Growing Auricula's { Get To Know Your Garden Intimately-Part 12 }

Garden Auricula Primula x pubescens

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Introduction

This series of articles is aimed at the beginner or those who are unsure what to grow and where.In this series we have looked at the garden aspect and seen how to tell which type of soil we have and how to deal with it. We have now commenced to look at which species we may like to grow. Already reviewed are the Carnations and Pinks and Dahlias. here we look at the Auricula.

The Auricula has been cultivated in English gardens for four hundred years at least, and during that period there have been many changes. In those past times it acquired local names such 'Bear's ears' in some districts 'Sow's ears ' and in Scotland it was referred to as 'Dusty Miller' ,the leaves in many instances being covered with a mealy substance,referred to in botanical parlance as farina. It varies in degrees of thickness sometimes so much as to appear white.

The wild Auricula, Primila auricula, is to be found freely distributed in the mountainous regions of Switzerland,Austria,Syria and the Caucasus. Under natural conditions two types of plants are found as regards the foliage. Some heavily powdered with the farina and others quite destitute of it. And so we find them in the garden varieties.

Primula auricula 'garden variety'

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Propagation of Auriculas.

Propagation of Auriculas may be done with seed and by offsets. The seed should be sown as soon as it is ripe { July/August},a season of the year when it readily vegetates. It may be sown in pans/trays or in flower pots,and as soon as the first leaf is formed after the seed leaves, the young plants should be 'pricked out' and put into pots.

At first the growth will be rather slow and the plants will take from twelve to eighteen months to attain their full size. { patience is a virtue as far as the gardener is concerned}. They will flower in four inch pots the second season after sowing the seeds.

Propagation by offsets is the way to obtain a stock of named varieties. Such offsets are produced very freely by some varieties and very slowly by others. I have know plants to grow for five years or more without producing a single offset,while others produce half a dozen or more in a single season.

Once the offsets occur carefully cut them away from the parent plant and put them into very small 'thumb' pots or into trays with very small individual compartments. They need to be placed in a sheltered shady place. If possible in to a cold frame. When the plants begin to grow more air needs to be allowed into a colf frame and put into a larger pot when necessary.

The old growers used to construct specially adapted frames for their plants and mixed mysterious compounded soil in which to grow their plants. This was to make us believe that only the initiated know the secrets of growing them successfully. However, long gone are the days when the public was gullible to floral jargon,and it is now well known that the Auricula is one of the easiest plants to grow when their simple requirements are understood.

Auriculas can be grown and will flower in any cold frame or sheltered position on the north side of a wall or fence,as the Auricula does not like bright sunshine,so is ideal for a shady area of your garden. However,they do like an abundance of air and a good compost in which to anchor their roots.

I was always taught that Auriculas will not present a good truss of flowers unless the plants have had a period of rest in December and January,and this period of rest can only be obtained if those months are cold. This was no doubt true with the old varieties,but more modern varieties can be readily bought that flower happily in your garden and containers so long as they are sheltered from the hot sun.

Primula auricula X pubescens varieties

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Primula x pubescens

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A typical cold frame

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Types and their needs.

Through breeding and selection Auriculas have come along way and breeders have perfected forms and colours. There are now basically four types. The border Auriculas' which are the ones that are most important for the beginner. They often have mealy leaves,but flower in a wide range of colours.

Alpine Auriucla-can also be grown in our gardens,but to attain flowers that are perfect they are best grown in a cold frame or a well ventilated greenhouse. The foliage of this type have no meal {ferina} on the leaves or the flowers and produce open flat flowers.

Show varieties are the 'bees knees' of the Auricula and are virtually always grown under protection from the weather. Of these there are two main types. I- are referred to as 'self'. 2,are referred to as 'edged'

Selfs produce petals of clear bright colours which do not shade or fade towards the centres. The edged types are regarded by Auricula growers as the peak of perfection,but are in fact botanical oddities. The tissues of the flowers are identical to those of the leaf. They are green and instead of wilting or drooping like a petal is apt to do near the end of its life it turns yellow like the leaves of autumn trees. There is an irregular 'black' area between the 'paste'{ a ring of whitish colour around the tube} and the green petal edge,which is referred to as the body colour. The edge may be pale green and referred to as a 'green-edged' variety,or covered with meal of which there are dependent on amount of meal,referred to as the grey or white varieties.

There is also another variety called 'Fancies',which are basically edged types in which the body colour is not black. Again in basic terms a plant with grey or white edged flowers which has a dark red or purple body colour is classed as a fancy,and not an edged variety. Striped varieties are often put with the fancies group.

The fourth type is the double Auricula's which have more than one row of petals.

If you are growing your plants in pots or a container of some kind use terracotta/clay pots rather than plastic ones. They do not hold water for as long and reduce the risk of over watering.

Primula x pubescens

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Types and hardiness

All types are perfectly hardy and are only grown under glass or other protection to avoid the rain washing off the meal on the leaves and flowers. Our border types will grow very well in the same conditions as those that suit Polyanthus,that is to say in a well drained but not dry soil. They all need some shade fro hot sunshine.

Border species of Auricula. Primula auricula 'Dales Red', produces colours of light and dark large flowers.

Primula auricula variety Hazel produces delightful lemon flowers with a lovely scent and large frilly edged leaves.

Primula auricual variety 'lintz' produces very deep wine coloured flowers with large frilly edged leaves

Primula auricula variety 'osbourne green' a very vigorous purple and green variety that produces large ragged edged flowers .

Alpine vaieties include 'alamo' 'alicra' 'aurit-hunter','beatrice'. 'Matin fish' and 'Moon river'.

Polyanthus. Primula polyantha is a related species that enjoys the same growing conditions.

Image taken in Ontario Canada.
Image taken in Ontario Canada. | Source

Related species.

Primula is a large genus of plants that include some of our favourite spring flowers such as the Primrose,Polyanthus, Cowslip. However, some of the many varieties have different growing requirements and localities and it is best to read the labels or and seek advise at your local nursery/garden centre.

Which ever you choose enjoy your plants and your gardening.

Primula's come in a variety of beautiful colours

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