Why now is the perfect time to indulge in the eloquence of primroses
Home & Garden

Why now is the perfect time to indulge in the eloquence of primroses

IN a time so laden with restrictions, so fraught with danger, and so overstocked with news of doom and gloom, we gardeners are among the lucky ones who have a ready retreat into the inviolate rhythms of nature.

Even the experts have now come to accept this obvious fact.

Whether or not you agree, this column has always been a bringer of good news, and so on this early spring morning I return to a plant which, despite the dangers around us, the weather, and the economy, is a matchless garden treasure.

No other spring flowering plant gives a greeting warmer or more eloquent than the flowering of wild primroses.

I spotted the first flush of wild primroses flowering in nearby woods a few weeks ago. Speckled along the edges of a steep, damp bank that sits beneath the dappled shade of beech trees, their blooms shining like gold coins in a fountain, it was a joy-inducing sight that stopped me in my tracks and had me stooping low to touch those luminous, lemon-yellow flowers and inhale their sweet, clean perfume.

Widespread throughout Ireland few plants are as unassumingly charming as this hardy native perennial wildflower. It is often found growing along damp ditches, grassy roadsides, and shady hedgerows where it will generously self-seed over time to gradually form large colonies, especially on heavier, moisture-retentive but well-drained, neutral, or mildly acidic soils.

Wild primroses, the joy of poets and simple men love to huddle together making, in the process, a picture of demure charm and simplicity.

The "language of flowers" (a tradition that assigns specific meanings or sentiments to various types of flower) gives mention to the family primroses among many others.

According to this language, primrose symbolises youth or young love, or means ‘I can't live without you’.

If their colour borders on lilac it signifies confidence, and red symbolises unappreciated merit.

The flowers of the yellow primroses I came across (primula vulgaris) signify hope and are sometimes gathered for culinary purposes in high-class restaurants.

All its parts are edible.

Be aware of their simple needs: a soil which is moist, yet drains easily, is rich in leaf-mould or organic material, and not subject to hot summer sun.

They do particularly well in semi-shade, especially those places that get full sun in winter and light shade from the early spring.

As a planting against a north-facing wall or shaded balcony, they will be found quite superb.

Because they expend all their energy on flowering, liquid feed at fortnightly intervals during flowering and for a few weeks afterwards.

Divide every two or three years or the clumps will start to get too large and push themselves out of the ground.

But wherever grown or seen, these luminous spring flowers will be appreciated not alone by those passing by, but early foraging bumble bees, moths, and other pollinating insects on the hunt for spring nectar and sustenance.

Finally, never remove plants from the wild.

It is against the law in the first instance, and in any case most garden outlets sell fine specimens grown from seed.