Peeping out amongst the beautiful bright daffodils are little clusters of pale yellow wild primroses also flowering to welcome in the spring. While the wild English primroses (Primula vulgaris) are so pale and delicate the cultivated varieties come in a vast array of colours and sizes and can be both single and double flowers. The wild version however can cope with living in grass and prefers damp places while the cultivated ones do best in pots or spring borders and can be lifted and separated every two years to improve growth.
When next you take the time to do a ‘Ferdinand’ and stop and smell the flowers it is worth your while to stop at a clump of primroses and have a closer look. Close observation of primroses reveals that they have two different types of flowers called ‘pin-eyed’ and the other, ‘thrum-eyed’ to assist with pollination. The two different types of flowers are produced on separate plants. In the pin-eyed flower the head of the style is prominent and looks like a little green pin in the flower centre and in the thrum flowers the stamens are prominent.
Having an interest in taking photographs of flowers can lead to some odd behaviour. I find myself ‘flower spotting’ while I am driving so that I check out locations for suitable shots of pretty or unusual flowers and try to memorise those that are close to areas where I can safely park my car – even if it sometimes happens to be someone’s driveway! People are usually very accommodating though and are happy to show off their flowers. The primrose pictures I took for this post are courtesy of the lovely gardens in our neighbourhood as I could not find a safe place to park to capture the cluster of wild ones on a nearby embankment.
Both flowers and leaves of primroses are edible and those who have taken a bit so that the taste ranges between mild lettuce and more bitter salad greens. The leaves can also be used for tea, and the young flowers can be made into primrose wine. Don’t go picking wild primroses to make tea or wine though – they are protected so please grow your own. Nurseries now sell seeds of wild primroses so that they can be grown in your own garden.
To A Primrose
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Thy smiles I note, sweet early Flower,
That peeping from thy rustic bower
The festive news to earth dost bring,
A fragrant messenger of Spring.
Vanessa Lee Thomas