Primula and proper
Published 21/04/2013 | 05:00
Even though the weather for March was a bit unbelievable, there is a silver lining to every cloud: the fact that the primroses are only really coming into their own now means that there is a fantastic amount of colour in the garden for April.
I'm a bit of an old-fashioned type, preferring cowslips and the very pale yellow native Primula vulgaris.
When I was old enough to appreciate the flora of our countryside, instead of whingeing about how long the Sunday drive was taking, I fell head over heels for the cowslip known as Primula veris.
It's not the easiest flower to spot these days but, thanks to the wildflower mixes being used along road embankments, it is starting to make a bit of a comeback.
Native primroses are always best left where they are happiest, so don't be tempted to dig them up – just admire the fact that they look so beautiful in their natural habitat.
I'm now getting a real love of the Primula denticulata, which is the drumstick primula. Native primroses are more ground hugging, whereas the drumstick primrose holds its spherical flower heads about 10cm or so above the soil, providing much-needed colour.
Most primulas love some moisture and light shade, but I have planted this particular one in various places around the garden and have had great results.
My particular favourites are the lilac and the white ones, probably because they tend to be much more visible than the darker colours.
If you really want to succeed with this plant, make sure it never dries out – it's ideally suited to life in dappled shade under deciduous trees. We planted some last year around the base of the forsythia and, even though it got dry enough there, the shade helped with the moisture retention.
It's all about keeping the plant happy through all four seasons, rather than just its flowering season. If you are a bit forgetful, then plant it where it has no chance of drying out. They start off with their flowers close to the ground and then, as the stem continues to grow, the flower head is held aloft, which makes this plant an extra bit special.
If you buy some in the garden centres now, you will be able to divide them in the next year or two in spring.
Primula japonica, commonly known as the Candelabra primrose, is another gorgeous one to consider; the flowers are bell shaped and held high above the ground, so you can appreciate their beauty this month.
I'm going to order seed to grow both the drumstick and the Candelabra primula this year; they aren't difficult to grow but they require a period of cold to germinate. If you are thinking of growing your own, then now is the perfect time to get them started.
If you aren't able to do it now, buy them anyway for starting off in the summer.
When you have a bit of time, place them between two pieces of damp kitchen paper, pop them into a plastic bag and then put them in the fridge until a good few of them have germinated.
Then, put them into pots of compost and grow on for transplanting into a part of the garden that won't dry out.
After dinner on Easter Sunday, we headed down to the polytunnel to bask in the sunshine, out of the east wind. It was absolutely gorgeous.
A few newspapers and a nice cup of tea and you wouldn't have known it was only about 7°C outside.
In a few weeks' time, it will be home to all the tomatoes, peppers and, of course, the grape vines. For now, it is my sun room and I'm planning on soaking up as much vitamin D as I possibly can.