Primulas are gaudy. They are triffids (extraterrestrial!).They are obnoxious, nauseating, pest and disease prone and generally useless.
Yet, when I walked around the corner of Hanley’s Garden Centre in Cork one grey day and came upon the Primula display, my heart stopped for a minute, I smiled and there was the most beautiful, colorful Primula display smiling back at me.
Have I truly turned a corner with Primulas? Maybe not, but what I think is most important about Primulas, and how to use them properly, was demonstrated by Hanleys.
If you are going to use Primulas for some much needed winter cheer: Pack them in!
They lose all their impact if they are planted too far away from each other or too far away from other plants. They are not going to last long so don’t allow for that bit of dirt for them to ‘grow into’. The Primulas purpose is fleeting joy. They’ll be eaten by vine weevils, caterpillars or rot away before they have time to grow anywhere.
Dot them in underneath shrubs and trees, smoosh them up against some evergreen foliage, plant a swathe of 5-7 on their own.
Just remember: NO DIRT between. They are not filler plants, they are accent plants.
And, I know occasionally you get the survivors. The Primulas that some how manage to last a season, or even two. Getting smaller and weaker but still flowering and maybe even spreading. I appreciate these survivors and they should be treated well. But, don’t count on them; they’d be as rare as a moving statue.
*This is the garden centre variety of Primulas. There are some truly beautiful ones like Primula bulleyana, florindae and the native, Primula veris.