Poetry and Gardening

Musings from the days of a creative writer/gardener with a true appreciation for nature, meditation, and poetry.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Deadheading Primroses

Recently, I experimented with various  plants in order to determine which would be a healthier plant if I did some old-fashioned deadheading.  Some worked well; others didn't.  I thought it might be a good idea to share info about primroses with those of you who love them as much as I do.
Primroses (Primula polyanthus) are an old-fashioned perennial that have enjoyed popularity for hundreds of years.  They are native to the Northern Hemisphere.  Over 400 species of the rosette-like plant exist both in the wild as well as cultivated in proper gardens, and one of the tricks primrose gardeners learn early is that their primrose bed will last much longer is properly deadheaded.

Deadheading Primroses
Tip: Make sure to sterilize your scissors or pruning shears before using them to deadhead your primroses.
Deadheading simply means grooming the plant. By removing the spent flower, you prevent your plant from going to seed, and allow it to mature. Cutting back the spent flower stems also encourages new growth, so you'll see fresh flowers. Once your plants have started to thrive, a simple walk around the garden several times a week allows you to see how your primroses are progressing and whether you might need to clean up the flowers that are spent.
·        Start checking your garden in late spring.
·        Carry a pair of scissors or a small pair of pruning shears in your pocket for the task. Some gardeners prefer to simply pinch away the spent flower between thumb and forefinger, but a set of scissors makes it easier to snip away the dead flower/leaves.
·        Wear rubber gloves since some people might be allergic to certain varieties of plants. It also curbs the spread of disease if your naturally oily fingers are protected. Certain floral diseases easily spread when our fingers flit from one flower to another.
·        Look for the flowers that have begun to fade or are drying out.
·        Reach down to the base of the flower stalk and hold the dead flower gently.
·        Bend the flower to expose the stem, then either pinch or snip the dead flower away from the plant.
·        It's a wise idea to carry a small bag or wear an apron and drop the dead flower in the bag/apron rather than on the ground. You can dump your deadheaded materials into a recycling pile when you're done with your task.
·        Because too much water will rot primroses, check them occasionally and clip off any yellow or rotten lower leaves you see around the base of the plant. Removing rotten leaves promotes new growth. Your primrose bed might seem a bit droopy after you deadhead and trim old growth, but you will be rewarded when new buds start to arrive.
·        If primroses get too wet, they can develop conditions like crown or root rot and garden bugs, like aphids or spiders, may attack the plants.
Once your plants stop blooming, pull the primroses from the ground or your pots and put into containers until fall. The best soil is gritty and humus-rich. Keep your containers in a sheltered spot and keep the plants moist but not wet.
Growing Primroses
You can grow primroses from seed or purchase your plants from a grower.  If you choose to grow them from seed, be aware that the seeds are exceptionally small and it is difficult for the novice gardener to be successful starting these plants from seed.
Most primula varieties flower reliably and are easy-to-grow. Plant them in sun or partial shade and make sure to choose an area or pot that provides good drainage.  Primroses don't like to be wet!  If you can shelter them, you'll have very happy plants.
Offering your plants liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks or so will encourage them to produce fresh buds and create a beautifully flowering plant. 
Varieties
Most of the 450+ species of the genus primula like cooler weather and will not tolerate midsummer heat. They come in every color of the rainbow and the species names span the alphabet.
The varieties are distinguished by their rosette of leaves that resemble the leaves of a head of lettuce. In the center of the rosette are the flowers. Each flower has five petals joined at the base.  Flowers appear on leafless stalks. Common colors include white, red, blue, yellow, purple, and cream, but some species also produce bi-colored flowers.
THE POEM
Many poets have written about the beauty of primroses, but this one is my favorite:  
"My Primrose" by Joseph Horatio Chant

My sweet primrose with thy open face,
And with fringe-like leaves, without a trace
Of coarseness, either in flower or stem,
Among all my plants thou art the gem.
My lovely lilies soon disappear;
Thy bloom is constant through all the year;
In summer's heat and winter's cold,
Undimmed the light of thy floral gold.
Or if thy color be pink, or blue,
Or white as snow, thou art ever true;
My room is bright with thy smiling eyes,
And thy fragrance rare I also prize.
Thou hast done thy part, my little pet--
Let me keep thy roots forever wet,
But guard with care all thy tender leaves
And growing crown, which the earth-crust heaves.
Thou dost heaven-ward tend, aspiring high,
To kiss the stars in the vaulted sky,
And they look down from the azure blue,
My sweet primrose--they are smiling, too.