also : Growing from Seed,
Growing from Leaves.
Growing primulas depends on
where you garden. What follows is a description about how I grow them in my garden in Calgary.
Click here for more about my garden.
First it’s important to know that even
primulas which live in drier climates are still growing in moist
microclimates. Primulas do not tolerate drying out at the root. Almost
three-quarters of all primula species grow in the Himalayas. The rest are
scattered through Europe, non-Himalayan areas of China, Central Asia,
Caucasus, North America, Siberia, Japan, and a few in SE Asia, Arabia and
one species (P. magellanica) in South America. That means that the majority
of primulas experience monsoon conditions. This is difficult to simulate in
an open garden, though it may be done in a greenhouse with misting systems.
Instead, it is best to concentrate on giving primulas moist conditions.
There are many primulas which will grow in ‘regular’ garden soil. My soil is
prairie clay which I have tried to improve with compost, peat and grit.
Primulas do best when given an easy root run so make the soil loose. My soil
is alkaline, but the primulas don't seem to care. Some of my primula beds
are located in part shade with an Eastern exposure or in the dappled shade
of large trees. Primulas are heavy feeders, so the addition of compost or
fertilizer to your soil is recommended. If you are a beginner try:
polyneura, veris, elatior, denticulata, auricula, frondosa, and cortusoides
in these garden conditions.
Many smaller primulas do well in scree or crevice style
rock beds. The key here is to tuck plants beside rocks or in the shelter of
larger plants to provide a cool, moist root run and some protection from
intense sun. The parts of my scree which I grow primulas in are either in
part shade, or on the North and East side of the mound. Primulas that grow
nicely in these beds are the smaller ones including: wulfeniana, minima,
latifolia, glaucescens, and scandinavica.
My secret weapon to growing primulas is the ‘bog’,
which is also known as ‘pseudobogs’ or wet beds. These are
plastic lined depressions, about 12-18” deep, filled with peat, compost and
sand. Bogs stay evenly moist and I suspect that the open surface of the bog
provides for evaporation which keeps the immediate air cool and humid.
Interestingly enough, plants that you would think could only do well in
special scree conditions can do equally well in bogs, such as P. rusbyi. The
neat thing about bogs is that the plants can tolerate much sunnier
conditions and that makes for tighter growth and is essential to bloom
plants like P. deorum, nivalis and longipes. When I plant primulas in bogs,
I like to “think meadow”. Have you ever visited a meadow in spring and then
again in fall and noticed how the grasses and larger perennials have grown
during the summer and are shading the early blooming plants? In these
conditions, the primula rosette is being shaded, but the seed capsule is
held up high into the sun for ripening. In the bog, I mix in other plants
such as Meconopsis and Siberian iris to simulate these conditions. Some
primulas that do well in sunny bogs are: deorum, vialii, rosea, parryi,
longipes, magellanica, luteola, latisecta, sikkimensis, alpicola, auriculata,
calderiana, parryi, and nivalis.
What I have also created is a hybrid
bog/crevice bed. See picture at side, taken in Fall. Small slabs of slate are stood on end in the Czech style,
but the rocks are inserted into a bog. The bog mixture is filled up into the
crevices and the whole is mulched with slate chips. I found this is very
useful in my climate as a crevice beds can dry out quickly. Primulas that do
well here are: spectabilis, tyrolensis, integrifolia, zambalensis, marginata,
kitaibeliana, minkwitziae, and latifolia. I don’t grow primulas in troughs as they always dry out
during a moment of forgetfulness and primulas are not forgiving of this.
Copyright Pam Eveleigh
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