Friday, January 04, 2008

Primula Sieboldii... The Perfect Primrose?

Could Primula sieboldii be the perfect primrose? Well, if I look at the genus through my Iowa-tinted glasses, it comes about as close as we're going to get. If I lived in Seattle, I'm sure I would have a whole bushel of contenders... here on the plains I have a handful of candidates, and a box of old, plastic plant labels that aren't needed anymore. With Primula sieboldii, it's not like I went home from the party alone, though; it is a primrose that incites deep passion even in the Japanese, who have lots to choose from. Sieboldii is called Sakurasoh in Japan meaning, I've been told, "cherry blossom- plant". There is a Sakurasoh festival every year in Urawa a ward of the city of Saitama, northwest of Tokyo.In fact, sieboldii, in its myriad variety of flowers is collected fanatically all over Japan, often at nose-bleed prices for special named plants. There also is supposedly an American Sakurasoh Association here in this country, but it seems to have disappeared... perhaps it's gone dormant like its namesake.
Primuls sieboldii's native territory tells a lot about this plant; eastern Siberia down through Manchuria and North Korea to Japan... so much for concerns about its winter hardiness. Then it has this additional advantage for us midwesterners; it goes completely dormant in hot weather. There are lots of primroses that can tolerate cold winters (at least if there is good snow cover), but these species mostly melt like the snow when July in Iowa hits, with its hot winds and sauna nights filled with frog song. Sieboldii then, is almost uniquely equipped to handle our climate.
If further convincing is needed, consider: it breaks dormancy, and blooms towards the end of the primrose spring (blooming in late April here), so it tends to miss a lot of the ravages of late freezes. Also, the primroses that don't really go dormant here, in inclement years tend to have foliage that looks like its been beaten up with a stick... not a soothing complement to the delicate flowers. Contrast this to sieboldii, with its crisp-as-a new-dollar-bill foliage that only comes up when spring has come to stay. Add to these attributes, the enormous variety of fairly large, delicate snowflake flowers in a spectrum from white to pink to deep purple, and add in the tendency of sieboldii to steadily spread into large, though loose patches, and you've got yourself a pretty nice primula. It doesn't like being pushed off the porch too much, but it will tolerate growing around the edges of other woodland plants; it kind of weaves its way through and around other plants in the garden. I'm getting some pretty nice colonies under some of the Japanese maples. It is the one and only primrose that I've never lost, and that gets better every year. It may not be the absolute belle of the ball, but it's a primrose to take home to Mom.
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You are certainly enlightening! I'd always thought primroses were those common to most plant catalogs I've viewed. At any rate, I did try those once and they didn't survive.
Primula sieboldii is very beatiful. Would you say the flower is somewhat phlox-like? (to me, that's a good thing) :-)
Shady... you're right on! To me it looks a lot like a woodland phlox.
I adore this plant. When I lived in town, I had a brick path from the alley to my house and the primrose lined the path. Always happy to divide and flourish where my heart desired.
Janice... a true primrose path :)
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