Favourite spring flowers for garden lovers
There are many icons of spring and most of us feel uplifted by the sight of daffodils
raising their cheery faces towards the sunshine. Many of the flowers we see in March and April come from bulbs. But there are also some noteworthy perennials that are stars at this time of year. Which species do you think wins the popularity vote?
In the flower department youll find it difficult to beat primroses. Nestling at the base of hedgerows. You'll find them on banks, verges and woodland edge too. The warm yellow of primrose flowers is a sight to behold. But what exactly are these cheerful little plants and how do they manage to flower in all weathers, even in snow?
Who can resist the cheery flowers of primroses in spring?
Primroses are native to the UK in their natural form, which is Primula vulgaris. The creamy yellow flowers love damp and shady places such as the banks of rivers and streams and also the woodland edge. Their name, Primula, comes from the Latin primus, meaning first. They survive freezing temperatures by keeping low to the ground. They seem to be able to cope with just about anything except drying out. These are plants that like humus-rich, damp soil and they are well suited to living under deciduous shrubs and trees. There they can flower whilst the leaves are off the trees and then receive much-needed shade from the foliage later in the year.
Primroses thrive under deciduous shrubs and trees where they receive light during spring but shade in the summer.
We love this little plant because the burst of subtle spring colour comes at such a welcome time! Hybrid varieties now include a rainbow of colours from reds and violet blues through to multicoloured orange with magenta centres and more. Flowers can be densely clustered or patterned with blotches, thus providing bling or simple delight: whichever the owner prefers!
A cacophony of colours! Primroses have been cultivated in many different colours to brighten up the spring.
Where to plant
Choose a location in full sun or part shade during early spring through to late spring. Then be sure to move them to a shady spot during the summer. Ensure they dont dry out and they will reward you with many weeks and even months of colour, year after year. These plants are not prone to disease and are incredibly easy to care for. They make great pot-fillers and seem capable of fitting into just about any environment.
Primroses now come in all sorts of colours, from white with contrasting yellow centres, through to deepest purple and brightest magenta.
Different types of Primulas
Primulas of the simple kind produce flowers at a low level, held on short stems. The later-flowering cultivated candelabra, drumstick or lollipop types hold their flowers boldly above the foliage on taller stalks. These are called Primula bulleyana
(generally orange/yellow), or Primula denticulata
(lilac and red). There are also sieboldii hybrids
Primulas of the candelabra or drumstick variety generally flower later than the natural, ground-hugging primroses. These are Primula denticulata and the flowers are generally coloured either lilac or red.
The native form of Primula also bears flowers on stalks and this is our beautiful cowslip which is correctly known as Primula veris
. These plants prefer free-draining compost. They used to flower in profusion in traditional meadows, ancient woodlands
and hedgerows. You can still see them in April and May, particularly on grassland and even on motorway verges. You might notice swathes of yellow, nodding flower heads held on simple stalks as you drive past. If you have a chance to smell the flowers, its well worth it! They have a scent of apricots which is wonderful.
Primula veris is our native cowslip. It flowers slightly later than the Primula vulgaris, the native primrose.
You could even be lucky enough to spot the rare oxlip
. These ancient woodland species are very similar to cowslip but appear only in certain areas. Namely the boundaries of Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.
Primula elatior, as they are correctly known, have flowers which are more open. Their spreading petals are quite different from a bell-shaped cowslip flower. The colour is a paler yellow too and the centre of the flowers lack the little orange spots that are often found in cowslip flowers.
The rare Oxlip is a great find, but you'll probably only see it in the wild in Essex, Cambridgeshire or Suffolk.
Just to add a little confusion, theres a false oxlip
too! This is Primula vulgaris x veris, and as you might guess, its a hybrid cross between a primrose and a cowslip. The crossing happens naturally when the two species are growing near to each other.
The false oxlip is a cross between a cowslip and a primula. This happens naturally in the wild and the resulting cross is rather attractive.
There are also Primulas that look like mini red-hot-pokers, how amazing is that! Primula vialii have flower spikes topped with lilac flowers which open from red buds. These prefer to be planted in slightly acidic soil but they also love damp locations.
Primula vialii have flower spikes topped with lilac flowers which open from red buds. They look very much like mini red hot pokers!
You can team many other plants with primroses to make a great display. Heucheras
are particularly effective and all sorts of spring bulbs including daffodils,
hyacinths, muscari and early flowering tulips. Even pansies,
Pulmonaria, ivy and mounded evergreen ornamental grasses
look great. Whats more, you can easily make more plants. Simply divide your primroses once they have finished flowering. Replant into damp soil and they will thrive.
A host of spring flowers looks so joyful.