The Auricula: History, Cultivation and Varieties

The auricula (Primula auricula) will never match the drama or economic impact of the tulip, as featured in Anna Pavord’s definitive The Tulip (Bloomsbury, 1999). Yet, the five-hundred year story of the auricula is both quaint and fascinating, filled with passion and dedication, trial and tribulation, experiment and revelation.

First brought into the garden in the late 1400s, the beauty of the flowers attracted the attention of Flemish weavers who brought the plants with them to England. Dedicated growers bred the plants to expand both colors and patterns, as well as the shape and number of petals; the plants quickly became popular features of highly competitive flower shows.

Auriculas have never gained popularity on the West Coast to match that seen in England, yet they are surprisingly adaptable to gardens in the cooler, moister regions from Northern California to British Columbia; in my own garden in San Francisco, I found them to be remarkably resistant to snails and slugs. The photographs, alone, in this well-written book may draw new gardeners to their beauty.

Richard G Turner Jr, editor