Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Primula Vulgaris ssp. Sibthorpii

Iowa is not primrose country... very cold, windy winters (but often with poor snow cover); achingly, bakingly hot summers... not any primrose's idea of heaven. That being said, there are about a half dozen types that I can grow pretty well in our garden. I have no doubt which is THE best overall; it is Primula vulgaris ssp. sibthorpii. Primula vulgaris is the common primrose of Great Britain and continental Europe; primarily pale yellow, with occasional white or palest pink variations. Sibthorpii is a sub-population native basically to the Balkans; its color spectrum is on the pink to blue end, and the plants better tolerate temperature extremes, especially hot summers. They might be a little more tolerant of dry conditions, also. Sibthorpii has been extensively hybridized with the English primrose, contributing its deeper colors to the common garden primroses that we grow (often still labeled as Primula vulgaris, but more properly Primula X vulgaris).
I grow many of these hybrids, but best like the original sibthorpii subspecies; it is the first primrose to bloom in the spring, and never fails to be covered with pale pink flowers with a yellow center. While many hybrid primroses are lovely, too often they just don't look natural in our garden; even though they may have been growing outside for years, they can't escape that look of just having been popped out of a greenhouse pot and stuck in the ground. Sibthorpii, with its crisp, light green small leaves, and its much more modest and complementary flowers, escapes that hothouse look. It is the best.
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Nice picture. Where do you get your primroses? Do you find that they can be divided?
I, too, am interested in your source for these, so I will check back, here!
I got my original plant from Arrowhead Alpines, but they don't offer it this year. the only place i've seen it offered this year, off the top of my head, is Heronswood Nursery. It divides pretty easily... i'd say the plant about doubles in size every year, so it should be didided about every 3-4 years.
Thanks Don!
Dear Don,

I love Primroses but haven't been successful in growing them here in Chicago. Do you think the Primula Vulgaris ssp.Sibtorpii would work ?
You have a slightly better climate for primroses than I do; especially if you get any lake effect. You could grow Sibthorpii for sure (and all the other primroses I can grow).
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