Primroses: Labels Can Be Deceiving

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Just read a very informative post by Don over at An Iowa Garden. He describes the hybrid primroses that grow well in his garden, what species they’re descended from, and how they’re labeled–and mislabeled–in the trade. The only thing he didn’t include was the name of merchants who sell accurately labelled plants. Maybe he doesn’t know any. Maybe it’s a big crapshoot. But at least if you know it’s a crapshoot you’re more willing to be surprised.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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Judith May 5, 2006, 10:42 am

Two things I can add–the cute little primroses for .99 in the grocery store in February aren’t hardy (perhaps occasionally, accidentally)–they’re bred as he says, just for early bloom.

As to suppliers-well, if they’re like me and grow them on themselves before selling, they know if the plants are hardy–but not necessarily if they’re labeled correctly (sometimes seed comes to me labeled as X and turns out to be Q, or some hybrid of X; if I’ve never seen or heard of X before and can’t find any references, X it is to me).

Large companies usually aren’t growing things on in a test garden the way smaller ones do, they simply don’t have the room–or the focus–to do so. They will be labeling as seeds/cuttings/divisions came to them, and so be labeled as correctly as they can. The only way you can be (more) sure is to err on the side of caution–more description, full Latin name, talk to the supplier if you can, etc.

With primulas, the best education you can get is to join a primula society &/or the North American Rock Garden Society, where you will be able to purchase seed by species. Of course…that seed will have been donated by other gardeners, with the uncertainty in labeling mistakes and bee hybridization that entails, but you’ll likely get wonderful things.

And it’s still a gamble. Some things that “should” be hardy for me aren’t, and some that “shouldn’t”, are. So his method of just growing a lot and seeing what stays, is perfectly valid.