Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Primrose Lane

Primrose plant pictures from the web
"Life's a holiday on Primrose Lane."  Yes, I'm one of those semi-annoying people who must sing a verse or two regarding every subject.  Today's subject is the old romantic Primrose Primula.  In old gardening references it's also called Cowslip and Oxlips.  

In Gerard's Herbal  - Historie of Plants by John Gerard, he talks about the Primrose in English gardens.  He describes several but the most used two are:  field cowslips and field Primrose.
Gerard's Herbal can still be purchased
(Amazon has them from $0.41
to about $6)
And Mr. Gerard (because it was important in that era - 1500s England) always included the medical "Vertues".  Boiling the leaves and floures (flowers) and drink for phrensie.  Phrensie seems related to the word frenzy and it was a catch all diagnosis of emotional states.  The roots of the Primrose were juiced and sniffed into the nose for purging the brain in the treatment of migraine headaches.  They also combined the juice and Linseed oil to treat burns.  
Primrose -
On a little off topic, I love to check out old book stores for garden books.  Most have books discarded from libraries and that's where I've purchased many including the 1928 "A Guide to the Wild Flowers" by Norman Taylor.  The hand drawn plant illustrations are helpful in identifying plants.  

It's also important to realize the changes in identifying plants and cataloging their genesis as time progressed.  

OK on to the holiday on primrose lane:  
Primrose plant from "Gardening Know How"
The Primula farinosa is considered a perennial herb.  Most have a rosette of leaves where a 8-12 inch stalk clustered with little flowers.  They aren't carried in multitudes in nurseries although a hybridized tender version is sometimes available.  

If you want to have the perennial version, make sure you read the labeling carefully.  Most cold hardy versions (and old varieties) are hardy to Zone 4.  There's quite an extensive group of hybridized varieties.     

The most popular varieties are classified as:  Japanese, Cowslip, English, Polyanthus, Chinese, Julianna, and Moonlight - each with slightly different requirements.  The Fairy and German Primrose should be considered annuals or houseplants in our hardiness zone.  
Select Seeds "Desert Sunset"
Most require good organic moist (but drained) soil.  Some recommend an application of organic fertilizer once a month during the summer - others say it isn't necessary if the soil is already good. 

Place the plants where they can slowly spread (by Rhizomes.)  Plant where they get morning sun but are shaded in the afternoon heat.   One recommendation is to plant in with your spring flowering bulbs. 

The plants are one of the first to bloom in early spring.  They come in a wide range of colors:  white, yellow, orange, red, blue, pink, purple and combinations of several. Once the flowers are brown and dry, cut entire flower stalk back and it may rebloom. 
Select Seeds "Primrose Cowslip"
One of my favorite catalogs is Select Seeds (   They offer certified organic flower seeds and plants, heirloom varieties and plants benefiting insects and birds.  One of the offers is a ca. 1749 Primrose Cowslip that would enhance any garden but especially someone wishing to create an old house vintage garden.   

And I'll go out of this story singing George Callender and Wayne Shankin's:

Primrose Lane
Life's a holiday on Primrose Lane
Just a holiday on Primrose Lane
With you!

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