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.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

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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.