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The Plant Whisperer September 2021 #1

What I am really enjoying now working  as a Horticultural Plant consultant is the variation of work within each week.

One of the aspects I really enjoy is planting combinations ! Plant associations and how plants visually work well together, complementing each other in terms of foliage and flower colour and structure. 

I think I would have to admit that of all the Primula species, my favourite is Primula vialii. There is a thought on this too that if the gardener has grown and nurtured a plant from seed and experiences that fine detailed process, there can often forge a fondness for a plant, not only for its outstanding beauty, but on how it responds to the hands on techniques of a Plantsman/Plantswoman, Gardener etc. 

This Primula was one of my selections for waterside planting when I was Head Gardener in the Cotswold garden. At the time I undertook a trial on the seed sowing of Primula seed which was sourced from Chiltern Seeds (Oxfordshire)  at that time strangely enough were based in Ulverston in the South Lakes, very close to where we live now ! The seed of P. vialii along with other species were sown in late autumn/early winter and stratified in a cold frame. I topped off the gritty mix of seeds within each module with horticultural potting grit. Germination took about 5 - 6 weeks and the success rate of individual species was sporadic. 

I noted my records that Primula vialii was  approx 50% germination rate. Seedlings were pricked out and grown on in the cool end of the glasshouse. I planted plants out in late May and that first season the red/lilac poker shaped flowers produced a rewarding group of flowers. The P .vialii was planted in a shaded area in the grassy banks of a running water feature. This plant will still work well in a sunny border flanking a perennial display, but it really comes into its own in shady boggy damp areas and works well as plant combinations with Ferns and Hostas. 

Primula vialli is native to the wet meadows in the valleys  of Southern China. Like any plant it really pays to try to emulate its natural growing conditions as finely as it can possibly be to reach full potential. 

I have recently been planting it though in a semi shaded perennial border to work as a plant combination with Hostas. I think it would be fair to say the visual link of Hosta foliage and Primula flowers is a great variety that works well, having said that it would reach full potential planting with Hostas in a shady streamside location ! 

Kevin Line Posted by Kevin Line

Kevin works as a Freelance Horticultural Plant Consultant

He is a member of Butterfly Conservation and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Hardy Plant Society, the Wildflower Society, and the Botanical Society Of Britain & Ireland. He also writes for the RHS Plant Review (formerly RHS Plantsman), he is currently researching historic plant propagation/ taxonomy for the Gardens Trust ( formerly Garden History Society ).

Kevin had previously worked for three and a half years developing the garden of an Arts & Crafts period Country House Hotel to National Gardens Scheme standard. (South Lakes)

He has also previously worked as Head Gardener in the Cotswolds for over 10 years, prior to that, BBC Gardeners World, and the National Trust.

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