We can be sure spring is coming when the primroses first start showing up in the supermarkets in late winter. In fact their name, Primula, derives from the Latin for 'early.' There are many kinds of primrose but these are the ones most often seen in markets. One year I found a different variety with taller blooms that rose about 12 inches above the leaves, but I have never found them since. I just can't resist their cheap and cheerful blooms. I always buy two or three pots to bring home and brighten up a window. Their colors are awesome and I could easily buy a dozen to place around the house. They were especially welcome this week during our short-lived, what- a- bust snowstorm. I have never had any luck planting primroses in the garden after they finish blooming, but I keep trying. I think I just need to find the right spot. Cool, moist, shady spots are not so easy to find around here.
Another variety of primrose that I have always been fascinated by are the auriculas. Auriculas are an old-fashioned variety of primrose, with smoother, cabbage-like leaves, mainly grown in England and northern Europe. I think they also do well in the Pacific Northwest and in Canada and Alaska. Obviously they need a cooler, wetter climate, not the humidity and hot summers of northern Virginia. I don't think I have ever seen an actual specimen, but I have always loved the old Dutch paintings of auriculas, a common subject for artists in the 17th and 18th centuries. I read somewhere that auriculas were the first European potted plants that florists grew in Europe in the 1600s. They were grown in the mountains of northern Europe and supposedly have a wonderful fragrance. So pretty.