Posted: Friday 22 March 2013
by Kate Bradbury
As a rule, I only grow plants that will benefit bees, moths and other pollinators. I do relax this rule, though, by growing auriculas.
As a rule, I only grow plants that will benefit bees, moths and other pollinators. I do relax this rule, though, by growing auriculas. I do this for my partner, who loves them (even if bees don’t).
We have built up quite a collection over the years, including gold- and light-centred alpines, green-edged fancies and a few selfs. We're not fussy about choosing particular named varieties, but we tend to steer clear of doubles. Auriculas, part of the primula family, make great hobby plants. There are so many varieties and types to choose from, and, with patience, you can even develop your own from seed.
Every visit to a garden centre or spring flower show usually results in the purchase of an auricula (or six). We were once lucky enough to be given a pot of tiny seedlings by an auricula grower at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. There were around 30 plants crammed into this pot; many of them have blossomed into healthy specimens, which now adorn our garden walls in decorative hanging pots.
One of my favourite things about auriculas is, unlike many plants, they thrive in our garden. Auriculas like being outside, but not exposed to the elements - they don't like it too hot or too wet. The show varieties in particular spoil in wet conditions, as the floury coating on their leaves and flowers is easily marked.
Traditionally, auriculas are grown in 'theatres', which enable them to grow outside while being protected from the rain. I suppose our garden is a bit like an auricula theatre; it's flanked by two walls and only gets two hours of sunlight a day. It's cool and shady, and the walls provide the perfect rain shadows.
Looking after auriculas isn't the easiest of tasks. Vine weevils seem to love them, and they’re also prone to root rot if grown in waterlogged compost. We grow ours in terracotta pots of peat-free, multi-purpose compost with a little added leaf mould, topped with gravel. The terracotta prevents the plants from becoming waterlogged and the gravel stops vine weevils laying eggs in the compost.
We feed the plants with a little diluted comfrey solution during the growing season, and top-dress them with fresh compost (and gravel) in autumn. To prevent disease, we remove yellowing leaves as soon as we see them, and to promote further flowering we deadhead regularly.
Each plant can flower for around three months, though last year we still had auriculas in flower in November. The first flower stems are unfurling now, we can't wait to see them in full bloom.
28/03/2013 at 18:11
Hi Kate nice to have you back,Their is a nursery on the out skirt's of Croydon that breed's Auriculas,Oldchippy.
29/03/2013 at 19:28
Hi Kate - thank you for this auricula-story and especially for your note about comfrey.
In spring primulas and auriculas are my favourite flowers. In my small collection of auriculas it's 'Merlin Striped' I like most. Its flowers are grey-red and are often even double. I got my plant from Barnhaven Primroses.
30/03/2013 at 15:26
Many thanks for this story and especially the tip re gravel on top. I have lost count of the number of auriculas that the vine weevils have destroyed.
I keep my collection in terracotta pots in cat litter trays in a 4 tier mini greenhouse. The cat litter trays are great for watering as no water drips onto the plants on the shelf below.
30/03/2013 at 18:04
Not read the original article, but will add my pennywirth about the gravel on top. It needs to be at least 2 inches deep to stop Vine weevils from laying their eggs. That depth is required to prevent the dult from smelling the soil which she needs to do before egg laying.
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31/03/2013 at 13:03
Love them, Kate. Somehow they only look right in terracotta pots! Happy Easter.