The latest issue of Primroses, the quarterly magazine of the American Primrose Society, arrived the other day and includes a most interesting article about Gertrude Jekyll’s “bunch primroses”. These days we call them polyanthus – although whether we mean precisely the same thing is an interesting question which I’ll return to another time.
The 8 April 1905 issue of the British weekly magazine Country Life, in its In The Garden column, later occupied for decades by Christopher Lloyd, discusses these plants: “The bunch Primrose is one of the most effective of garden flowers in spring.... The stem rises strong and straight from the whorl of vigorous leaves and supports a crown of flowers which for variety of colouring and bold size are unrivalled among the many families of plants which we use to adorn the garden. A faint perfume comes from this grouping of Primrose…
“We have recently received many varieties of the bunch Primrose, each grower claiming his selection to be the best but none is so pure in colour especially in the shades of yellow and orange as the bunch Primroses we have seen on many spring days in Miss Jekyll's garden at Munstead.”
The origins of Miss Jekyll’s bunch primroses are discussed by Susan Schnare of Mountain Brook Primroses for the American Primrose Society. And for the extremely modest annual Society membership of just $25 you can receive the journal and also read it online.
The successors to Miss Jekyll’s plants, in a pure line, having traveled from England to Oregon back to England and now to France, are the ‘Harvest Yellows’ and ‘Winter White’ of Barnhaven Primroses. And Barnhaven now send plants, yes plants not seed, to the USA as well as to Britain and the rest of Europe. The shipping charge to the USA is just 15 Euros (about $20 today), with a minimum order of six plants. Sounds like a bargain to me, two bargains, in fact - American Primrose Society membership and shipping Barnhaven Primroses from France to the USA.
Image © Jason Ingram Photography. Thank you.