Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Hardy Primulas, An Obsession

I have found myself thinking about primulas alot lately. Maybe it's in anticipation of spring, which is still a few months away. While there are so many types of primulas, we must stick to the hardiest of these dainty flowers up here in the north. There are a few flowers one could easily develop an obsession over, wanting to collect every color and type available. Primulas are one of those. Generally, they prefer shade to part sun and don't like drought or extreme heat (hey, that's exactly what conditions I prefer as a feeble fair-skinned human).

I've tried a few primulas here since 2006, but I haven't been really dedicated to selecting the hardiest types, so some of these didn't make it through the winters. Most are Polyanthus primroses (Primula X polyanthus):

A pertinent article on hardy primulas for Saskatchewan is Sara William's article on the University of Saskatchewan Gardenline website:
Edmonton's Devonian Botanic Garden has an excellent guide to growing primulas:

I am currently starting some Primula auricula "Viennese Waltz" from seed (from Thompson and Morgan). They don't require cold treatment to germinate and they should be hardy. I also started a bunch of Primula saxatilis from seed given to me by another La Ronge gardener. I know those are hardy here, because they thrive in her yard.

Primula saxatilis
in BB's yard:

Last year, I ordered a double flowered Primula auricula (plant, not seed) from Wrightman Alpines. It should be hardy here. I am also trying to germinate a non-hardy primula from Thompson and Morgan called Primula obconica "Twilly Touch Me". RLM thought this was one of the stupidest plant names he'd ever heard of. The name highlights the fact that this primula is free of primine, the chemical in primulas that causes skin irritation when they are touched.

Currently, there are 3 large specimens of Primula denticulata (the drumstick primrose) grown from seed under lights in the basement. I'm hoping they will flower for spring. Maybe Kate in Regina will have some tips about Primulas in her garden!


robbinscabin said...

I've never really given Primulas a try in my garden. Well, I did once before I stopped murdering plants by looking at them. You've inspired me to try them again now that I'm less deadly. Thanks!

kate said...

Hi Gardenista,

This was a good blog post. I love Primulas - that's partly because they grow well here.

My favourite Primula is P. veris - I love the foliage and the light mauve colour of their blooms. They seem to do really well here, even if I tend to neglect them in the middle of summer. They often rebloom in the fall (light frosts don't seem to bother them).

P. auricula does well here. I add compost every year and find they aren't very demanding of water. They tend to spread well too.

Try P. vialii because it does well here. It is supposed to self-seed but I haven't had any luck with this so far.

What I found amazing is that Primulas do better here than in Ottawa. The foliage looks good all summer long, whereas in Ottawa, they often tend to rot in high heat/humidity.

I'll come up with more things too and get back to you. I love Primulas.

Gardenista said...

I've always avoided P. vialli because I thought it was not hardy in SK. That said, I admire pictures of that primula and have always wanted to grow it. I'm glad to hear that you've grown it.

theysaywordscanbleed said...

these are uber gorgeous flowers

Frances said...

We love primulas down south also, but they don't love our heat, the types you mention anyway. We still grow them but it is iffy. The seeds shown in catalogs of the auriculo are the object of my desire. Maybe time for another go at growing them. Thanks for the inspiration.

Frances at Faire Garden