Passion for Primroses
The Primrose, Homegrown in Oregon.
Did you know that Oregon was once world famous for its primroses? We tend to think of primroses as a Victorian plant from England. After all, the Victorians really were the “prim-est” of the prim, well… besides the puritans. Anyway, the primrose was a pretty boring flower until 1638. That’s because only grew in white and yellow, not the huge array of colors we have today. And that’s what Oregon played a part in… colorizing the primrose. But wait, I’ve jumped ahead. In the 1600’s there was this Englishman who found some red primroses growing in Turkey and Greece. After a few introductions, the English primrose struck up a relationship with the “Turkey Red” primroses and Voila! Color came to the primrose. But it took an Oregon woman (working by the light of an oil lamp in a leaky cabin) to produce the primroses we love today. Florence Hurtig wanted to be a pianist but the great Depression of the 1930’s stopped that dream flat. (E flat, I believe.) Florence did much of her research at Oregon State University and wrote about her ground breaking work on Barnhaven primroses in a Portland newspaper. Within 10 years, Florence Hurtig put Oregon and primroses on the plant map. Interest grew so quickly, Hurtig was a founding member of the American Primrose Society by 1941. The history of the primrose is often overlooked, but few people can walk by a perky primrose and fail to recognize its simple beauty.
And thank goodness for primroses, that’s all I can say. There’s nothing like a newly planted primrose or two (dozen) to lift my spirits on a glum day. And we seem to get a lot of dark days until about June, huh? Primroses are the first flashy flowered plant that survives outside in our cool/cold February weather. And they are the first colorful sign that we really will see another spring. In Oregon, that is a big deal!
For my money, they’re a life-saver around Valentines Day too. Instead of a rose which lasts only a week, a cute container of red and white primroses are inexpensive, come back year after year and seem to strike the heartstrings with friends. Better yet, there are several shades of red and white primrose flowers! Almost any container will do. ITry recycling an old tea cup and saucer as a planter. It’s a great way to use chipped or mismatching sets sitting in your cupboard. Just find a primrose that matches or contrasts with the colors on the cup. Then pull the primrose out of the plastic pot, turn it upside down and gently shave off some of the root ball until the soil fits into the tea cup. The primrose will last several weeks like this, but remind your friend to plant it outside as soon as possible, so it can provide years of enjoyment, thanks to you!
Have you ever tried tucking them into planters or containers while you’re waiting for the other plants to bloom? Easily done– just gently tease the root ball of perennials to the side to make an opening for a primrose. I love to see pots of daffodils mixed with primroses. After the bulbs die down, you’ve still got the beauty of primroses to distract you.
One more word (or two) about primroses; I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you about the only known enemy of the primrose. The dreaded slug. So, don’t forget to put out the slug bait when planting primroses.