Saturday, December 21, 2013

Solstice solace: Blue Zebra primrose

Primula vulgaris 'Blue Zebra'
Nothing is more eloquent of spring and promise to my mind than a primrose--and this amazing cultivar I discovered last spring seems to provide the perfect tonic on the Winter Solstice--and the promise that however elegant and spare, minimalist and marvelous our wintry scene may be--spring is not far away!
Here they are in mass, in a marvelous greenhouse (more on that) in Pennsylvania
 I suspect some of these might have eventually been rogued, but I love the not so subtle variation among these...what a wonderful cultivar! You can find out about a tad more about it (and how to get it) on the Hort Couture website: this is one of their specialties. This was a 2011 Fleuroselect winner, however in North America it is a Hort Couture exclusive--which is classed as annual...

More variation...
I'm not entirely convinced it's an annual: I'm kicking myself now that I didn't get some of these this past year to test. Not that every plant has to be a perennial to be enjoyed, but Primula vulgaris is one of the toughest and most reliable primroses in my experience--and if there is this much phenotypic variability in the lovely zebra striping, surely there must be some underlying variability in the hardiness as well! 

And more subtle variation

 I find the little differences be between one plant and another to be fascinating: I will surely have to have a number of these to play with in the garden this coming year!
And yet another one...

Lloyd Traven
Just as colorful as the primrose that he grows, meeting this remarkable plantsman and his wife was one of the highlights of a very eventful and colorful year...The Travens own Peace Tree Farm, one of the most impeccable and diverse greenhouse operations I've ever had the privilege to visit. I did not see a plant there that wasn't desirable--and every one seemed to be grown perfectly. Lloyd's omnipresent smile (somewhat obscured by that abundant beard and moustache) is a great way to light up the Solstice any year!


  1. Hi Panayoti, That is a lovely primrose. I have tried to grow Primula vulgaris and failed to get it to return. I think this species needed more organic material in the soil and more moisture. I have a neighbor, Johanna, who has a lovely garden. She had a few Primula vulgaris planted by the sidewalk. This was my young son’s favorite flower. We always stopped to look at them when we walked past. Johanna has since advanced in age and now her children tend to her garden. The primroses have been crowded out by more aggressive ground covers. I will have to try these beautiful flowers again in a more favorable location. I particularly like some of the doubles that are available. A bonus is I might actually be able to purchase this plant at a local nursery. I see a few nurseries in my area are suppliers of Hort Courture products.

  2. Now I really can't decide whether I love it or hate it ! Unusual and striking or vulgar novelty ! I have looked at it a lot and honestly do not know how I feel about it. The thing to do is to buy one, or two, or three and live with them for a while. I think if I see those zingy little faces smiling up at me through the English gloom, it may just tip the scales and I may fall properly in love with them !!

  3. My favorite author (Vladimir Nabokov) once noted that “Only one letter divides the comic from the cosmic.” Sometimes only a shadow separates the sublime from the ridiculous! In our intense light, this primula would likely pass muster


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