Primula Allionii

Primitive primulas that originate from the Alps in Europe have a very special place in my heart. They take me back to the latter years of my boyhood when I began to take an interest in mountains and read the works of authors such as Frank Barker, Clarence Elliott, Royton Heath, and Reginald Farrer. They are, in a sense, “back to basics” plants because, despite all the excitement of novelties from across the globe, they continue to exist, with their simple but beautiful gifts to offer.

(On the left is the P. allionii Mary Berry main plant, with P. a. austen and the white P. a. avalanche behind it.)

Although it is fairly uncommon in the wild, Primula allionii, the European alpine primula par excellence, is rather widespread in cultivation in the United Kingdom. Every few decades, it has a surge in popularity that lasts for a few years. It is quite diverse in terms of the size and shape of the petals as well as the color, which may range from white to light pinks all the way to carmine. Additionally, there is a large number of identified variants of it. I planted a few seed capsules that I discovered when cleaning up a plant, and from that one, planting sprang a diverse collection of offspring. I was taken aback by the fact that most of them were really gorgeous and deserving of being grown, despite the fact that none of them would be worthy of being named. Primula allionii is often cultivated in Alpine Houses because it requires shelter from the weather and since it does not begin flowering until around the month of December. It grows well in situations that are rather dry and benefit from compost that is rich in lime.

One of my own seedlings is on the right, while P. allionii 81/19/3 is on the left. That may be one of Ken Wooster’s numbers (Ken spent years breeding and choosing forms of P.allionii), or it could be one of the numbers of some other collector (perhaps one of Jim Archibald’s collections). Ken Wooster spent years breeding and selecting varieties of P.allionii.

Another species that is varied and localized is Primula marginata