by Kate Hemlock.
It happens every year, as soon as the sparkle and clutter of the holiday season is packed away; the hopeful anticipation of spring! The first sign, the symbol of the fresh and bright coming year, are primroses. With their vast array of colors, tolerance of cold, frost and short day lengths, bedding plant primroses are trusty little heralds of seasonal change. Plant a super hardy Acaulis primrose and it blooms from darned near Jan-May! But especially when I most need it, in the dark of winter. They are awesome in pots as well as landscape, where they die back with the warm long days but return for many years every late winter. In pots I usually dump them come May, but in the landscape they come back to brighten the most forgotten places.
Notch it up with the double ruffled Belarina Primula and you have a fantastic, hardy, bigger, semievergreen perennial that blooms for months and comes in at least 6 colors. In my yard, the Belarina Blue was indigo in February, but bloomed violet by the sunny days of June. And the yellow is adorable! Its “buttery pats” rest atop leafy sepals like they are served on little plates.
But the squatty little prims are not the only specimens of the family to cheer; also to be admired are what I call the Porch Princesses: Malacoides and Obconica primula. The ultra-long blooming Malacoides primrose is also called a Fairy Primrose. It is not as cold hardy as its shorter cousin the Acaulis. But its size, delicate texture, and propensity to bloom in the dead of winter make it a premium to add height and interest to a mixed planter, or as a centerpiece in a protected spot. Also, consider the Obconica primrose. This plant is the epitome of every child’s cartoon rendition of what a flowering plant should be! Obconica Primula’s flowers are larger than Malacoides, and born on slightly longer stems, making it a great backdrop in a planter box or anywhere a 12″ tall color spot is desired. And I love the sky blue or peach inch-wide flowers, but it also grows in other pastel shades. Ooh, imagine a planter with peach Obconica Primrose, white Malacoides Primrose, orange Pansies, and maybe a dark Heuchera or Ajuga! Even if I don’t intend to cultivate the mix for more than a season, I consider it a long lasting bouquet to bring a little spring to my patio or porch.