Saturday, March 6, 2010

Primula hybrida, colourful harbingers of spring

[Photo: many different colours of Primula hybrida in bloom.]As we head in to spring, stores all over Toronto are carrying brightly coloured Primula hybrida (primroses, primevère)—these were photographed at Natural Florist, 1852 Danforth Ave.. I am a bit ambivalent about these hybrids; in a way they're pretty, but most of them look so unnatural, which I find a bit disturbing somehow.

Primula is a large genus of 400-500 species native to the northern hemisphere, mostly Eurasia. PLANTS lists four species native to Ontario (P. egaliksensis, P. laurentiana, P. mistassinika, and P. stricta), though I don't know if their natural range extends this far south. I do find the wild types prettier than the technicolour hybrids that one usually sees (click links for pretty pictures from the photo gallery at Primula World by Canadian photographer Pam Eveleigh). [Photo: Primula hybrida new foliage emerging in spring.]

Of course, those primulas at the top of the post must be greenhouse grown, because the primroses that overwintered in Toronto gardens are nowhere near blooming, though last year's leaves stayed green and there's already fresh growth.

By the way, the English name "primrose" has nothing to do with the English word "prim". It comes from the Old French primerose, which in turn came from the Latin prima rosa, i.e. "first rose", because it blooms early in spring, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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