After the rare primula yesterday, here is a much more familiar plant – Primula malacoides. Well, it used to be but it is quite a rarity these days too. But this is an annual plant and not hardy. It was introduced by George Forrest from China in 1908 from China and it quickly became a popular plant for cool greenhouse cultivation. Sown and grown as a biennial, in May and grown on in cool conditions it then flowers the following spring. Like many other primulas the leaves have hairs that contain primulin that can cause an allergic reaction but far less severe than the more common P. obconica.
Primula malacoides is a much more elegant plant and rather like a very dainty candelabra primula. The leaves and stems are usually dusted with farina which gives them a delicate appearance. Each plant makes a rosette of attractive, hairy leaves and from the centre a shuttlecock of stems is produced with whorls of dainty, fragrant flowers in shades of white, pink, carmine and lilac. After flowering the plants are discarded. If you buy one in bloom for your home keep it moist at all times and keep it in a cool, bright place.
What is a real shame is that plant breeders have managed to change a delicate plant into a dumpy little monster. I do not mind those that have semi-double flowers but I hate the way that the natural elegance of the plant has been bred out of them just so they fit into plastic sleeves and can sit on the supermarket shelf. It is even a problem getting seeds of more natural looking plants to grow at home. I know plants are made smaller so they fit on trolleys so they are cheaper to transport but if that is at the expense of their beauty I think it is pointless. But then in this world of chicken nuggets and artificial sweeteners then why would we expect anything else?
These plants were photographed in the greenhouse at Dublin Botanics where they were in an attractive display that also included poinsettias (but I don’t want to see them now and I guess you don’t either so I cropped them out of the photos!)