The frilled, pink petals of Japanese forest primroses, such as this sieboldii primrose, glimmer like jewels in the filtered sun in the spring garden. / ROB ZIMMER/Gannett Wisconsin Media
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Class is in session
Yard MD Rob Zimmer will conduct a series of spring gardening classes beginning next week at Memorial Florists & Greenhouse in Appleton. Each week he will present a gardening topic for up to 30 class members who will then receive a 50 percent discount off of their class-related purchases while they shop the greenhouse privately with other members of the class. Class members will receive a 10 percent off offer for a future purchase as well. Classes will be held on Thursdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Cost of each class is $20. Dates of the classes are May 15, 22, 29 and June 5. First up will be a session on shade gardening. Other gardening classes in the series include postage stamp gardening, or making the most of small spaces, edible plants and flowers and gardening and designing with summer bulbs. To register, contact Memorial Florists & Greenhouses at 920-731 3136.
Walking along a beautiful garden pathway decorated with colorful clusters of blooming English primroses is a magical and serene way to spend an early morning in May and June.
Blooming in just about every color imaginable, from snow-white to jet black, the many varieties and species of primroses are spring garden jewels.
These clump-forming perennials can be used in many ways in the garden — from specimen plants and border decorations to mass plantings and colorful companions — especially in shaded or partly shaded areas.
Primroses prefer to grow in part shade, or filtered sun. They will tolerate full sun but will require heavy watering in sunny locations. Primroses grow best in rich, moist soils and work well along the edges of stream beds, ponds and woodland gardens.
Parade of primroses
Hundreds of varieties of primroses are available for gardeners to choose from. The plants come in several different categories or varieties, including English primroses, Japanese primroses, drumstick primroses and other groupings.
Some varieties bloom earlier than others, with some blooming well into summer. Most primroses bloom best in the cooler, moist weather of spring.
The least expensive — as well as the most colorful — varieties of primroses are the old-fashioned English primroses.
While some gardeners have great luck with these beautiful plants, many find that the plants often do not make it for a second or third season. Often this is a result of gardeners forgetting the plant is there because the leaves fade by midsummer.
Some varieties of primrose, especially the English primroses, do require heavy mulching for the winter season. They also benefit from being covered with evergreen boughs and branches. Remove these in early spring and you will be rewarded with beautiful clusters of vibrant spring color.
Because they are so inexpensive, many gardeners prefer to treat English primroses as annuals.
The English primroses come in the greatest variety of colors, including single and double flowers, in just about every colorful combination available. Many of these are bicolored blooms with a colorful center surrounded by brightly colored petals of a different shade.
In addition to their colorful clusters of blooms, the foliage of English primrose is also very attractive in the garden, heavily textured, dimpled and pebbled and formed into a beautiful rosette.
Two largely different categories of primroses go by the common name Japanese primrose, so be careful when shopping for these plants.
One form of Japanese primrose blooms on tall, sometimes tiered stalks, and are sometimes called candelabra primroses.
These may grow 12 to 24 inches tall and come in shades of red, white, lavender and pink.
The other form is often called the sieboldii group, or forest primrose, native to Asia and Japan. These are often shorter than the candelabras but also bloom on vertical stalks. The flowers are often very lacy and ornate.
The Japanese primroses prefer moist areas and should be watered frequently or planted alongside a stream, pond or other water feature.
Primroses are perfect companion plants to many shade garden favorites. They go along equally well with other flowering plants, as well as foliage plants such as hostas and ferns.
Try combining a few primroses this year with forget-me-nots, astilbes, bleeding hearts, as well as rhododendrons, daffodils, trilliums and other spring flowering favorites.
Primroses in lighter colors such as pink, white, yellow and orange help to brighten deep, dark areas of the yard and garden. Plant primroses among your large hostas, clumps of ferns or coral bells and other foliage plants, including caladium, elephant ear, mayapples and wild ginger for a bright burst of color.
If you’ve never tried primroses before, give them a try this spring and enjoy their bright, beautiful colors throughout your garden.
A great way to begin exploring the world of primroses is to purchase the smaller English primroses that are commonly sold at garden centers during early to midspring.
Select a variety of your favorite colors, and arrange them in the garden around hostas or other shade plants. Be sure to keep well watered.
Next, experiment with a few of the larger, perennial primroses such as the double-flowering varieties, gold edge varieties, Japanese primroses and other forest primroses. These will be a little more expensive but are hardier in the garden than English primroses.
Mix and match to create beautiful carpets of color during the spring season. Arrange them along a stone path for an elegant primrose pathway.
—Rob Zimmer, Post-Crescent staff writer, writes YardMD every Friday. He can be reached at 920-419-3734 or yardmd@postcrescent. com; on Twitter @YardMD.