weeks earlier. By the time I lifted them out of the germination container and planted them in potting mix, the seedlings had developed two fully open leaves. They will not grow any larger on paper and will soon begin to root in, making it more difficult to lift them off with a toothpick.

The seeds were sprinkled onto moistened coffee filter (three layers) inside Petri dishes kept in a plastic zip pouch to prevent the paper drying out too quickly. The cold temperatures did not affect germination in any way that I could see. These look like any other seed test. (It may be important to note the seeds were dry during the outdoor period. They were placed on the moistened paper after they were brought back indoors.)

The next photo shows the transplanted seedlings (look closely) in 8 cm pots. There are 25-30 in each pot, arranged in a circle around the edge and two inner circles. The plastic cups keep some humidity around the seedlings. The cups are propped up with toothpicks to allow a little air movement.

Here is one of the pots around three weeks later.

18 April, seedlings were moved into 10 cm pots. I made three pots of 9 seedlings, a fair sample and manageable number.

Transplanting promotes faster growth, and ideally I would have transplanted again when the seedlings started touching, after another three or four weeks. At this point, they would look like little plants, not like babies anymore. But I did not. It is now the end of July, and several of the plants are producing flower buds. Some have grown faster than others (always the way). I will move the smaller ones into separate pots to give them a fighting chance, and let the larger ones bloom and then decide what to do with them — give the better plants their own 8 cm pots and discard those I decide are not worth keeping.

One plant, from seed out of Bethan (pictured alongside), has its first open blossom. It’s an odd one. First blossoms can be atypical. This has three upper lobes and two lower lobes, unlike the normal two up, three down. Seedlings do not always resemble the seed parent. Very (very) often they do not. So it is also remarkable that this flower has Bethan’s colouring and similar details. The next seedling to bloom could be pink or white or purple. You never know.

Update: Here are the first three seedlings to bloom from the Bethan seeds. The first (colour is more accurate here than above) now has the usual number of petals in the usual places. It’s making lots of flowers. The form is not as good as Bethan, of course, but it is still a nice plant. I will keep it for a year. The second looks like its top and bottom are mismatched, as the lower lobes are expanding more slowly than the upper lobes. Three days later, the flower is larger and better proportioned. It has become ruffled and the colours have lightened a little. I will keep it for a year, though it doesn’t look it’s going to be a heavy bloomer. The third is a poor flower and even if the next blooms are better, they won’t be good enough to keep. Two or three more to come.

Posted in houseplants, how-to, indoor gardening, Seeds for Sale, streptocarpus, Streptocarpus propagation, streptocarpus seeds | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Primulas in 2020

Auriculas are in the previous post (scroll down). Here are some of last year’s better photographs of other Primulas in the gardens.

First up, Primula marginata seedlings, and (right, with deeply toothed leaves) the named selection ‘Linda Pope’ — 110 years old and going strong.

Marginatas have toothed leaves edged with white or yellow farina. Marginata seeds are not as easy to start as auricula seeds. If I get five seedlings from 30 seeds, I’m happy. More seeds might germinate after a second or third winter, but by then the pot is overgrown with moss. Seedlings are very slow-growing at first, but once they reach flowering size, they can increase quickly, producing several new rosettes (or offsets) each year. Some plants become sprawling and leggy with age. Bare “branches” can be pinned down with wire and covered with grit, cut off and started as new plants, or left to trail down a rocky slope, a wall, or the side of a trough.

Yellow Primula veris and red hybrids with P. veris form. Here, these are undemanding plants. They want moist soil, a leaf-mould mulch, and leafy shade to shelter them from strong sunlight. These are under the long, arcing branches of rose bushes.

Primula elatior, the oxlip, has yellow flowers. Flowers of the subspecies meyeri, sometimes known as Primula amoena, are purple. This flower seems too pink to be called purple, so it may not be a true meyeri/amoena. One of these years, I will find a source of wild-collected seed and grow some good purple oxlips.

Here are the Irish Juliana primrose ‘Dark Rosaleen’ and two seedlings from its seeds (not two pictures of the same seedling, are they?). The pollen parent was a dark red polyanthus with some red in the leaves, perhaps a Garnet Cowichan. ‘Dark Rosaleen’ produces few seeds. From the dozen I started, three or four grew into winter-hardy plants that flowered in their second year. In 2020, I pollinated ‘Dark Rosaleen’ with these seedlings, and pollinated the seedlings with ‘Dark Rosaleen.’ Will there be more pronounced striping in the next generation?

Leaves of these ‘Jessica’ strain polyanthus (from Jelitto) are similar in colouring to those of ‘Dark Rosaleen’.

This tray of primroses, a mix of polyanthus and acaulis types, did not get planted out into the garden, and the plants have rooted through the trays. Bottom left is an Amethyst Cowichan. I have had Amethyst Cowichan barely survive a single winter, and once before barely survive a winter and barely bloom in spring. I am unlikely to disturb this one, by far the best my garden has seen.

Barnhaven’s ‘Pixies’ have Amethyst Cowichan parentage. They are much hardier and more robust.

Primula denticulata (front), Primula matthioli (back) and Fritillaria meleagris. The leaves in the centre, stealing the focus, are Primula sieboldii.

It was another good year for Primula sieboldii. the plants grew large and flowered lavishly and built up thick roots to take them through the winter. A good year is cool and wet, or relatively so. A normal year is not cool and wet, so two good years in a row is remarkable. First, two named cultivars, ‘White Wings’ and “Pretty Red Wing,’ and then a bunch of seedlings.

Primula laurentiana, a small plant in the corner of an alpine planter. Left to self-sow, its seedlings would soon fill the planter.

Another North American, Primula rusbyi likes this spot among the auriculas (Bailey Boy behind; Fabuloso in front).

This large polyanthus came from seed out of the white-flowered Juliana primrose ‘Dorothy,’ also a large polyanthus. The dark purple flowers underneath it are another Juliana seedling, an acaulis type, that will have to be moved. (I know, I said the same thing last year. ) In front are Primula frondosa and the striped auricula ‘Robin Hood.’

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Auriculas in 2020

To start, a trio of new plants from seeds obtained through the NAPS Midlands and West seed exchange.

I did not post any 2020 Primula pictures here last year, but did enter some pictures in the American Primrose Society online spring show and in a show organized on the Primula Lovers Group on Facebook. I’ll post some of them here now, along with a few more highlights of the year.

This pink and red shaded self was my Plant of the Year. It is a seedling from seed out of one red self seedling crossed with another. The potted plant is one of the parents.

These doubles and semi-doubles are from seed raised by a member of the American Primrose Society.

Seeds that produced this next group of stripes and fancies came from members of the APS and NAPS and from my own plants.

Garden and show auriculas display a great range of colours and forms.

Posted in alpine garden, alpines, auriculas, primroses from seed, primula, spring flowers | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Primulas of 2019: Best of the Rest

Primula veris species and hybrids

Primula veris, cowslip primrose; and red/orange hybrids with P veris form.

Primula kisoana alba

Primula kisoana alba

Primula matthioli var. sachalinensis

Primula matthioli var. sachalinensis


Primula sieboldii
The potted plant was meant to be (and priced as) a named cultivar, but turned out to be something else. Luckily, I’d bought if off the clearance shelf for a dollar or two. The other three are seedlings.


Primula (Dodecatheon) meadia

Primula (Dodecatheon) meadia

Primula elatior, oxlip primrose

For a few years, I had only pin-eyed purple P elatior ssp meyeri (obsolete synonym P amoena), and no thrum-eyed purples for pollen. I now have this dark pink thrum-eyed flower to pollinate the pins. It’s not the best colour; for ssp meyeri, you want a purple with more blue, less red, I think. But I like the dark calyx and am interested to see what will come from the cross. Meanwhile, I continue to try new seed from wherever I can find it, in search of a clear blue-purple with a dark calyx.


Primula pedamontana alba

Primula pedemontana alba


Small European Alpine hybrids
Ancestry of these hybrid seedlings may include P auricula, P hirsuta, P allionii, P villosa, P marginata, P carniolica, P pedemontana, and others. The purple with brown calyx has some P villosa var. commutata in its heritage. The little blue flower is shown twice, close up and back a bit to show its size in relation to regular hybrid auriculas. The best of these plants have large flowers above small leaves in tight rosettes. They are fun to grow from seed — you never know what you will get.


Juliana Primroses

Julianas are hybrids with P juliae parentage. Typically they increase via a creeping rootstock. Many are small, like P juliae, but some are larger, like their other parents, P elatior, P vulgaris, and/or P veris. Some have darker leaves — green with reddish, purple, brown or bronze tones. Here, the smaller plant is from Barnhaven’s ‘Pixies’ seed strain. The larger plant is from seed donated to the American Primrose Society seed exchange by a member of the society. Beneath the large plant, visible in the lower left corner of the photo, is another, much smaller, Juliana seedling that will have to be moved before it is completely overwhelmed by its giant-size neighbour.


Primula rusbyi

Primula rusbyi


Primula auricula

Primula auricula


Primula denticulata


Primula cortusoides



Auricula seedlings from show/fancy seed

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