Primula is a large genus of about 425 species and an untold number of cultivars. Most are herbaceous perennials and can be found in a variety of conditions from boggy areas to alpine meadow. Most can be divided into 5 basic type, Auricula, Acaulis, Candelabra, Polyanthus and Juliana. I have tried growing a number from all these different types and find some easier than others. I tend to have trouble with the Auricula type. I think these just need more attention so for me they do better as a container plant.
The other types have many garden worthy species that I really enjoy having in the garden. Several years ago I joined the Primrose Society in order to be on their mailing list for seed distribution. I like to try plants that I’m not familiar with. To see primroses in the garden is always very satisfying. Some species begin blooming very early while others are at their best in summer. This gives you a very long season of interest. Most of the colors are quite bright so you are immediately drawn to them. Many will also self sow. If they are located in a spot were they are happy you can get nice drifts of them in just a few years.
Primulas are very cold hardy, in fact the national collection is at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau Alaska. I had the opportunity a couple years ago to hear a lecture by the director of the arboretum and it encouraged me to try even more in our cold area of the maritime northwest.
When I was at the Miller Garden we added a number of different types to add more spring interest to the woodland garden. My favorite of these was the ‘Barnhaven’ forms which are a polyanthus type. They bulked up nicely and became a great addition to the garden. A couple years ago I had the opportunity to grow nine different ‘Barnhaven’ forms for the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle. Each one was a different color to match the glass in the garden. Of course I had to add each of them to my own garden. Now I just need the glass to match the plants. Last year I grew another 500 for them, just to spruce things up.
With so many different types of primroses I find it very satisfy to experiment with them. I encourage you to do the same.