Some of the most desirable plants in the world belong to the primula family. Whatever the conditions in your garden, there are primulas you can grow that will fill it with colour, scent and beauty. Spring is their time to shine, though many of the Asiatic primulas last into midsummer. The most familiar primula, and the one closest to many of our hearts, is the primrose – the ‘first rose of spring’. It favours a west-facing site with shade for part of the day, but will grow practically anywhere with rich soil. Each flower is held on a pale pink stem. The pale flowers show up in the dim light to lure insects, and their egg-yolk centres advertise nectar and pollen.
Like other primulas, primroses come in two different forms: thrum-eyed and pin-eyed. The petals join together at the base forming a tube. In pin-eyed types, the stigma (which receives the pollen) is visible at the top of this tube (in the centre of the petals) and looks like a small, greenish, flat pin-head. In thrum-eyed types, the anthers (which donate the pollen) are visible at the top of the flower tube and are seen as a yellow/orange mass. This helps to ensure that plants do not pollinate themselves, thus maintaining and increasing diversity.