Pen-Lan Plants website. We are a small mostly mail-order nursery situated in Hobart, Tasmania which specialises in Primula auricula and other Primula species. As well we have a range of exciting new Hellebore strains which are offered through our Winter catalogue and are also available as larger potted plants at our nursery. The Auricula is ideally suited to those areas of Australia which have cooler winters and frost or snow is not a problem. They require little water, in fact overwatering or too high a winter rainfall is their main enemy. Pot culture is suitable as long as there is not midday sun exposure.
The auricula has a long and fascinating history starting from a cross between 2 European alpine primulas. There are 2 schools of thought as to how auriculas reached England.
One is that they were introduced by Flemish weavers fleeing religious persecution in the 1570s. However, at that time, these plants were still novelties and were grown only by the rich.
The 2nd school of thought says that it is more probable they arrived, as did most other flowers, by interchange between leading Continental and English plantsmen. Whichever it was, they became very popular and were popular with artists.
The auricula was one of the great florist's flowers, some of the others being anemone, ranunculi, tulips and carnations. The term ˜florist' was originally applied in the 1600s to a person who grew plants for the sake of their decorative flowers rather than for any useful property the plant might have. The modern meaning of florist only came into being towards the end of the 19th century.
The florists formed groups with like-minded people to meet and hold 'feasts'. By the 19th century the florists groups were very popular with working class people in the industrial North and Midlands of England. They met in public houses to show off their tulips, auriculas, primulas and carnations and to weigh their giant gooseberries. Prizes at their shows were frequently copper kettles & the public houses would often hang a copper kettle outside on show days. Towards the end of the 19th century, a movement developed against what were termed 'artificial flowers' and florists flowers lost popularity, some disappearing completely.
The auricula, however, retained a loyal following especially in the north of England, although Stripes vanished and Doubles became rare. Many of the named varieties vanished with the 2 world wars. They owe much of their current magnificence to dedicated breeders in the United Kingdom and it is from there that I have sourced most of my 200+ named varieties.