Thursday, November 26, 2009

What lingers down the Primrose path...

Last summer I was lucky enough to walk through vast fields of Nivalid primroses on various mountains in Central Asia: some were likely Primula nivalis herself, and in Mongolia I believe it was P. xanthobasis, and in the Tien Shan it was Primula turkestanica, all have been lumped under Primula nivalis by one worker or another, but they were distinct enough to my eyes. I have written these up, and the other members of the family for an upcoming issue of Primroses the journal of the American Primrose Society. Point of fact, I doubt whether 99% of the members of that society would be able to keep any of these alive for more than a year or two. I have grown armies of primulas in my day (albeit mostly in the 1960's and 1970's, before I came to my senses and grew mostly steppe adapted plants): fleecy Muscarioides section gems, and tall Candelabra section primulas. I sampled plants in the Cortusoides section and have seen dozens of Auricula section primulas march through my garden. A few linger here and there--especially in the last two sections, but eventually we forget to water or a fierce winter comes (or a vicious late spring frost) and suddenly the primrose are a memory.
As I was poring over some old digital images, this soft yellow vision of cowslip (Primula veris) flashed by and I remembered that that same plant has grown in that spot for more years than I can think of. in fact, I have cowslips and oxlips that have grown thirty or forty years for me and still are thriving, even sending out babies here and there. We struggle to grow the latest novely, and the choicest, rarest gem. But the plants that stick by us year in year out, eventually must be acknowledged. On Thanksgiving day, 2009 I would like to thank the humble European primroses of the Vulgares section, especially the oxlips and cowslips, which have provided me such pleasure (and stuck around) while their brethren from the Himalayas blew through town. Truth be said, they're just as pretty. We should be thankful for the humble beauties that grace our life effortlessly, and give them their due!

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