Primroses have come a long way from their woodland roots. Rather than the classic ‘primrose yellow’ shade, we now have every colour of the rainbow, bar green. Oh no, actually, there’s a green too!
On first glance, you may think these new hybrids are glossy and have no place in your garden, but don’t forget they are a sure-fire hit for a super chilly winter garden, and an essential early source of nectar for bees and pollinating insects.
I took a visit to the Spring Trials at wholesale plant supplier Ball Colegrave, and found enough Primroses to fulfil my wildest dreams! Ruffles, spots, dots, stripes – they’ve got it all!
Before we begin, we need to ascertain the differences between Primroses and Polyanthus… as you can see from the photo below! Polyanthus blooms crown in clusters on top of a single stem, whilst Primrose blooms each have their own stem.
To complicate things, some varieties are known simply as Primula, especially the Belarina Series. With it’s pompom double appearance, it’s genetically far from the primroses of yesteryear, so uses the Latin expression, Primula. Things might get complicated now they have a double-flowered polyanthus, but more on that later…
1. Primlet Series
A feat of breeding, the Primlet Series offers low cost rosebud Primroses from seed, fun for the customer to grow and cheaper for outlets to offer for sale as plants. The colour range has swollen in the last few years, with solids as well as picotee forms. The tightly packed buds are glorious, and often to eqaually handsome ruffled blooms!
2. Primula Belarina Series
Bred by the Kerley family in Cambridge, UK, these double-flowered Primroses were a market changer. An excellent impulse purchase, they are more than that once they reach the garden though, some plants report eight months of nonstop blooming in a cool spot of the garden! Wow. and the colour range has become gargantuan too, with as many shades as the petunia family. A Petunia for the winter, perhaps! The ‘Primula’ moniker denotes it’s unique standing in the marketplace too.
3. Belarina Polyanthus
Wow! The Kerleys have achieved something awesome with this new strain, Belarina style pompom blooms with a single stem, the style of traditional Polyanthus. This now makes a cracking windowsill plant, which probably isn’t where the breeders were heading with this.. An equally great value garden or rockery plant though!
4. Alaska Series
Known as the most cold-tolerant, and with foliage so glistening it’s often photographed as ‘blue’ when frost sits on top. The colour range is akin to a candy store, and I can see quite a few notable colour combo’s simply get lose in the crowd. Shame! But, an excellent performing Primrose for the consumer, blooming under sheets of ice, sleet, hail, rain and so on…
5. Jupiter Series
Echoing the flower form of the ‘Wanda Series’ from the olden days, this up to date variety has a distinct eye to each flower. The red-eyed ‘Jupiter’ is my favourite!
The closest to the traditional primrose shade, the new Envy Series is variable from seed, but this has been celebrated by making it a mix, featuring ruffles of every degree. It makes a robust outdoor border plant.
7. Antique Silver Shadow
Some of the more unusual colours can be a little bit marmite.. perhaps that’s the case with ‘Antique Silver Shadow’. These types of blooms and their colouring can be notoriously difficult to show on a paper catalogue page, and it’s probably selling better on the garden centre bench, I’d say!
8. Polyanthus Fire Dragon
Polyanthus aren’t bred as heavily as Primroses, but there are a few new ones to look out for. Fire Dragon is one of the best, with firecracker blooms, held neatly on those traditional stems, like a chilli dipped lollipop!
9. Blues Designer Mix
The ‘Zebra Blue’ Primrose took the market by storm, in a similar way to ‘Night Sky’ Petunia, and photos of it’s denim stripes attract 1000s of instagram likes! I pulled together a unique blend of all my favourite blues yesterday, give it a name already…!
10. Fried Egg!
A curiosity, which also seems to divide opinion online! Shining bright blooms with a yolky centre!
Which is your favourite? Leave a comment in the comment box below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook.