Primrose Lore

Garden centres are gearing up for the mad rush and gardeners are gearing up for visits to garden centre. Its a win-win situation.
Before the mad rush, I visited my local Country Life yesterday and came away with nineteen plants for a tenner. A single Aubretia Kitte Blue, a container of twelve cauliflowers and six beautiful promroses. The variety is unknown. While primroses are generally known to be yellow, it’s not always the case: there are so many varieties and colours available now.
I chose the stunningly vibrant lilac/pink ones standing erect on tall stems. The petals are so precisely formed, and right in the centre is a contrasting yellow. Within an hour, I had planted them into larger pots and they look great among the other spring plants.
Later, during the course of several gun battles on television, I elected to open up my Irish Wild Plants book. Primroses are given a chapter to themselves. Here are some items of information relating to them:

  • Long ago in Ireland, people used to hang a string of primroses over the door at the start of May. It was said that the primroses would protect the house as the fairies were not able to pass.
  • In many places primroses given as a gift should be a very full bunch or else misfortune would ensue, and a single primrose brought into a house was an omen of death.
  • In herbal medicine primroses were considered useful to treat jaundice, insomnia, tuberculosis, toothache and anxiety.
  • Coughs in horses were cured using crushed primrose roots strained in breast milk and put into the horses’ nose frequently!
  • In Irish it’s name is sabhaircín (pronounced sour-keen)
  • Finally, the Druids often carried primroses during their Celtic rituals as a protection from evil. Fragrant primrose oils were used to purify and anoint during these ancient rites.

New Growth

Ah, would ya look at that! New growth again. I have to remind myself to look very closely and when I do, this is what happens. The geranium is getting ready to burst into life once again.

The small pink flowers will be plentiful in early May. The plant is growing on a shaded section of an east-facing rockery, sheltered by the garden wall. Later in summer, it will be in deeper shade when the apple tree and the fuchsia come into leaf. For now, I am happy to notice that winter is coming to an end.

Ready Steady Grow

The last time I turned on the old propagator was way back in nineteen ninety something. Donald J Trump, now the Oval Office occupant, was an important business man. Now, as I return to a former active love of growing from seed, this madcap president is surrounded by staff looking to turn him off.
I’m under starter’s orders. The time for looking at the garden from within is over. Winter has been very kind to us here in Dungarvan. There have been only a few frost nights and rainfall has been well below average.
I’ve spent many weeks flicking through catalogues and gardening in my head. And now is the time to get things moving again. I had cleaned my worn-out propagator in early January only to find that it’s not a propagator any longer as it refuses to heat up. Nothing for it but to bite the bullet and seek a replacement.

I put out the word and waited for some feedback. I had been googling, but everything I looked at seemed fantastic. The internet has a way of making everything look like the bees’ knees. Within a short while, thanks to David in Friendly Gardeners I followed up on a recommendation to purchase a Vitopod from Greenhouse Sensations. Incredibly, it was delivered to me within 36 hours, and assembled/installed immediately.
The seed packets are ready, all 57 of them. Yes, I’m aware I’ve got a small garden and I will not be able to plant most of what germinates. I will proceed undeterred, however. Likely I will just give any surplus plants to friends locally. Most of my seeds are annuals and vegetables.
Being a slightly organised person, I’ve figured out a planting order. I know I’m a few weeks behind schedule, and the new propagator will be loaded to the brim for the next six weeks.
I began with a real favourite, pompom dahlia. I had dozens of these many years ago and now it’s time to grow them again. I’ll be creating a small section for these lovely colourful plants along with several others that will flower in late summer until the first frost. So let the journey begin.
Most packets that require bottom heat for seed germination indicate the recommended best temperature. Most will germinate at about 15 celsius, whereas some will need up to 20 or more. The Vitopod is a variable control unit that is adjustable in one degree intervals. Below, I set the temperature to 25, and it’s currently at 19.9 sitting on the kitchen table. However, to complicate matters the maximum increase is 12 degrees, so when I place the unit in the garden shed, which is quite cold at this time of year, the maximum the pod will reach will be the temperature of the shed plus 12. This will be sufficient to kick-start spring, even when outside temperatures do not allow for growth for quite a while yet.
Happy gardening,
Pádraig, 15th February 2017.
About the author: Páraig is the author of Petals by Paraig. He has a previous history of seed-growing back in the last century, and now thanks to the internet-of-things he is back in the propagating shed once again. Páraig is not a fan of the Duck.