The Society archive holds an assortment of material available to members for enjoyment or research and include among a host of other items:
Any member who would like a full list of its contents, please e-mail the Archivist, Lesley Key on firstname.lastname@example.org.
This page will be updated monthly, to share interesting articles from our archives and library.
Archive Miscellany - May 2022.
A light hearted view from a new member visiting his first auricula show, taken from the 1960 Part 2 Yearbook.
OUR FIRST VISIT TO A NORTHERN
AREA AURICULA SHOW
After leaving civilisation, and the once home of the great Dr. Horner, we entered the land of the Red Rose. Yes, we wondered at what we may see and hear.
We arrived at the one and only Manchester, and on a fine, warm day. The directions given us by our friend from Stillingfleet were followed and the show building found with ease. Inside the hall, behold, a wonderful show of colour, and plants of various types or species.
Our greatest surprise was the appearance, build, dress, etc. of the people we had heard about but never met before. The Secretary, short, stocky and up to his neck in papers, guarding the trophies. Committee members, some in plain tweeds, well-groomed and youthful, others graceful in years and taking life more leisurely. No wonder they grow good plants! According to the prevailing dialect the majority of these gentlemen came from the land of the Red Rose. Shame on them. One member even had a Scottish twang. How did he manage to get in?
A small chappy (a Yorkshireman) was looking through a spy-glass at an auricula. What for? Well the plant was unplaced so he must have found something wrong.
Passing the seedling class a smatter of conversation like this was heard:
“Let’s give it a name.“
“No, not yet."
“Why the h---* don’t you give it a title?"
We passed on. not knowing whether the baby was christened or not.
Now on to the shows. One lady was asking the judge,
“What’s wrong with it?" (meaning her plant).
Judge: " What's right with it?”
Lady: “What’s wrong with it?”
Judge: “What’s right with it?"
Lady succumbs and asks what is right with it?
“Now, what’s wrong with it?"
The judge shouts for support, and goes on to say. “It looks like a sprocket of an engine - hexagon tube, leaves like pig ears, colour lousy.”
Next year the judge may have a class for these lousy ones in a corner and give a prize for the worst. (Sh—, it may be mine).
Gleaning information upon auriculas, we moved on to the Alpines, and heard this valuable information, too.
“Eh by gum, that's a good ’un.”
“Yes; it wasn’t growing so I gave it some Eclipse. That certainly shifted it.”
If this grower lived where we do, he would have shifted a while ago — through Eclipse.
On to the primrose-polyanthus section. Here we were given some good advice by an assistant secretary (we think that is who he was): “Look for shape, texture, markings, etc.”
We did, and fell for the double blue auricula and gold-laced polyanthus. Yes, they are lovely little ladies.
Next, a lesson in the art of crossing. Thanks, doctor, for the really remarkable show of what can still be done with flowers, when you know them.
Who grows the water-lily type of auricula on show? If that doesn't show how easy (or should we say tolerant to neglect) auriculas are, nothing else will. Yes, we learned a lot, both of our human friends and those of the floral world. Next year we will try to make the show a bit more of a success by entering our plants.
A parting word was given to J.W.M. by Mrs. H.
J,W.M.: “ Well, what do you think of our auriculas?“
Mrs. H.: “Anybody who grows them must have a kink."
Mr. H.: " She knows: she married one who has taken up growing auriculas in earnest.”
(P.S., Mrs. H. is really fond of them. but jealousy gets her nowhere - she doesn’t grow ’em.)
As a beginner and new member of your association, may I say a big thank you to all who helped to stage the show (especially the little lady who was doing a lot of running around with papers), and also to the very kind friends (they know who they are) who have so kindly helped me make a start growing auriculas.
F. HARDY, Hull.
(The reference to Eclipse may appear cryptic to members not acquainted with Hull’s industries. Eclipse fertiliser is made there, and its ingredients consist of (or anyway they include) condemned fish cargoes, other untasty odds and ends of the fishing trade, quite often not in the primest condition. One very far-reaching by-product is an odour which bears no resemblance at all to that of violets, nor lily-of-the-valley. Possibly Mr. Hardy may live to leeward of these atmospherics).
* “Heck” in E. Yorks.
Archive Miscellany - April 2022.
As we move into the time of year to breed our own Auriculas, an extract below taken from the 1927 Yearbook.
A fertile seed is resultant upon a sexual act which is "fundamentally the same as that occurring in all sexual plants. The embryonic plant is in the seed, which is virtually a resting stage in which adverse conditions can be tided over, and by means of which the species can be propagated in a suitable environment.
ln order to make these matters clear, we must consult the accompanying sketches.
The tube and petals form a floral envelope, and one
purpose they fulfil is the protection of the delicate
sexual organs they enclose.
The sexual parts of the flower are the anthers (male) and the pistil (female). It is within the anther that the pollen grains are formed. The stigma is the top of the pistil, and is connected with the ovary, wherein the ovules are formed. Pollen grains must be lodged on the stigma of the pistil, and it seems desirable that the pollen formed by one flower should reach the stigma of a different flower. This involves cross-fertilization, which is thought to be a benefit to the species.
A bee visiting a flower thrusts its proboscis down to the nectaries, and in doing so gets its head dusted with pollen; when it transfers its attentions to another flower, it carries pollen with it, and some of it is sure to come in contact with the stigma. The stigma, when ripe, secretes a somewhat sticky fluid, in which sugar is present. This fluid serves two purposes,— it causes the pollen to adhere to the stigma, and also enables the grains to germinate. On germination, a pollen grain protrudes a pollen tube, which forces its way between the cells of the stigma, penetrates into the tissue of the pistil, and ultimately reaches the ovary and one of the ovules contained therein. The pollen tube enters the ovule through an opening known as the “micropyle," and serves as a passage for the fertilizing male element, which, in the end, fuses with the egg-cell, or ovum, in the embryosac, such fusion being the real act of fertilization. After fertilization, the egg-cell develops into an embryo, and the ovule containing the latter becomes a fertile seed. Having followed the whole process of natural fertilization, we will now adapt the same to our artificial method.
We prepare the pip whilst in an half-opened state, one which will be fully open the day following if left undisturbed is most suitable for our purposes. (Fig. C.) With a pair of scissors cut away the portion of the petals just above the stigma, as shown in (Fig. D).
With a fine camel—hair brush collect a little pollen from
the anthers of a selected flower, and transfer the same to
the stigma of the prepared pip which you wish to
If the stigma is not receptive, or sticky, repeat again in two or three days.
See that open windows, etc., are covered with fine muslin, to prevent the entrance of bees, which are attracted by the honey-scented flowers, and work terrible havoc if left undisturbed.
Gather the seeds when ripe and sow immediately.
Archive Miscellany - March 2022.
This month an extract from "Primrose, Cowslips, Polyanthuses, and Oxlips" by Philanthos. Originally produced in 1874 by the Journal of Horticulture Office, a reprinted copy is held in the Society Library.
PRIMROSES and Polyanthuses will grow in any soil except that which is very light and very poor; but any light soil that is amply supplied with vegetable matter will grow them well. That in which they delight most, and in which they grow with the greatest luxuriance, is a strongish sandy loam, or what is better, a strong ﬁbrous loam. Whenever a border is prepared for them, fresh stable manure should never be applied; and if the soil requires amendment, this ought to be given to the previous crop, so that by the time the Primroses are planted the manure will have become entirely rotten and incorporated with the soil. The debris of a wood heap which has been reduced to mould, rotten weeds which have long lain in a heap, and leaf mould, are as good a dressing as can be applied to them, and if this is mixed with a portion of old cow dung it will be much benefited. Some of the best plants I have ever grown were on the north side of an old Holly hedge, the overshadowing branches of which were never trimmed, where the dead leaves had been allowed to accumulate and rot for years, producing a loose, light, rich mould in which the roots could run freely.
The situation for a bed of Primroses ought to be shady, so that the midday sun will not reach the plants. If fully exposed to the sun not only is the beauty of the flowers impaired, but the vigour of the plants is much weakened, and this is especially the case after the flowering period, when the plants go to rest. It is then that shade and water are very essential; and if it so happen that these cannot be procured by the natural position of the bed, they must be obtained by strewing the plants with short grass, litter, or any such covering, as a sort of mulching, like that placed round Strawberries, to keep the fruit clean; and they should be watered in very dry weather. If the plants are left exposed to the full influence of a scorching summer sun they become in many instances totally blind, and the buds never burst again. There is no better place in which to grow Primroses and Polyanthuses than in an orchard under standard fruit trees, the essential conditions for the successful cultivation of them being shade, coolness, and humidity.
When we consider the natural habitat of the normal wild forms, the necessity for protection to the rhizomes is evident. The Primrose is generally found in hedgerows, woods, and copses.
“Welcome, pale Primrose! starting up between
Dead matted leaves of Ash and Oak that strew
The very lawn, the wood, and spinney through,
Mid creeping roses and Ivy’n darker green
How much thy presence beautifies the ground!
How sweet thy modest unaffected pride
Flown on the sunny bank and warm wood’s side! "
The Cowslip, “fragrant dweller of the lea,” is found in meadows and pastures, and in both instances, but especially in the latter, the rhizomes are protected by grass.
These plants should never be allowed to remain more than two years in the same position. Some of them are the better for being taken up and divided annually, and especially those that have the habit of elongating the rootstock above ground, and forming long bare branches with only a tuft of leaves at the crown. The best time to take-up and divide them is in August and September. If the work can he completed by the middle of the latter month so much the better, as the plants will then be perfectly established and have begun to grow before winter frosts set in, by which they are apt to be thrown out of the ground if they are not properly established.
The rhizome or underground stem of these plants is often subject to a sort of canker or gangrene; and this not unfrequented occurs when they are transplanted from one description of soil to another, with the old soil clinging to them. These decayed and decaying portions should be thoroughly removed, even to the quick; and I have found it an excellent precaution before planting to have a pail of water at hand, and thoroughly to wash the old soil away from the roots before planting them in their new situation, and an addition of lime to the water tends to check the spread of this gangrene.
The enemies against which these plants have to contend are slugs, red spider, and drought. The former are unusually active in the spring, when they prey on the young leaves, and when the plants are in bloom eat the flowers. They must therefore be looked after, and the best time to do so is in the mornings, from seven to nine o‘clock, and especially when the weather is damp or foggy. They may then be found at their depredations, and may be picked by hand; but if it should be inconvenient thus to watch them, they may be found at any time lodging under the spreading foliage on the ground, or sheltering under clods and in worm-holes. An occasional sprinkling of quicklime on the surface of the bed will effectually check them, but this operation requires to be repeated as frequently as the lime loses its causticity by moisture. Salt, if applied sparingly in dry weather, so as not to touch the plant, kills slugs as soon as they come in contact with it; but it is a dangerous application unless done judiciously.
Drought and red spider accompany each other, and the latter is generally a consequence of the former. The only remedy in either case is an abundant supply of water. Sparrows are sometimes a great pest. It is generally when the flowers come into bloom first that they mischievously attack them - picking them into little bits, and leaving them on the ground.
THE best time to sow the seed is immediately after it is ripe. This will be in the latter end of June and early in July. It is not advisable to be later than the first week of the latter, especially if it is intended that the plants are to bloom in the following spring. The seed may be sown either in pans or boxes under glass in a pit or frame, or in a bed in the open air. If the latter, choose a shady spot where the soil is light and easily worked, and after preparing it by digging and raking till the surface is fine and mellow, scatter the seed thinly over the surface, and pass the rake over it with a very light hand, so that the seed will not he covered more than a quarter of an inch. If the weather continue dry give occasional waterings with a fine-rosed watering pot, enough to keep the surface moist without causing it to cake. The plants will soon be up, and the only care they require is to keep them free of weeds. As soon as they have got four leaves and can be easily handled they are to be pricked-out about 3 inches apart on a bed prepared for the purpose, and before the beginning of winter they will have grown to a good size, so that in the spring they may be removed and planted where they are intended to flower, which they will do during the current summer.
If the seed is not sown at the time indicated above, it may be done at the beginning of February in pans or boxes, which are to be placed in a gentle hotbed. When the plants are large enough they are to be pricked-out and treated in the same way as l have described for those raised in the open air. These, if well grown, will mostly flower in autumn, and will have become very strong plants before the succeeding spring. When planted out where they are intended to flower they ought, according to the soil, to be from 6 to 9 inches apart. On my soil, where they grow so strong, I am obliged to adopt the latter, for if placed at less distance they overcrowd each other; but in ordinary garden soil 6 inches will be enough.
SELECTION OF VARIETIES
WHEN the blooming season has commenced then is the time to make selections of those that are to be preserved, for no matter how carefully the seed may have been selected, it will be found that some of the plants produced will be so inferior to the others, that it will be necessary to weed them out.
In making the selection, the first point the strict florist directs his attention to is to see which of the flowers have thrum and which pin eyes. Those which are called thrurn-eyed flowers have the throat closed by the anthers, which are set round the top of the tube of the corolla, the pistil being so short as not to be visible. This form has been called by botanists brevistyla The pin-eyed flowers have the throat closed by the stigma, the pistil being as long as the tube of the corolla, and sometimes much longer, and this form the botanists call longistyla.
The thrum eyes are those to which prize florists give greater preference. No matter how well formed or highly coloured a pin-eyed variety may be, it meets with no favour in the eyes of the prize florist. But those who are not so fastidious, and who admire a flower for its beauty, take little heed of the prize florists’ distinction. Still, if the selection is to be a rigid one, the first choice is to pick out those with thrum eyes. The next point to be attended to is that the scape or stem be sufficiently stout to support the umbel of flowers unaided. The footstalks of the individual flowers should have the same property, being short and proportionately stout, so as to sustain the flowers in an erect position. And the flower itself should be large, round, and flat, and if possible with six lobes in the limb of the corolla, the colours clear, and, if more than one, distinct and decided, not blending one into the other, unless where there are two shades of the same colour. Another important quality which ought not to be overlooked, is the abundance of bloom and its long continuance.
These characteristics which I have set down relate only to what may be called border flowers, and have no reference whatever to those properties which the prize florists have fixed as the necessary requirements of prize or stage flowers. But although the strict florist is so particular about all being thrum eyes, there is no reason why the lover of flowers for their beauty should be so restricted in his selection. I have seen many very beautiful varieties with pin eyes excelling in size, form, and colour those with thrum eyes, and always failed to see any reasonable ground for discarding them merely because the prize florists set up an opposite standard of choice. Master Furber, a florist of Queen Anne's reign, says :—“Those of the sort which are most esteemed among the gardeners have thrum eyes, as they say-—that is, the flower has four or five little yellow tendrils set about the top of the pipe or cup; but I have seen flowers that have been much more beautiful in their stripes and colours, which the gardeners celled pin-eyed—-i.e., they have the pistillum rises above or appears in the pipe of the flower in manner of a pin with its head on; but for what reason this has gained so much among them I nevor could learn." In the case of prize flowers, prize florists may enact such rules and laws as their fancy suggests; but the true florist, he who loves flowers for their natural loveliness, and not for their development of any particular points, needs not to be restricted by any such rules, but may please his taste in whatever he considers most beautiful, and which to him seems most ornamental.
There is no doubt that the thrum eye with the golden anthers filling the top of the tube gives a richness of ornament to the centre of the flower which the round formal and paler stigma does not, and therefore it is desirable to encourage the production of that form; but to discard a variety which in shape and colour is unexceptionable merely because it has a pin eye, is the height of fastidiousness.
Archive Miscellany - February 2022.
A subject dear to all our hearts, the following extract is taken from "The Control of Primula Root Aphis" by C.D. Hough, MD; a booklet issued by our Section in February 1952. It just shows that not a lot has changed in the last 70 years!
Dr Hough describes a number of chemical experiments he carried out in attempts to control root aphis. These have been omitted as the chemicals are no longer available.
The primula root aphis, Pemphigus auriculae, Murray, a parasite upon Primula auricula, and the hybrids derived from it during the course of the last four centuries, as well as on many other genera and species of the Primula family, is a very well-known pest to growers of the horticultural varieties of these flowers: once introduced into a collection, it soon spreads, and may infest every plant, with resultant devitalisation of those affected. It has been noticed, in my comparatively recent experience as an auricula fancier, the plants badly infested tend to develop root rot and canker of the stem more frequently than those which are free from aphides, especially during the disturbance following repotting, and during the winter months. Quite often, the leaves develop a peculiar yellow, mottled appearance, probably due to a concomitant virus infection. The plants either die, or make such poor growth, that to discard them as actual sources of infection is the only remedy to maintain a healthy stock. The prevention of losses of this kind, and the maintenance and improvement of the vigour of the plants, has induced me to take an especial interest in this pest and to search for methods of its control.
Historically, there seems to be no written record of the infestation of auriculas by the woolly root aphis, prior to the publication of a book which appeared about the year 1860, entitled Gardening for Amateurs, edited by the Rev. F. D. Horner, in collaboration with Kidson, which is mentioned on page 44 of the Year Book, 1948-1949, issued by the National Auricula and Primula Society (Northern Section). It is curious that there is no earlier reference because it is well known that the popularity of the auricula as a florist’s flower was at its peak during the latter half of the eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth centuries, but, when one realises that the significance of insect pests as vectors of disease has only recently been appreciated by the general public, one can perceive how specific mention of it was overlooked. One still hears of people believing that to be parasited by the human head louse is of no consequence, in spite of the accepted fact that typhus fever is carried by its next of kin, the body louse, to mention but one example of many. It was almost certainly present but regarded as of no consequence like some fanciers do today. One wonders whether a greater prevalance of this pest, associated with an increased liability to disease, could have been a major factor contributing to the decline of the auricula from the high place it held in the public esteem.
When an infested plant is examined, the aphis is found grouped in clusters on the adventitious roots, and on the stem, or carrot, where a bud is forming above an old leaf scar. The sites of election chosen for attack are where new growth is taking place and the plant tissues are most sappy. This is the area adjacent to the growing point of a root, in which the root hairs are most numerous and active. Occasional groups may be found on other parts of the root system where the cortex is thicker, but as an important factor determining the site of infestation is a good supply of oxygen for the insect, most colonies are found around the collar, that part of the stem at soil level, or where the roots lie in contact with the inside of the pot. The woolly aphis does not infest the leaves or the bud at the main growing point of the stem, although the plant is subject to attack here, most frequently during the summer and autumn months, by all kinds of greenfly, as well as red spider.
The root aphis is active at all times of the year, but there are two seasonal increases, the first in the spring, when new growth commences after winter, and the second in early autumn during September. It feeds on the plant’s juices by inserting the sucking organ through the cuticle of the root, deep into the cellular and vascular tissues. The ingestion of the sap has a devitalising effect upon the whole plant by interference with the absorption of nutrient substances from the soil, and results in poor growth and diminished resistance to infection. Fungi and harmful soil bacteria are enabled to invade the tissues through the punctures made in the cortex, and virus infections made be conveyed from one plant to another by the aphid vector.
The type of cultivation employed by growers of the auricula, namely, in pots plunged in a frame, or placed upon the staging of a glasshouse, favours a heavy aphid infestation, by excluding predators found in natural surroundings. No satisfactory method of control has ever been discovered. Many famed varieties of the last century, no doubt, had their vigour so badly undermined by damage due to this parasite, that they are now extinct, or in such an enfeebled condition that trusses of bloom are rarely produced. Plants of George Lightbody and Adonis are still extant, but I understand that they are now very poor specimens, and have not been seen on the show bench for some years.
In order to prolong the life of a good variety, various methods have been designed to destroy the pest, but difficulties have arisen in practice on account of its habitat and feeding habits. In the first place, a creature living in soil is very inaccessible. Secondly, the cuticle and the woolly excrescences from the hinder abdominal segments have a strong water repellant action, a necessary protection for an air breathing animal inhabiting damp soil. These two factors render an external contact insecticide uncertain in action. The ideal aphis killer should be lethal without coming into direct contact with each individual parasite, because these insects frequently live in curled and crinkled leaves and similar places, as well as on roots.
Nicotine has been used in the form of tobacco, as a powder and an infusion, as a solution of the alkaloid mixed with a wetting agent applied as a spray or watered on the soil, and as a smoke, made by slowly burning shreds of prepared paper. It is a dangerous remedy unless carefully applied as a weak solution, and the fumigant action is only manifested on the exposed insects.
The application of methylated spirit to those pests visible at the collar is a sure cure, but it is necessary to turn the plant out of its pot if it is to be applied to those living on the roots. Disturbance of an established plant in this way retards growth, and the alcohol damages the tender new roots and kills them.
Archive Miscellany - January 2022.
We look this month to Mr George Lightbody, an article from the 1911 Year Book, an extract taken from the Midland and Northern Florist Guide November 1864.
We have the pleasure of presenting a portrait of the veteran GEORGE LIGHTBODY, a name which has a European reputation,for where-ever florists’ flowers are cultivated, the name of George Lightbody is well known. He was born July 13th, 1795, and entered the naval service in boyhood and continued there until 1817, having served on the coast of France. Spain and Portugal, emp1oyed in blockading; and he was also engaged in the defence of Cadiz, served in the Mediterranean, also along the coast of Africa.
Mr. Lightbody saw much active life in the naval service, and served through the last American war from the beginning to the ending; was present at the taking of Mobile, and was twice a prisoner in the hands of Brother Jonathan, on the second occasion making his escape out of Portland. He was at that time a well-known character amongst the Americans. Our hero was selected for carrying the secret despatches for establishing the licensing system, by which our army in the Peninsula was partly fed, as well as in our West India colonies. This he did successfully, but had he fallen into the hands of the enemy, his fate would have been that of Dr. Andre. For this arduous and dangerous service he was promised by the agents of the government any reward in their power to bestow, but he never got it. The medal which he wears on his breast was bestowed for capturing a French vessel in the Mediterranean.
Being a native of Polmont, near Falkirk, Mr. Lightbody settled down at the latter place on leaving the naval service and began growing ﬂorist flowers, a taste for which he had received in early days from an uncle, who was an enthusiastic cultivator. Polmont and Falkirk to this day continue the home of the Auricula and other ﬂorist flowers.
With the Auricula, Mr. Lightbody's name is most intimately associated, and he commenced the cultivation of this ﬂower in 1822. At that time some of the leading ﬂowers fetched high prices. Page's Champion, still a standard variety, could not he obtained at a less cost than 21/- to 30/-, and Leigh’s Colonel Taylor cost £3 l5s. 0d., and Booth's Freedom, 30/-. These prices were at all events paid by Mr. Lightbody for them, and they still, after forty years’ trial. maintain a high position in ﬂorists' estimation; in fact, Page's Champion is increasing in value, as Mr. Turner has now catalogued it at an increased price. As a raiser of the Auricula, Mr. Lightbody has “done the state some service," and we may safely name as examples of his success in raising seedlings, Sir Charles Napier, Richard Headly, Meteor Flag, Star of Bethlehem (a good ﬂower), and Sir ]ohn Moore, but the two last-named require to be grown poor to get them in good character. Fairie Queen, another of his seedlings, is a ﬁne green-edged ﬂower, but a bad doer, and Lord Lyndoch, a very ﬁne green-edge flower, but very scarce indeed; and Countess of Dunmore, a white-edged kind, were raised by Mr. Lightbody.
In his possession are still some fine seedlings of his, which are not yet sent out, foremost amongst which is Mrs. Headly, a fine white-edged ﬂower, and some grey edges, with violet ground colour, which will turn out first-rate. Robert Trail, another seedling, grey edge, will prove a ﬁne variety. Mr. Lightbody has for forty years been a raiser of seedlings, and with close application and very careful crossing, he has still been unable to add a great number of standard varieties; in fact, it is so difficult to get a first-class seedling that Mr. Lightbody assured us he considered himself well rewarded if he obtained one good one from a thousand.
Archive Miscellany - December 2021.
This month we look at a section of a Society Booklet held in the Society Library; "Florist's Auriculas and Gold Laced Polyanthus" edited by F. Jacques.
Quite a long article but well worth reading if you are considering growing GLPs
RECENT decades have shown a steady revival of interest in the cultivation of this most British of all ﬂorist’s ﬂowers and, whilst stable named varieties are not yet obtainable, substantial progress has been made in the development of strains which reﬂect the precise properties and pip size required of this fine old ﬂower. Opinions as to the best method of growing the Gold-Laced Polyanthus are, to say the least, even more divided than those among auricula growers and, to allow the novice some guide, three successful exhibitors have allowed their views to be published.
Dr. D. A. Duthie.
If you raise your own seed, sow it as soon as it is ripe. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle about 2" apart in deep trays. They should make sturdy little plants before the cold weather; it is better to winter them in frames or under cloches and to plant them out in spring when the worst frosts are over. They should then be able to get their roots well down before the heat of midsummer, so as to increase their chances of survival.
Plants from spring-sown seed should be planted out as soon as possible so they can become well established before winter. I have always regarded the Gold-Laced Polyanthus as very frost resistant but this may be a false impression caused by a series of very mild winters. It is a northern plant and likes cool, moist air: the further north you live, the easier it is to grow. It cannot stand a soil which dries out quickly combined with a hot, dry atmosphere. It soon becomes sickly and is attacked at once by red-spider. For these reasons I no longer grow Gold-Laced Polyanthus in pots or frames. The mature plant does better in the open ground. It should only be potted up for exhibition or crossing and should be re- planted as soon as these activities are over. Slugs are very fond of it and must be guarded against, especially before shows, as they delight in eating the pips. When the atmosphere is dry, an evening watering or spray will keep the red-spider at bay.
Good plants, which you have decided to keep, require to be divided every year; this is usually done in May or September. I prefer September and break off the sections, as a few of the old growers, including Hogg, said ‘the Polyanthus does not like the knife’. Douglas (1880) recommends a good rich loam, specially when ‘of a moderately clayey nature’. If you have a rather heavy clay as I have, break it up by digging in compost and old manure, but not fresh, which it is said to dislike.
The old masters were almost unanimous on the ideal site for a polyanthus bed, which should be on the north side of a wall, hedge or trees, but no trees should overhang the area. It appreciates the early morning sun but must be protected from the fiercer heat of the sun at mid-day
(Many northerly growers often prefer a north-westerly aspect for their beds. This allows some protection from the cold north-easterly winds which often cause much damage in the spring. They also often raise their beds by some 4-6 inches so that the roots do not stand in waterlogged soil, F.J.)
My polyanthus bed, unfortunately, faces south-west, and there has been no shade at midday. In previous summers they have been little troubled by the sun, but during the recent heatwave and long dry spell I have had to erect a screen of double thickness plastic web to provide shade and this, combined with the evening watering, has kept them healthy.
Mrs. G. M. Baker
Seed is sown in February in Arthur Bowers compost in 3" shallow pots. The compost in the pot is soaked in tap water and allowed to drain for at least an hour before sowing. The seed is covered with grit and the pots enclosed in a plastic bag drawn taut with an elastic band, exactly as one would do with auricula seed. The pots are then stood in a tray under the staging, near to the glass and adjacent to an open bottom ventilator which is never closed. The seed-pots are inspected from time to time and seedlings are pricked out into small size seed trays of Bowers compost when the first true leaf has appeared, planting twenty-four to each tray. After watering in the seedlings the trays are stood in a waterproof tray on a high shelf to avoid drips onto plants underneath and so that the seed trays can be tilted away from the sun, the shelf faces towards the east. When the leaves of the individual plants begin to touch and overlap they are then ready for planting outdoors.
The beds are on the north side of the house, one shaded by deciduous trees and the other by Japanese anemones. The trees and herbaceous plants provide enough shade in the summer but die down to allow plenty of light in the winter and a six-foot fence keeps off the wind from the opposite side. The beds are raised some 9" above ground level and the rather heavy loam over clay is enriched with compost well dug in and leaf mould or peat forked into the upper few inches of soil. A sprinkling of Growmore is also incorporated when the beds are dug over each year prior to planting out.
A showery period is preferred for planting out. The plants are set out about 9" apart both ways and the beds covered with netting to discourage the cat from next door and the birds. This also enables me to sprinkle slug pellets around the plants as I am sure the birds cannot eat the dead slugs and get poisoned. The nets are kept on permanently and the plants periodically inspected for signs of greenﬂy, drought or other mishap.
Nature’s way is followed by dressing the beds with leaf-mould or peat in the autumn, this keeps the roots warm and protected through the winter.
The plants are watered with half-strength Phostrogen when growth starts in the spring and again about a fortnight later with a full-strength solution of the same fertiliser. Any plants which have started out of the ground due to frost or worms should be firmed into place and watered in.
I like to see the form of one pip before lifting and potting, as a lot of pin-eyed plants appear from seedlings and it is infuriating to pot them. The worthwhile plants are potted into Bowers compost in 4" or 5” pots with coarse grit underneath at the bottom of the pot and a grit collar around the neck of the plants to keep them clean. The potted plants are then placed in an open-sided frame which provides overhead cover only and encourages steady development of the bloom and the dark green leaves beloved of the judges. Apart from the nets and exceptinggthose later chosen as parents this is the only time the plants are allowed any protection from the elements.
During and after the Shows I note which plants the Judges preferred and select them as parent plants. At the same time there are usually a few lovely but pin-eyed ﬂowers in the beds which can be used as mothers. The potted parents are placed in the greenhouse and I cross two ways viz.
1. Pin-mother using thrum pollen.
2. Thrum selfed with a little brush.
Pollinated pips are marked with coloured wool round the pedicel to avoid pinching them off by mistake.
Potted plants not used as parents are split up and re-planted but it may be preferable to leave them until August as some losses have occurred with those split earlier.
The ripe seed is stored in screw top glass jars in the refrigerator. This was recommended by Janet Sinclair and the seed remains viable until it is required for sowing the next February.
Mr. John Ollerenshaw
An alternative method for those with limited space or no facilities at all save a small glasshouse or a couple of frames may be employed for growing the Gold-Laced Polyanthus.
September is the best time for sowing the seed. Plastic half-trays are quite suitable. ‘Levington’ compost no more than half an inch deep should be lightly pressed into the trays and levelled off.
The seed, well dusted with seed-dressing, should be sown as if it were a pinch of salt. If the hand is raised about four inches above the surface of the compost, the seed will bounce on contact and a more open and even sowing will ensue. Sow reasonably thickly and on no account cover the seed; leave it visible on the surface. Give a good spray soaking with cold water. Enclose the seed tray in a transparent plastic bag, seal and place in a cool, well shaded position.
Inspect the trays every two days or so. Keep the surface well sprayed with cold water. After germination keep the trays in the bags until the seed leaves have developed, then remove the bags. Place a couple of sticks across the top of each seed tray and lay the ﬂat bags on top. Continue to spray the seedlings well and never allow the compost to become dry.
When the seedlings have about four true leaves, transplant into 2" plastic pots again in ‘Levington’ seed compost. The wisdom of the half-inch depth will become evident when separating the seedlings. Do ensure that the little crowns are nicely below the finished surface of the compost. Water in with a fine rose on the can. Stand the pots in a cool, shaded position, pot rims touching, keep nicely moist and at all times cold to freezing.
When large enough, pot on into 3” or 31/2 ” pots and in these ﬂower the seedlings. Keep cool and moist all the following summer. In August or September turn out the plants and wash in an insecticide. Tear away any offsets and break the main root to about one inch long (never use a knife on the Polyanthus). Reduce the number of leaves to about four and tear these to half their length. Re-pot, using 3 1/2” pots in a compost of half light soil, half horse or cow manure with sufficient very coarse grit to ‘open’ the mixture. Ensure that the crowns are well below the finished surface. Stand outside in a shady cool place and spray mornings and evenings for about three weeks, covering from excessive rains.
In October remove the pots to a frame or greenhouse. If in frames cover the pots with a good depth of teased straw and keep the frame well ventilated no matter what the weather. Inspect regularly and remove every would-be offset as soon as seen. Keep cool and moist.
The above method of cultivation of the Gold-Laced Polyanthus will give good, healthy, well-grown plants. The ﬂowering period will be altered, however, from the open-ground method. Plants kept in well open types of frame situated in cool, shaded positions will bloom a little later than open ground plants. Those kept in a greenhouse will bloom several weeks earlier. Therefore plants required for May exhibition should be kept in open frames and those required for March exhibition should be kept in the greenhouse or removed thereto from the frames about the first week of January. Plants kept in or removed from the greenhouse are ideal for seed because early blooms give early seeds, allowing much improved seed ripening under controlled conditions. Keep the collected seed in cool storage until September.
For absolute beginners:
1. Start off with seed.
2. Obtain your seed from a reputable grower within the Society.
3. If possible obtain seed from two separate growers and keep the plants separate for your breeding programme.
4. Contact other Society growers and exchange plants, ideas, notes on cultivation etc.
5. Having joined the Society - use the Society.
Archive Miscellany - November 2021.
An article this month from the 1967 Part 1 Year Book, by J. H. Stant.
Every time I sit down to write owt, I’m dead certain to get all my facts mixed up, and this seems as though its going to be one of those times.
One of the most interesting things about the growing of auriculas is their fascinating history: a history which can take us back to the Middle Ages, and beyond. To the time when very few men were literate, and fewer still were able to sit down and put their findings on paper, and it is the writings of some of these gentlemen that l would like to question just now. We moan continuously about the loss of vigour in some of our plants today. l wonder how much of it is due, at least by beginners, of trying to follow secretly the writings of the so-called old masters, and how many countless thousands of plants must have been destroyed over the ages by other decades of prospective auricula growers. Don’t worry; I’ve fallen for it myself, But more of that later. I do not believe that these gentlemen grew better plants than are grown today, manure or no manure, or that their engraved plates are true representations of what the engravers had in front of them. You can go round any of our shows today and see dozens of beautifully grown plants, and I contend that any faults that are present today were present in those days. But photography has not got the same licence as artists or engravers, as it records what it sees, and you have to put up with it, faults and all; and if you are to believe the snippets that appear from time to time in our journal about some of the old pub shows, it seems as though the old days were well endowed with ‘likely lads‘ who weren't above a bit of fiddling to achieve their ends. To mislead their competitors seems to have been a popular pastime. I get the idea that some of the old writers set out to do just that.
Some of our members would have us believe in them implicitly, but they themselves believe just what they want to believe. For instance. the almost fanatical antagonism by some to the poor old fancy, and yet, if we are to believe some of the plates to be found in the Rev. Moreton‘s book, and to be contrary l don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t, it looks to me as if the fancies have been with us since long before the evolution of the auricula as we know it today. Both Show and Alpine oddities will continue to appear in the most unexpected places, for it seems the fancy is inherent in the make-up of the auricula and will continue to crop up for as long as auriculas are grown. Remember the little beauty that turned up in a crossing of John x Teem, a grey and green, by Dr. Newton? So live and let live. Let’s face it, there isn’t much chance of any fancies winning the Premier at a modern show (the judge would probably get shot), although that wouldn‘t have been the case in the old days. So let’s enjoy them for what they are, fancy auriculas, no more and no less, and judge them accordingly, for we shall not get rid of them as they are part and parcel of the culture of auriculas and are apt to turn up in the best of crosses. The thing that I can't reconcile is why, when they are shown in the fancy class, they are scorned, but when the same plants are shown in the class for any other body colour they are accepted as normal?
(Read the Schedule more carefully.— Ed,)
Now for the composts of the old timers. We’ve all heard, of course, of Emmerton’s famous concoctions, but there are others which are just as questionable, although not as objectionable, and it is in trying to follow one of these that led me into trouble. This leads me on to another subject, which is hardly relevant to the above comments and should really be directed to the Southern Society in answer to an article in their ‘Offsets’ under the heading ‘Sciara.’ I. happened to be one of the company that were discussing this little black fly, although the subject was raised by another member of the party who had suffered from them, and I most heartily agreed with him. Now, with all due respect to the report of the gentleman from Wisley, l contend there is a combination of circumstances that can lead to an attack by the larvae of this fly on our plants, and this is why.
I was fortunate to have a very successful first show, thanks to a good start by friends in the Society and growing in a good, plain, simple compost that I had used for years in growing dahlias, chrysanths and pot plants successfully. But I had to better, so where could I find the secret of successful auricula growing? Here we go; back to the old timers again. I tried late repotting in August to try and avoid autumn blooms. This was a clanger to start With in my case, at this fly is very prevalent at this time of the year. Next I looked for what I considered to be a reasonable compost, with a bit more life in it than mine. It had, and no mistake! Apart from the usual ingredients, excessive sand (and here I must cede a point to the expert), old manure or mushroom compost was recommended. Well, having duly mixed this little lot, what else do the old timers recommend? Remove all the old soil, trim back the roots, shorten the carrot. and what have we left, lads? A piece of dead greenery; not just dormant, but dead; and it will remain so, a ready prey for any cootie lurking in the manure (and don’t let anybody tell me they sterilise their manure) until such time as roots start to form on the upper portion of the carrot, a month or so later, I don’t think it necessary to remove every particle of soil. I never did, on hundred of plants before this one time, shake off any loose soil that doesn’t need brodling for by all means, but leave it at that. Trim the roots? Not ‘Pygmalion’ likely! Not unless you want to try to put a well grown plant back into a same size pot or smaller. Another bloomer l made. Which doesn’t mean that you don't remove any old and dead roots that you may find; it’s the muck clinging to the little root hairs that doesn‘t want washing off. Shorten the carrot? Not unless its absolutely needed, as with a lanky plant, in which ease I treat the top portion as an offset, or when the carrot can be broken easily between the fingers leaving little or no scar, as shortening of the carrot is said to be a natural characteristic of the auricula, Incidentally, this could well be the answer to another gentleman’s query in ‘Offsets,‘ whose problem was limp leaves; if the carrot breaks naturally, at times on a well grown plant, it is quite feasible that the leaves will go limp for a while, until such time as the roots on the upper portion of the carrot are formed, in his case three to four weeks.
So back to my tale of woe. I dropped all the above clangers and the plants went down like soldiers in ‘the thin red line’ in late September, October and early November, and all of them, on being examined under a glass, were alive with the larvae this fly, and no one will convince me otherwise. After the worst period l have ever had while gardening, I repotted in November and managed to save most of the remainder, but l was unable to show anything the following year. It makes me shudder to think of all the collections that must have been destroyed by the indiscriminate use of old manure in the past. So to sum up, l believe the conditions that can create a loophole for this fly are as follows: time of the year, condition of the plant, and composition of the compost. I shiver every time I see a little black fly in the greenhouse, and I try to counteract these visits by watering the plants with diluted Jeyes Fluid an alternate waterings, that is, half the manufacturer’s recommended dilution as a pest deterrent, l don’t say it cures, but it does no harm, and I like to think it helps. It also seems to keep our other little friends at bay.
So, my dear beginners. the moral of all this rigmarole is to read and enjoy, as I do, everything you can lay your hands on about the history of the auricula, but you don‘t have to believe it all, But above all, use your loaf, keep it simple, and try to benefit from your own experience.
J. H. STANT.
Archive Miscellany - October 2021.
We look this month at the topic of watering, an article by J. Robinson, taken from the 1963 Year Book, Part 1.
Looking through my notes and list of plants, one note stood out above all others: “Died of faulty watering." One autumn a friend gave me my first auriculas, a present of four Alpines and two Shows. With what care I watered them nearly every day all through the winter, looking forward to the Spring when they would be in bloom, but, alas, four died and the other two were very sick. Fortunately for these two, I had a breakdown in health and was bedfast for several weeks. We both recovered.
This leads me to my first point: what is the most important care in growing auriculas? Seeing that the plant is not drowned by too much water being left around the roots. This is best done by taking care that the drainage of the pot is perfect and the compost is an open one, with just the right amount of very coarse, sharp sand, together with a moisture-retainer such as peat or leaf mould. J.l.C.2 is a good compost if bought from the right seedsman. This is often too dry when repotting; the best method is to add at little water at a time, mixing well together, then leaving for 24 hours to give the water time to penetrate the peat in the compost. Now take a handful of the compost and squeeze together into a ball. touch this ball with the other hand, and if all is correct it will fall apart: if not, add either water or compost. Now take a clean and soaked plant pot, cover the drainage hole with a small piece of perforated zinc. then place pieces of broken pot, with the bent side upwards, taking care the drainage hole is not covered, The next care is to see that the compost will not fall through the broken pot and close the drainage hole. There are at few Ways of doing this, but the one I like is to put a layer of dead spagnum moss over the broken pots. You are now ready to repot the plant, taking care not to upset the drain- age. which it quite easy to do. Leave about an inch of space between the top of the compost and the top of the pot which when filled with water will be sufficient to water the whole of the pot leaving a little to run away.
Now you have a good plant in a well-drained pot, and try to keep it so. There are a number of ways drainage can he lost. Placing the pot on a flat surface in such a manner that the hole in the pot is closed up. It its perhaps better to place on the bench a layer of stone chippings to allow the water to run away. Examine the base every now and then to see the free run is not blocked by a collapse of the drainage system or by a worm cast. I have seen a worm enter a pot in the frame by the top, the hole at the bottom being covered by the perforated zinc. If a plant is not making the progress it should and the watering is suspected, repot.
The next problem is when to water and how best to do it. “When” will vary greatly on the size of the plant. its position and the heat and ventilation round the pot all have an influence, also the type of pot being used. The earthenware pot most used is porous and the water evaporates through the sides. The old auricula growers used a long tom pot glazed on the outside, which did prevent some of this, and there are now plastic pots which also do this, but these have the great disadvantage of not being able to sound the pot, as mentioned in the next paragraph, and can only be judged by its weight if watering is required.
In order to sound a pot, tap it with a stick, and if it gives a ring more water is required. Do not forget to tap at the bottom as well as the top; you may find a difference in the tone of the ring, indicating that only the top of the pot is dry, so not so much Water is required. The first watering will run through the compost or down the inside of the pot. This has an advantage, giving the roots time to recover, but a second watering must be given later in order to thoroughly dampen the peat in the compost Do not water in dibs and dabs, and if possible use aired water. This can be done by leaving the water in the greenhouse for a time.
“I have at few hundred pots, but my wife, who sometimes waters them, says there are several thousands.”
Archive Miscellany - September 2021.
We look this month to an article from the 1966 Year Book itself a reprint from the Northern report 1929.
By the late F. D. Horner
Whatever we may say or do in the matter of Autumnal blooming, the one thing certain is that Auricula will take no notice of it. Times and the way of repotting have simply nothing to do with it, although the idea is prepossessing, and a very inviting jump to take at a conclusion. It is an attractive theory that by late repotting the plant must needs sustain a wholesome check, or take a later start which shall tide it over the temptations of the Autumn before it has strength, nor the weakness, to yield to them. However, by one inborn habit, nothing at all out of the common, the Auricula dashes through all the possible poetry of an Autumn-tide, vernal with Spring flowers; and it leaves an “unusual mildness of the season” with nothing remarkable about it except the weather. In fact, there would be no such thing as a Wintry Autumn if the only test of it were to be the total absence of “flowers that bloom in the Spring tra la!”
This is, in one respect, a curious habit in that these Autumnal blossoms cannot hope to progress to the natural consummation of perfecting seed, and so it may seem a lack of domestic economy in the plant.
But let us be fanciful a moment, if we cannot be poetical, and imagine that in the beauty of a serene and balmy Autumn these Spring flowers take a brief holiday at a leisure time, and cast aside the cares of life for the pleasure of it.
Perhaps it may be partly in the spirit of this fancy that I allow a few Auriculas to flower in the Autumn, but it is not all mere sentiment.
Maiden seedlings may certainly do so for the sake of weeding out varieties with petals of flimsy texture and thin or narrow paste. At this earlier stage also may the “pin-eye” go its way, with the hard and blank expression; lifeless in comparison with the fullness and beauty of the “mossy eye,” with the golden anthers that are, in effect, half eyelashes as well as eye.
Still, judgement should be cautious in the Autumn, and given against only great and radical faults, for it may be that a seedling self, now rough and notched in petal, may possibly become smooth and rose-leaved in the Spring. The chance is not altogether great, but it is there. Heroine’s first flower came one Autumn, but it was smooth and round even then, which with other seedling selfs it has not been so.
In edged seedlings, too, a hope as slender may suffice to spare a plant till Spring, if the proportions of the tube and paste are good, and only the proportions of the edge and body colour wild. Till such time, too, I would spare even a pointed petal, though there is faint hope for that. Theses faults are only no worse than some of our best Auriculas can commit when flowering out of due season, and there is a power in a maiden seedling, possessing probably more aboundant roots than it will ever have again, that will cause a few Autumnal flowers to be appreciative strain upon its store of strength.
My friend, Mr. Henwood, gives a useful warning on the danger of removed Autumn trusses hastily. There is imminent risk of “gouging out” the buds as soon as they are visible. The wounded part bleeds, and the incipient stem is far too succulent to die back dry, and too short to lay hold of for removal. It only rots down into the heart, and then all is soon over.
Very often, too, these “nest of pips” would, if left alone, send up only two or three leading pips, which can easily be cut away as they develop. The remainder may rest quiet until the Spring, and in the case of self varieties, will probably come slowly and solidly forward, and be of fine substance. Even if the whole trustt were to rise in Autumn I would not decapitate the whole at a stroke. It is better to allow the stem to rise an inch or two, and remove the pips as they begin to swell. The growth is then gradually checked, patience being rewarded by an empty stalk of substance enough to save it from rotting down into the plant, and length enough by which to draw it wholly out.
From Mr. Heanwood’s notes, it is curious to see how varieties that bloom Autumnly in some localities are models of propriety in others. “Heroine,” I know, has no respect for any feelings, and I have seldom known her so completely quiet with me, as she has been in this very open and tempting season, but I never have had the dark “Black Bess” or the blue “Mrs. Potts” flowering in the Autumn.
“Prince of Greens” will form quiescent Autumn trusses, and by traditions of its class, should bloom finely in Spring from these old side trusses, but I have never seen it do so. The buds get checked, the petals come pointed, and the paste execrable.
“George Lightbody” occasionally has buds bare in the Autumn, but they are apt to make large and sleepy pips with too much eye, which is either a dull and heavy green, or an undecided grey, accompanied with insufficient breadth and boldness of body colour.
On the other hand, there occur to me instances where some few varieties can flower more richly in the Autumn than in Spring. Of there, the white edge “Reliance” is an example, a flower that in Spring is so terribly slow in opening that it seldom gets kindly expanded, and the gold in the tube never lights up till all else is on the wane, like part of a set-piece in fireworks that hangs fire, and outlives the rest.
Archive Miscellany - August 2021.
We look this month to Mr W. M. Shipman, an article from the "Noted Growers" series, this from the 1931 Year Book.
W. M. SHIPMAN, ESQ.
"His return as an exhibitor at our Shows has afforded the greatest satisfaction, and we have much pleasure in presenting a recent portrait of our friend.
We ascertain from Mr Shipman that his first interest in the Auricula arose when he went to a Show at the Old Town Hall, Manchester, in the "Eighties," and was much struck with the green flower. Asking a gentleman, who turned out to be Rev. F. D. Horner, whether he could purchase a plant or two, was informed that he did not sell himself, but introduced him to Mr Ben Simmonite, from whom he purchased six plants. These were subsequently supplemented by a few plants from a Mr Worsley, of Bristol. From this beginning he has built up the largest collection in the kingdom. He first exhibited at the Botanical Gardens, Manchester, in 1896, but his first success was in 1898, when he was awarded first prize for pairs in the maiden grower's class. Since then until 1916 he was a regular exhibitor in the Northern, Midland and Southern sections of the National Auricula Society, obtaining many cups, medals and certificates.
His recent success at our Shows in 1930 and 1931 are vivid in our memories.
He was President of the Midlands Section from 1913 to 1931, when, unfortunately, that section passed into what we hope is only a temporary suspension of their activities.
Mr Shipman will be remembered as the raiser of many Show
varieties, including the following:
Green Edge - Cleveley Gem, Medusa, Medea, Tim and Peter.
Grey Edge - Cleveley Hero, W. E. Wright, Drusus, Greystoke.
White Edge - Silver.
Self - Mrs Essex Tatton, Fawnus, Fabius, Blue Cap.
Alpines - Molly Shipman, Bessie Wright, Blue Jacket, Mrs J. W. Bentley, Cleveley Blue, Joan Shipman.
Mr Shipman is one of the few associated with such old growers as James Douglas, Mr William Smith (of Bishop Stratford), Mr Phillips (of Bracknell, of the South), Mr A. K. Brown, Mr Richard Holding, Mr E. Danks, Mr Chas. Winn and Mr C. S. Yeoman, all Midland growers of repute; The Rev. F. D. Horner, Ben Simmonite, Mr J. W. Bentley and Tom Lord, our Northern veterans. The latter, in his opinion, was the best and most finished grower of Exhibition Auriculas.
We trust that we may be favoured by Mr Shipman's presence at our Annual Shows for many years to come."
Archive Miscellany - July 2021.
Should you not have already re-potted your auriculas yet, this month we present an article from the 1931 Year Book, author not listed.
Auriculas - Beginners Only
There are, I hope, some gardeners who are beginning to grow auriculas in pots for the first time, or who wish they could. If there are not, we, as a society, are not making enough progress. If there are any, and they are over twenty, they have lost some time, and these notes are intended to help those who do not wish to lose any more. That is, they are extremely plain, simple guide for beginners only; others can skip. However raw the beginner, it is assumed that they are interested enough to wish to start on the right lines, and right away, here is the first and easily the most important piece of advice. If you know any grower of auriculas within hailing distance, go to him, knock on his door, and introduce yourself, and if I know anything at all, your initial difficulties will be over. An old French writer once said that auricula growers were the kindest of men, the salt of the earth: and they still are. But don't put on too yearning a look - it can be embarrassing.
Failing this, first get some plants. It isn't easy, but it is far from impossible. They can be got by gift, exchange, purchase, or just good luck. If you have any choice, they can be alpine varieties with advantages, as these are less temperamental than show varieties, and respond to kindness more readily. On the other hand, if shows are thrust upon you, don't be frightened of them or shy, but just go ahead and make a success of them. This is a really important fact to get hold of from the first; that auriculas, whether they are the rarest of the rare, or just what have you, are plants, only plants and nothing more. There are a lot of senseless notions about auriculas, and one is that they are a mysterious kind of vegetation which requires very special treatment and the initiation into deep and obtrusive secrets only to be attained by a few super experts at rare intervals. Some auricula growers have encouraged such beliefs, but just forget it. If you think you can grow good geraniums or fuchsias, you can tackle auriculas just as easily. Having made these two important initial steps, that is, getting the plants and clearing your mind of cobwebs, the rest is easy. Give your plants good growing conditions and care, and all will come out well. "And care" is the most important rule in auricula culture. Auriculas in pots do require care, regular, constant and common sense care, then they will grow.
Get some soil - call it compost or growing medium or what you like - but get the best you can. Not much will be required, so something can be spent on it if necessary. If you know a grower of experience near you, beg some from him, or take his advice. Failing that go to a nearby nursery, placate the forman, and ask for some clean new potting soil, but not especially enriched. If you wish to have the pleasure of mixing some yourself, instructions have been given many times for making simple wholesome suitable potting soil. This is an easy part of the job, but if you think you can concoct some irresistible fancy mixture of all the virtues you are turning up the wrong lane for a start - don't do it. Pots of 4½ inch diameter at the top are big enough for the most robust plant, and long, deep pots - long toms - when available need not be more than 4 inch. The assumption is that your new plants are fully developed adult plants, otherwise you will require smaller pots. The important thing to remember is not to over-pot. You probably will, from a mistaken idea of kindness, but it is likely to be harmful. An auricula in a smallish pot, well crocked and potted into the best possible soil, will do heaps better than one in a pot unnecessarily large. This is a plain, indisputable fact, admitting of no argument. Later on you can experiment and will be astonished to find how cheerfully an auricula will thrive in a pot apparently too small. It is important to get suitable sized pots even if you start with only a dozen, because it is worth while keeping your pots of uniform sizes; when you get two or three hundred plants they look better so. Smaller pots can be got next year when you have some offsets to deal with.
Having got plants, soil and pots, crock a few very conscientiously. Regards it as amajor operation, i.e., do it properly. Put in the soil a coarser layer at the bottom if you have it and then a bit more to bring it to a level where the lowest roots will lie. Then take your first plant and examine it minutely. You will never have such a chance for a year. remove any really decayed lower leaves, but don't attempt to pluck it like a chicken. Then probe into the root system. This will consist of a thick tap root without much taper (the carrot). Examine the lower end of it, which will be brown and rotten. There is no need to worry; if needed, cutit off to a really sound place. At its very healthiest there will probably be a bit of brown corky matter at the end which can be scraped off with the thumb nail. many older growers shorten the carrot as routing practice, and in doing so cut off some of the lower roots. It is easy to see that the new vigorous roots come from near the neck, so there is no serious loss, but probably you won't venture to do this. It is no great matter so long as there is no decayed carrot left on. The roots themselves which spring from the carrot should be gone through, and any black, decayed ones removed. Often they are a clue to a bad place in the carrot. Clear them all up thoroughly, and if it makes you feel good, dress all cuts with lime, charcoal, sulphur, separately or in any mixture. It will do no harm. I should have said that to wash every bit of soil from the roots to begin with is a help towards a through examination, and also that it has been advised to shorten the roots themselves where they are an awkward length. Probably you won't do this either. When all this is done, and really it is a very interesting job, place the ball of roots upon the soil in your prepared pot, work in your soil gently and thoroughly, firming it as you go on. The plant should be dead in the centre, and if it is not, you will regret every day that you were not more careful. Pot nearly up to, but not above, the lowest leaves. Practice varies in this, but as the natural and gradual loss of outer leaves eventually bares the neck, it isn't sightly to leave much bare to begin with. But don't pot so deeply that the bases of any leaves are below the soil. (Primroses and polyanthus can do with this but not auriculas). The plant should now be sitting on the soil, very slightly clear of it, and again let it be said, exactly in the centre. Opinion differs among experts about the firmness of the potting. Don't ram it as you would a chrysanthemum, but let it be really firm. Label very neatly with a date and go on to the next. Stand the pots on the floor and shade for a few days if they flag. If your soil was at the right state for using for moisture content, your plants will probably pick up in a day or two, and often seem to put on a vigorous look very quickly. If they remain flaccid owing to hot weather or initial dryness of the soil, give them one moderate drink. If you read, or anyone tells you that this is a deadly deed, point out that it is still more deadly to allow plants to die of thirst. You will come upon many such old wives' tales. No newly-potted plant of any kind should be drowned or swilled out of the pot. It all boils down to what has been stated before in these notes, and with advantage could be said many times, that the chief guide to success in growing auriculas is to treat them as plants, just that and a little extra allowance of common sense. Advice on after treatment can be found in any of our reports.
Just one final note. Your auriculas will do very well with about three times as much fresh air, summer and winter, as you ever think necessary. See to this, and Good Luck!
Archive Miscellany - June 2021.
This month we look at hardy Primulas suitable for the rockery. The article is taken from the 1926 Year Book.
Hardy Primulas for Rockeries etc.
Author not given
The genus Primula is one of the most beautiful and interesting of all plants. In habit, form, colour, and scent, they have a special charm of their own, which appeals in a more or less degree to everyone. Their distribution is almost world wide, being found at home in the meadows and mountain ranges of Switzerland, the Himalayas, China, Tibet, Japan, and even the Rocky Mountains, as well as the British Isles. Well over two hundred different species have been collected in their own native habitats, and with few exceptions the majority are hardy in this country.
In this short account it will only be possible to enumerate a few of the best and most easily grown kinds, suitable for the Rock Garden, and for pots or pans in frames or cool greenhouses.
For the beginner we have selected a dozen very suitable for various parts of the rockery. These vary in colour from pure white to lilac, purple to bright scarlet, etc., and their heights range from 2 inches to 2 feet or more. The selection includes the charming orange coloured P. Bulleyana, 2 feet high, with several whorls of flowers on each stem. This species enjoys a cool position in half shade, or on the banks of a stream, planted in two parts of fibrous loam, one of leaf soil, and one of sharp sand.
P. Beesiana is similar in habit, but produces pale purple flowers, enjoys the same compost and position as recommended for P. Bulleyana.
An old favourite comes next, P. denticulata. This species will grow in almost any soil or position, but prefers the cooler parts in half shade. It bears large round heads of flowers, which vary from purple to pure white.
P. fonderosa is a charming plant for the higher level, close to the rocks. Here it is effective, with its mealy foliage and rosy purple flowers on 6 inch stems. It enjoys a more gritty soil and old lime rubble.
In P. involuerata we have a neat little plant with sorrel-like leaves, which eventually form a mat, surrounded with white flowers on slender stems 9 inches high. Best in sandy peat or leaf mould and sand in half shade.
P. Juliae hails from the Caucasus, and is of a creeping habit, with small leaves and rose-coloured flowers on 3 inch stems, like a miniature primrose. Blooms more freely in poor soil and in half shade.
P. Marginata, a well-known plant, with Auricula-like leaves, margined white: the flowers are lilac, on 4 inch stems. An ideal plant for a cleft in the rocks near the summit. Planted in good, fibrous loam, with plenty of old lime added, it never fails to make a good show.
P. pubescens, "The General," is of the same type, with charming ruby-red flowers. It deserves a good position high up, and similar soil as given for P. Marginata.
P. pulverulenta, a robust Chinese species, with whorls of crimson flowers, 2 feet or more in height. Same position and soil as P. Bulleyana. The same applies to the next on our list, i.e., P. "Red Hugh," a most glorious plant.
P. Secundiflora enjoys the same soil and position also. It is a distinct species, bearing umbels of drooping wine-coloured flowers, on 1 foot stems.
P. Wanda is a glorified primrose, but with smaller leaves and masses of purplish blue flowers in early spring. Will flourish in almost any soil or position.
This selection will keep up a succession of bloom from March until the end of June.