We often think of daffodils heralding spring yet it is really the primrose that shows her pretty face first. From early February to late spring you will find primroses brightening up woodlands, banks and gardens, while polyanthus in their wide range of colours from white to crimson also bring a kaleidoscope of colour to our spring days.
Both primroses and polyanthus belong to the Primula family of which the primrose is a native to Great Britain. The name Primula derives from the Latin primus, which means ‘first’ and obviously alludes to Primulas being the first flowers of spring. Many believe there is no difference between the primrose and the polyanthus, when in fact the polyanthus is a marriage between the primrose and the cowslip.
If you did not manage to plant primroses or polyanthus during the autumn, you can buy them now in full bloom to bring instant colour to your beds and borders or to make cheerful pots and planters. These superb plants will withstand the most brutal of spring weather and are happy in either sun or shade with well-drained soil, their only requirement.
While our traditional primrose is that lovely delicate yellow, today you can find them in a whole range of colours. Blue is not the first colour you might think of and the first ‘blue’ (it was not a true blue, it was more a violet blue) primrose was raised by G.F. Wilson in his Wisley garden at the end of the 19th century and now there is a wonderful selection of blues including the vibrant Zebra Blue.
If you want to experiment with colours that are slightly different, grow your own from seed. From July, you can sow in an open tray outside in compost. Keep out of the rain but keep moist and plant out in October. Do you know you can eat primroses? Apparently the leaves taste a little like lettuce, so it is little wonder slugs and snails love them! Want to give your garden a little lift of colour this spring? Choose the primrose and polyanthus, they will certainly brighten your garden while we wait patiently for the warmer weather.