The generic name Primula is derived from the Latin word Prima meaning first. Linnaeus named this genus after Primula vulgaris, the native primrose which flowers in very early spring.
The Primula genus consists of over 500 species distributed generally in the north temperate zone with representatives in outlying areas such as Java, N. Africa and S. America. There is a large concentration of species in China especially Yunnan and Sichuan ( considered to be the ancestral home of the genus Primula and still largely unexplored by the West) and the Himalayas.
Botanically, Primulas are described as perennial (rarely annual) herbs possessing rhizomes (ususally short) or stolons. The leaves are usually in basal rosettes. Most are clump forming but some are more spreading.
With over 500 species in the genus much variation occurs. This rich variety of form, colour, shape, texture, habit, pattern of growth and beauty all contribute the botanical interest that so many people have in this group of plants.
There are not many comparable groups of hardy plants with such variation of wild species many of which are extremely rare in cultivation. There is still an interest within the gardening fraternity to grow something that is unique - the hallmark of many great gardeners before us and something which was exemplified by the Victorian gardeners and many outstanding plant collectors through the ages. The desire of curiosity is of course satisfied in other ways such as the introduction of new cultivars of auricula.
As a group Primulas are versatile and can be used in a variety of ways in decorative horticulture: they are valuable plants for bedding out, borders, bog gardens, wild gardens, alpine house, rock features and other situations.
When consideration is given to the range of Primulas available there are plants for every conceivable garden habitat: wet, damp and dry soils, full sun, light, dappled and heavy shade, acid and alkaline soils, outdoors and under glass.
When the correct choice of plant is made there can be a continuity of flowering from February ( Primula allionii - under glass ) through to August ( with many of the candelabra types ). The colour range is large - plants can be obtained to provide every colour available from white, pink, red, blue, mauve and yellow. There are not many pest or disease problems.
Click here to see a short video to whet your appetite (YouTube). In producing this video we have focused on the diversity of flowering.