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A Midland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 28 March 2011 by Diane Clement

Diary Entry No 40 - A plant in the wrong place

This diary entry is about a beautiful plant that dominates our garden at this time of year – Primula vulgaris

I’m sure we all know that the definition that a weed is a plant growing in the wrong place.  Weeds can be plants that arrive uninvited, and spread by seed or stolon.  They can also arise from desirable plants that spread to places where they are not wanted, or seed around a bit too vigorously.  I often say that the biggest weed in our garden is Primula vulgaris. 

Maybe this is not strictly true, as we do have our share of Cardamine hirsute (Hairy bittercress), Sagina procumbens (Mossy pearlwort) and a nuisance Veronica (?filiformis).   However, I feel sure that Primula vulgaris can outdo any other plants here in terms of seed production and percentage germination. 

It amuses me to remember that years ago I struggled to establish Primula vulgaris.  I grew my first plants from seed, they were carefully nurtured and planted out.  They struggled and I moved them and they settled down and the clump got slightly bigger.  The flowers were all pins and the clump remained quite small and static.  Then somehow, I don’t remember exactly how or when, something changed.  I suspect some thrum pollen must have come in on a bee from a neighbouring garden and seedlings started to appear. 

A few years ago they started to appear in the borders, in the cracks in paving and in the rockery. 

They appeared in the front garden which only communicates with the back through a passageway and two doors. 

The seedlings appear in late March, with the start of the flowering season and every mature clump is surrounded by newly germinating seedlings

I’m sure I couldn’t get rid of them now even if I wanted to, so I just enjoy the show in the spring and pull out seedlings by the hundred. 

The variation is interesting.  The majority are similar, good plants with quite large flowers.  Anywhere in the garden occasionally a blue, red or pink flower arises and sometimes I get a large flowered dark yellow one. 

One area in the garden has a tendency to produce plants with long stems, sometimes these stems are red and sometimes they have tendencies towards multi-headed polyanthus.

I don’t grow P veris or P elatior in the garden, so I can only suppose that the hybrid genes have originated from neighbours’ plants.  I do have a couple of patches of P vulgaris ssp sibthorpii (below) so I am not sure if they are responsible for any of the colours that have arisen over the years. 

I try and rogue out the red and blue primroses that appear so they don’t get chance to set seed or cross with the good yellow ones.

And to finish with another couple of “weeds” – two hellebores that have self seeded, the first in a ruff of leaves of Cyclamen hederifolium, also self seeded.

Please add any comments or thoughts in the Discussion thread for this diary entry

Discussion thread for Midland Diary no 40


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