Friday, 10 April 2009


A vigorous cross between Primula elatior and  P. 'Guinevere.'  I 'raised' it  nearly 20 years ago and called it 'Gawain. The dark leaves and coppery, bristling stems set off the pale, butter-coloured flowers to perfection. 

Kinky sex has been far too prolific under my birch trees and it was time to stamp out such lawless antisocial behaviour, I decided.  The offenders knew who they were but before I could punish them, those bloody wood pigeons invaded again and crapped all over the ones they didn't peck to death.  A fitting fate for such amoral creatures but actually, I rather miss them.

As I'm sure you're aware, Nature abhors a mongrel almost as much as she dislikes that poor, inoffensive vacuum.  Any student of Darwin will explain how hybridisation in the wild can dilute the benefits of sexual reproduction but if you need chapter and verse, read the works of Charles Darwin redivivus, ie, contemporary geezer  Steve Jones who wrote an updated version of C. D's Magnum Opus and gave it the intriguing title  Almost Like A Whale.

A welcome mongrel in my garden, with bold flowers whose petals are curiously pinked.  I'd like to name this one, so any suggestions will be gratefully received.

Some plants are promiscuous little blighters but your vernales primulas - oxlip, cowslips and primroses - are utterly shameless.  Even in the wild, they indulge in orgiastic parties, usually along the boundaries of each species' preferred habitat, giving rise to halflings and bastards whose true taxonomic identity can sometimes confound even the the most learned of botanists.

I've seen grown horticulturists almost coming to blows, at RHS flower shows, over the correct identity of, say, the Merton Oxlip, or the difference between a false and a true oxlip, and . . .yawn, yawn!  Enough, already!

Where cowslip meadows border woods, you will find 'primroses' with tall scapes (stalks what hold the clusters of flowers at the top) just like the one in the picture below.  These, I was informed by reliable experts, are hybrids between Primula veris (cowslips) and common primroses, P. vulgaris.    

A false oxlip, Primula veris x P vulgaris.

Much rarer, and mostly limited to the damp, alkaline clay woods or shaded dyke-sides in Cambridgeshire and Essex, you might be lucky enough to find true oxlips, Primula elatior.  These can also cross with  P. vulgaris to produce a plant like a rather weedy polyanthus.

And that's just in the wild!  My garden has other species and varieties of vernales primulas which come in all sorts of distinctive different colours, characters and shapes.  Among these, the beautifully dark-petalled but feeble-growing  'Cowichan' polyanthus throw enchanting children.  However, no offspring has been as good those sired by the dark-leaved, lilac flowered Primula 'Guinevere.'  It is the shameless progeny of these horticultural classics that have been so hyperactive in the reproduction department and delivered me a mixed blessing of multicoloured, illegitimate children.

One of the better mongrels - a lovely, grungy purple, held on good stems with nice foliage and marks on the outer petals.  I thought 'Rowan Williams' might be a suitable name or perhaps 'Monsignor.'  No?  What about 'Ribena?'

I say 'mixed' blessing because these seedlings can be a little invasive.  Monsieur Jacques le Chapeau will be happy to tell you how naff the peppering of multi-coloured primulini looks in my mini-meadow - although I have done a Dr Mengele and weeded out all but the most washed out colours since he last saw them.  And now that my little woodland garden is beginning to get established, the wild oxlips have been 'at it' in there as well.  

The undistinquished hybrids, I allow to remain, but have no inhibitions about yanking them out for composting if they are in the way.  The good ones I move from the more naturalistic parts of the garden, slipping them into the mixed borders wherever there's a tempting gap.

Let's  not forget the beauty of ordinary, wild, pure primroses.  These are growing on a steep, grassy dyke-side in Lincolnshire.

I'm  listening to Parts 2 and 3 of Handel's Messiah and writing this 'cos it's raining outside.

Last night's film was Prison (Fängelse) a 1949  Ingmar Bergman about Swedes locked into the intolerable agony of human existence.

This day last year I was making my debut at the Coton Manor Garden School a delightful day in which I learnt more than I could possibly have taught.

Happy Easter/Passover everyone!


  1. Thamks for posting this. I'd been pondering why one of my primroses was white when the rest of them are cream, not realising what naughty plants I have in my borders. It's rather lovely though, so it's here to stay.

    Have a good Easter :)

  2. I thought all those stories about the Fens being a hotbed of filth were a slanderous rumour.
    Obviously not.
    I like the idea of Primula Rowan Williams.

  3. Carrying on the theme I would go for Galahad for the pinked one and something more sinister for the purple one - say Mordred

    Its not just the pigeon that go in for destruction - I sat and watched three greenfinches having great fun picking all the flowers off two primroses - they just seemed to be tossing them in the air

  4. Enjoyed this greatly. (and I was only looking for info. on P. 'Guinevere'!!!