Along the Primrose Path

Spring is a confirmation, a return, perhaps, of previous Springs. Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed” commemorates President Lincoln’s death, whom Whitman mourned, but it also makes the annual return of a lilac’s scent a reminder of national loss and enduring love. Each spring, when the lilacs bloom, I reread Whitman’s poem and am thankful for it. I also plant pansies in memory of my great aunt Florence Barr. Auntie’s pansies bloomed well into Indiana August heat, something I saw as miraculous as a child and have only occasionally managed in my own gardens. So, I understand Spring as a looking back as much as experiencing the delicacy of a lilac’s scent or treasuring the fresh face of a pansy.

But isn’t Spring also a time to try something new? This year I am taking inspiration from Our Life in Gardens by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, whose over-the-top enthusiasm is matched by their knowledge and experience. They seem to be in particular raptures over primroses, Primula bullesssiana most of all. Until I read “from late May almost to the end of June, they carry many tiered unbrels of flowers above their fresh, lettuce-green leaves, and the flowers are in many shades that could only be called edible–tangerine and lemon, peach and apricot and melon” I saw primroses as a brief, but necessary, respite from winter gray. A couple of blooming plants from the grocery store languished in a cool window for a month or so and then went to the compost pile. I have never experienced primroses as perennials.

Now, I am determined to try. I have planted a few Primula bulleesiana, the North Hill Strain that has been developed from seeds from Eck and Winterrowd’s garden. Some are along a fence line, some sprinkled among sweet woodruff and violets, and one is nestled near a Auntie’s pansy.

North Hill Primrose near Auntie's pansy

Should you, too, get primrose fever, you can find Our Life in Gardens at the Civic Garden Center’s library and you can visit the American Primrose Society’s web site for ideas and sources for plants. Spring – a time of high hopes.

Cindy Briggs

Leave a Reply