With the garden in its infancy and the soil still in the early stages of being tamed, I can’t go mad with primulas, most of which like moist, humus-rich soil and not the square lumps that pass for soil at the moment. But I am improving the soil in areas and where I made big efforts for the hostas I planted a few. These were Primula denticulata, grown from seed sown last spring. This is the drumstick primula, named for the spherical heads of small flowers and it prefers moist or even wet soils, in part shade. It is perennial and is one of the classic plants that can be grown from root cuttings – useful if you have a special colour you want to propagate. The plants die back to fat resting buds in autumn that unfurl to release the flower stems in spring. Seeds can be sown from spring to summer and the plants will bloom the following year.
Like all primulas, the seeds need cool conditions and light to germinate. Cool sowing conditions are easier to achieve in spring than in summer but the plants did struggle in their cell trays in summer and it was only in early autumn, when planted out, that they looked happy and I stopped worrying about them.
Lilac and lavender are the usual colours but a good seed mix will include vivid magenta as well as pinks and white. I confess that the whites are almost too pure and stick out almost as badly as all the labels for the hostas.
The harshness of the whites is, perhaps, so strident because, among these primulas and the hostas, are dozens of primula ‘Avondale’. I have written about this before but it is such a fabulous plant that I am happy to trumpet its merits.
‘Avondale’ is one of the Kennedy primroses although it is actually of polyanthus form. It has a low, creeping habit, rapidly making dense clumps. Like all primroses, it copes with division after flowering or in autumn and, over the past years I have been dividing the clumps at least once a year to spread it around and from my one plant I now have fifty or so. This year I will let some rest for a bit to make larger clumps but I find the plant so adaptable and useful and the colour so easy to place that I am sure I will be dividing some. Lots of plants cause me worry, wondering if they will be happy and cope with what this garden throws at them and it is a real joy to have a plant that is easy and beautiful and that makes me so glad to have in the garden.
We have found them not so long-lived and, to be honest, the shape of the flowerhead doesn’t appeal to me. Nice all the same!