Saturday, 19 April 2014

Auricula spectacular

'Avril'
Two weeks ! That's all ... it's not long is it ? I have been on holiday, and out of the garden for a fortnight, and I can see such a huge difference on my return. The season has advanced so fast in that short time, and the growth has been phenomenal. A short time away enables you to see everything afresh - warts and all - and to see it in some sort of perspective, which you don't get if you are out in it every day. I was surprised by the lushness of the garden now, plants have sprung up and filled out , so vast tracts of bare soil are no longer visible. It all feels quite full now, as Spring advances, and brings that burst of zingy growth to everything.

We have been down in the Deep South, USA, and it has been so interesting to contrast it with the UK, and to see what is blooming, and what is not. The thing that tickled me the most ... hellebores and roses out together! I couldn't believe that roses were in full bloom in certain areas, although it was only early April. So, it's good to be back, and to use that brief window of opportunity for critical planning, when you see the garden afresh, almost with new eyes.

'Corny'

One of the best things though - the Auriculas are coming into bloom...

'Jeff Scruton'
I love the stiffness of these flowers, they have an almost artificial quality, as if they are not real, but are models or paintings. They are the perfect antidote to winter gloom, as the colours are so bright and varied. I have only been growing them for a little over a year, and have found them very easy, thus far. I overwinter them in a cool greenhouse and water them very sparingly, increasing water when they come out of dormancy and begin to put on new growth. They then enjoy a good feed.




There is some controversy between the merits of plastic pots versus terracotta, but even though I was advised from someone from the National Society to use plastic, I prefer the aesthetics of terracotta, so transferred them all into those. They do not appear to have suffered, and indeed, I have read opposing advice too, that terracotta is preferable to plastic.

'Averil Hunter'
Although I love them with a passion, I can also see how some gardeners might hate them, probably for exactly the same reasons ! I could see that the artificial quality of the flowers might be a negative aspect for some people. The stiffness of habit which I love, might be disliked by some , as being lacking in grace and a more natural habit preferred.

'Averil Hunter' in bud

There is a great sense of history surrounding Auriculas, just as there is around roses, and this adds to their appeal, for me.

The original Auricula (Primula Auricula) is a small, usually yellow flower growing in Alpine meadows, whilst the cultivated variety appeared in English and Eurpean gardens from the mid 16th century. One theory for their introduction is that they were brought to England in the 1570's by Huguenot Flemish weavers, escaping from religious persecution. The other theory is that they were exchanged by English and European plantsmen at the time.



However they reached here, however, they soon became extremely popular with rich and poor alike, and were grown in great numbers throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.



By the 19th century there were 'Feasts' or shows, where growers of decorative flowers ('Florists') would meet to display their plants. This was very popular amongst working people in the Industrial North and Midlands, and were often held in Public Houses. Copper kettles were often given as prizes, and one often hung outside to denote the show.

'Golden Hind'
Towards the end of the 19th century there was a movement against the artificial nature of these flowers, and they fell from popularity, although still retained a loyal following.  The advent of the First World War diminished their popularity further, and many varieties were lost forever.



A recovery began after the Second World War, which continues to this day, as the Auricula continues to grow in popularity. Breeders have introduced many new varieties, including stripes and doubles, to replace what was lost.


I must be missing something, though, as I have read that they are plants which demand a lot of attention, one source saying that they are more like 'pets' than plants ! Hmm! Although I do poke around them a lot, I can't say that they are demanding. They have been remarkably disease free so far, and are tolerant of somewhat irregular watering. Maybe if you show them, then they require much more close attention.




They must be reasonably happy as several of them have produced babies, which I have successfully potted up.

They are a completely separate aspect of the garden to all others, and I really like that. They stand alone as a small collection of objects of beauty, largely forgotten about for most of the year, but stepping gloriously into the limelight for these few short weeks.





34 comments:

  1. Hi Jane, you have some beautiful Auriculas! They have come into flower in my garden/greenhouse too. Will show them on my blog after Easter. I have the same experience as you have, they are not difficult at all.
    Happy Easter days!

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    1. Hi Janneke, looking forward to seeing your Auriculas ! Happy Easter to you.

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  2. Auriculas are beautiful but in the way that you have them in your 'theatre' (did that start life as a step ladder?) rather than as a garden plant. As for plastic v terracotta, you could have a plastice pot inside a terracotta one :)

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    1. Hi Sue, yes, it is a very old pair of stepladders, renamed as a 'Theatre', so cunning that no one would notice !! I agree with you that they are just not the same as a garden plant - I love the idea that they are a collection , and think there beauty is enhanced when they are together.
      I have tried plastic pot inside terracotta, but have found that terracotta alone works just as well for me.

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  3. What gorgeous flowers and amazing colours !
    Happy Easter !

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    1. Hi Ela, many thanks for your comments and Happy Easter to you too !

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  4. Hi Jane, I used to hate those plants, but now I have changed, mellowed and appreciate them for what they are - very cute, and theie history is fascinating. They must have looked fabulous massed naturalized in Alpine meadows.I wonder if they are still found as wildflowers?

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  5. Hi Sue, funny, I used to hate them too, but have mellowed somewhat! I am also a sucker for any plant which comes with a lot of history.

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  6. You've a super wee collection there Jane - your 'Ladder Theatre' is lovely. I think it adds to the rustic quality of the plants or even character. I've seen some rather garish Auricula Theatres but I really like how you've displayed them.

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    1. Hi Angie, I think 'rustic' is a kind way to describe my 'theatre' , but I like it !

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  7. I like them too, but I confess I have struggled. Maybe it's because I've gone for the more complicated ones.. the more farina the better.. I've never had one last longer than a year. Must try harder!

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    1. I wonder if the Farina ones are harder to keep! I must admit to neglecting mine, but I have only kept them for a year so far ! I keep them in a cool greenhouse through the winter and the (erm ...) theatre through the summer. I don't try very hard ...

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  8. Hi Jane, you have certainly the most wonderful collection of auriculas! I have only seen one other collection on our travels in England, when they were not in bloom so far, and I am amazed by the variety of color that yours come in. My top favorite being the blue flowering one, truly stunning bloom! I am glad to see that you decided to grow your beauties in terracotta containers. The beautiful patina on the pots adds so much to the display of the plants. Can you imagine to photograph them on the wooden step ladder in plastic pots? Thanks for the heads of the history of the auriculas. Wishing you a Happy Easter with lots of sunshine!
    Christina

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    1. Hi Christina, thanks for your comments. A shame the other collection you saw in the UK was not in flower, as photos do not fully do them justice - particularly the 'Farina' ones, which have a sprinkling of seemingly grey dust on the leaves. It is almost like frosting and most unique.
      Happy Easter to you too!

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  9. They are special plants and I like the way you displayed them, individual pots on a theatre which also reminds me of how thy aree displayed too in traditional and old glasshouses. As individual plants in pots you get to appreciate their beauty even more.

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    1. Hi Mark & gaz, they are special, you are right, and I think they encourage obsession in the same way that sweet peas, roses and giant vegetables do!!

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  10. I love your ladder staging and all those terracotta pots, so much more characterful than plastic. I always hated auriculas, found them too stiff, but just like dahlias, gladioli and more recently, chrysanths, I find myself warming to them. Maybe its aging. Either way, I loved seeing your collection, and can quite see myself starting one myself once I feel as if I am in charge of this garden, rather than it being in charge of me! As to being away for a whole fortnight at this time of year, that must have been a shock, I notice things opening and changing on a daily basis at the moment, everything is moving so fast it is exhausting to keep up with.

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  11. Hi Janet, I wondered if ageing is something to do with it, and as you mellow you can see the pleasures in most things ! I hated them for years ! they are one of those things which make for ideal 'pottering' - I can lose hours prodding about with them !

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  12. as you to your Auriculas, so I to my pots of indigenous bulbs. Very quiet, then show time!

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  13. Absolutely, Diana ! Zilch for 11 months, then it all happens at once!

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  14. I think these flowers are fabulous, even though I don't grow them. Such beautiful colors, and such an interesting bloom form. I like terra cotta over plastic, too - although I understand the arguments for plastic. I guess I just like the classic look. And the auriculas in terra cotta pots are definitely classic! Two weeks away from the garden is a long time, as changes in the garden happen daily. But it's always fun to see the garden with "fresh" eyes.

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    1. Hi HolleyGarden, I think they are real 'marmite' flowers, in that you either love them or hate them ! I agree that terracotta is the classic look, for anything in the garden really ! Nothing else compares.
      It's lovely to be back in the garden again, I miss it so much when I am away!

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  15. Amazing flowers. I love the slightly fake, other-worldly look of them. I suspect they wouldn't do well here (very few primroses and their ilk do), but it sure is fun looking at them. Interesting history, too.

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  16. Hi sarah, wouldn't they like it because it gets too hot for them/ too dry/ combination ? They do look 'other-wordly' don't they - you know they have a history just by looking at them ! I love the history of them and would like to read about it in much more detail. One day ...

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  17. You certainly know your Auriculas. I don't grow any myself, nor do I think they are common in gardens around here, but I do see the appeal. As to pots, I like the look of terra cotta but they are very apt to crack in this climate.

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    1. Hi , I wonder if Auricula growing is a very British thing ? No one else really seems to grow them other than we Brits ! sadly the terracotta pots crack here in the frost as well ! Some are termed 'frost proof' but in my experience they are not !!

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  18. They are such beautiful flowers, but I have never been very successful with them unfortunately. Love your steps turned into a theatre for them, that is a very neat idea!

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  19. Hi Pauline, I am interested that you have not been able to keep them successfully, as I have read that they are difficult, but for some reason they are thriving on my neglect at the moment!! It will come to a sticky end I'm sure !

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  20. Great close ups of the auricula flowers Jane, they are truly beautiful. I love my primulas and grow many different species but I am unable to grow any of the European species in the open ground as my soil is quite acid and, for the most part, those such as the auriculas originate on limestone. I have never grown them in pots although that would be the way to go and your pictures have me thinking I might try in the near future.

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  21. Hi Rick, go on... give them a go in pots ! Easy peasy so far !

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  22. Hope you had a nice vacation. I have never been to the southern states. Your Auricula collection is wonderful. I really like the little stand you have to display them. I think they look perfect in the little terra cotta pots and can't imagine they would have the same charm in plastic.

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  23. It was fantastic thanks Jennifer - Atlanta, nashville, Memphis and New Orleans with lots of other stuff in-between!
    I agree that plastic pots can never match with terracotta ones. I love the way they age !

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