National Auricula & Primula Society
Northern Section
1873 - 2023
150th Anniversary
Northern Section
1873 - 2023
150th Anniversary
1873 - 2023
150th Anniversary
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The Society archive holds an assortment of material available to members for enjoyment or research and include among a host of other items:

  • Year books from 1904 to the present day, available in electronic format.
  • Profiles of our cups and trophies and those who donated them
  • Auricula theatres and their history
  • Old nursery catalogues
  • Committee minutes from 1873 to 2010
  • Collections of magazine and newspaper articles on Auriculas and Primulas; including a collection from 1873 to 1903 before our Year books started.
  • We also have a collection of old and modern books relating to Auriculas and Primulas within our library.

Any member who would like a full list of its contents, please e-mail the Archivist, Lesley Key on archivist@auriculas.org.uk.

Hardy Primulas for Rockeries etc.

Auricula Miscellany - October 2023.

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.

Hints for new growers

Auricula Miscellany - October 2023.

This month, an article from the 1932 Year Book - the author is not identified. It is interesting to note the change in our thinking, especially with regards to pots!


Pots. With many plants the precise shape of pot does not matter much, providing that it affords proper space for the roots, but in the case of Auriculas preference should always be given to pots that are exceptionally deep in comparison with their diameter at the top. The plant forms a long tap root, and the ordinary pot does not give the depth which is desirable. Do not overpot, 4 inch pots for full-sized plants, or slightly larger for the very robust varieties, being ample.

Soil. No one will deny that the Show Auricula is worth the special pains bestowed, and given a suitable compost of, say, 8 parts turfy loam, 2 parts leaf mould, and 1 part manure thoroughly decayed, with sufficient sand or crushed oyster shell to give porosity, no difficulty will be found in their management. The soil should be just moist.

Re-potting. When the flowers fade, re-potting may be taken in hand at once. Shake out the old soil and examine the end of the "Carrot"; if found brown and soft it must be cut back to where it is white and sound throughout. One or two varieties have a purplish wood; this must not be mistaken for rot. When this basel rot has been in evidence, it will be wise to re-pot the plant into a pot at least one size smaller than before. The plant should be put in fairly low, in order to allow for top dressing in the Spring. The soil must be made fairly firm, and after re-potting the plants they will be all the better for being somewhat close for a week or two and protected from strong sunshine, not more water being given at this stage than will just prevent flagging. During this operation of re-potting, the roots are almost sure to want cleaning from the woolly aphis, which is the most constant in attendance of all enemies of the Auricula. This can easily be done by a touch of methylated spirits applied by a small camel-hair brush to the affected parts.

Cultivation. The following hints should be observed:- Damp in winter and drought in summer should be avoided. water should be applied very sparingly while the plants are at rest, and care should be taken that it does not lodge in the hearts of the folded leaves. During the period from the beginning of November to early February, ample ventilation is necessary, and should not be withheld even during frost; but once new growth has started and flower buds have formed, it would be well to protect against frost. About the middle of March disbudding must be started in the earliest blooming sorts, and some judgement will have to be exercised in leaving a nicely balanced truss.


Archive Miscellany - September 2023.

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.

J. Robinson

“I have at few hundred pots, but my wife, who sometimes waters them, says there are several thousands.”

Autumn Trusses

An article by Ken Whorton from the 1999 Yearbook. Most of us still suffer from this problem.

Last year when my double auriculas threw up a veritable forest of autumn trusses I decided to use the opportunity to consider what factors may have caused such exceptional behaviour and keep some records to see what effect there would be on spring flowering.

The facts are that by late October almost a third of my 87 mature doubles had produced trusses with 15 varieties involved. By comparison only 8% of my shows were affected, which is about average and previously typical of my doubles as well. So what did I do differently with my doubles last year? The most obvious thing was that I re-potted them in mid-August, almost two months later than usual. My normal practice is to commence re-potting in late May, first the shows, then the doubles with the bulk dealt with by the end of June. I believe this late re-potting could have been the reason for this exceptional behaviour because their were no other obvious changes in the treatment and growing conditions of my auriculas and only the doubles were affected.

Double auriculas are generally strong growers due to their hybrid vigour and relatively short history of line-breeding compared with the edged and alpine types. My reasoning, for what it is worth, is that by the time I came to re-pot in August my doubles were so well advanced in their growing cycle that re-potting triggered the rise of the trusses. One corollary is that early re-potting halts the plants in its tracks and by the time new growth has occurred in the autumn the natural resting period is imminent. Another inference perhaps is not to re-pot as autumn commences.

There are, of course, all kinds of ifs and buts about this theory and I am sure that other factors are also involved in determining flowering time, for example the sudden lengthening of the day resulted from the early removal of summer shading ( ref Bob Taylor's comment in the 1996 yearbook). In this respect, what about the effect of the increasing use of suburban high intensity security lighting? Also, varietal tendency?

The trusses were of two types- short-stemmed with the truss well down in the leaf rosette and long-stemmed. Apprehensive about winter rot I left the stems in place and nipped off the pips from the footstalks of the long-stemmed trusses. The pips on the short stems continued to develop and I was able to take decent pips iron 8 varieties to the local group meeting in January.

Less than a third of the plants with autumn trusses flowered again in the spring which tends to support the belief that an autumn truss is more oflen than not the rurination of an intended exhibition plant.

Are there any lessons to be learned from the exercise? Well probably not because the obvious conclusion is not necessarily the right answer to problems of growing auriculas. However, I intend to revert to earlier re-potting of my doubles and it will be interesting to see whether this results in a normal incidence of autumn trusses.

The following note regarding autumn flowering is from Malcolm Foster.

“The 'autumn' plants were:- Arundell Stripe(2), Brookfield, Bob Lancashire (2), Devon Cream, Doublure, Fleminghouse, Margaret Martin, Mikado, Orb, Rene, Sharmans Cross (2), Sword, and a light centre seedling.

All flowered this year. I cannot say whether they flowered later than usual because so many of my plants were late, in fact I could hold a one man show next week-end! I estimate the above represent about l0% of my mature plants, (3 1/2" pots) and I kept my shading on until October."

The Colour of Selfs

This article has been taken from the 1994 Yearbook, written by David Hadfield.

A couple of years ago a wave of indignation ran through a section of the society when judges at the auricula show had the temerity to exclude a plant because they did not consider it to be as the schedule specified. Now there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that, it has been done before and since without much of a fuss being created and after all we expect judges to uphold the standard of our plants, so what was all the noise about on this occasion? Presumably because the variety had been shown before in the class without being excluded and so, one might say, a precedent had been established. One might also say that it is not the first time that a variety has been excluded after initial acceptance; Chorister. It was relegated to and has remained in the wilderness of the “any other colour” after one declaration of “NAS”. It might also be said that there has been an ongoing debate about the acceptability of cultivars of a similar colour to the one excluded.

To confuse the issue one of the complainants was informed that a couple of decades or so ago flowers of the hue of the one disqualified were the norm and those currently in vogue would have been deemed unacceptable- not so of course, as reference to the yearbooks of that period will demonstrate. But the question arose, "What shades should be acceptable in the class?" and when put to the committee, it came up with the pragmatic response “Anything in the appropriate RHS colour chart".

Obviously, the auricula referred to above is “that” yellow, but the same problem exists across the schedule. No one shade has ever been declared to be solely acceptable for any of our self classes; blues are mostly shades of violet and few reds approach the colour of the pillar box on the corner of the road or the shirts of the local football team, so how do we decide what is acceptable in these classes? Do we, as was suggested at the time of the debate over the yellows could well happen, reject any really red, blue or black self that comes along because they do not comply with what has gone before. Of course not, we offer our hearty congratulations to the raiser and press on to purer and brighter shades.

The plethora of self classes is a fairly recent innovation: “single self” or “one self' used to be the requirement and all went in the melting pot. Yellows were long ago separated out. but the remainder stayed lumped together in the one class for many years. Form had always been the criterion for judging selfs and provided it was not shaded any colour was acceptable. It had been long recognised that if there were to be improvements in the more difficult hues then they would have to be provided with a stage of their own and not be forced to compete with the likes of Harrison Weir, the Mikado of which Dr. Newton wrote “A good one would always heat any other self”, or Neat and Tidy its successor as the dominant self. 1971 saw a complete revision of the schedule to incorporate classes for each self colour; red, blue and dark, plus the existing one for yellows. The catch-all for the “Funnies” came along the following year. l suppose it would be reasonable to question whether the provision of classes for the different colours has had any effect upon the development of the selfs and I think “not much" would have to be the answer. Yellows have always been plentiful, darks used to be, but “srnokies" appear to have fallen from favour and really good near-blacks are few, reds and blues have not improved in the last couple of decades. Most years see the introduction of another world-beater. usually with the life-span of one of those gems from that notorious high-street jeweller, but I suppose that the additional classes have given a lease of life to some of the lesser lights in the more difficult colours and thereby brightened up the showbench.

It has been suggested that we may have to find room on the bench for classes for the many new hues now finding their way out of breeders' greenhouses. I can't believe that a bench of classes for single selfs is the right way forward, (if we did we could well end up with classes for one variety); those we have at the moment should be sufficient to cater for most of the colours that are likely to be produced. Real crimsons, scarlets and true blues obviously go into their respective classes and I see no reason why light reds. light blues, pinks, browns, et.al. should not be slotted in along with them- even if it means defining precisely what colours are acceptable in each class as has been done for the yellows.....

Of Pests & Preditors - Vine Weevil

Taken from the 1986 Yearbook, this pest is still relevant today. Some Northern members have recently trialled biological controls (Nematodes), with some success.

Of Pests and Preditors - Vine Weevil

by Anne Pickering

Of course some auricula and primula growers tell us that they never get attacks on their plants by vine weevil or mushroom fly. It could be true because they also produce beautiful show plants and go to great lengths to check their plants regularly and treat them with all sorts of chemical mixtures. Lesser mortals, however, do have to contend with both vine weevil and mushroom fly larvae.

Vine weevil attack all primulas and many other plants. ln urban areas the pest is usually introduced by buying an infected plant and in the rural areas the weevil can also come scampering in from the surrounding countryside.

The adult vine weevils hatch out in May and June. It is one of Britain's larger weevils but is not often seen as it is active at night. Damage caused by the adult is more often seen on the softer primula leaves in the open ground than on auricula leaves and the damage is slight - semi-circular pieces of leaf are eaten out of the margins of the leaf.

The weevil lays eggs around the neck of the plant in August and September and the larvae develop during autumn and winter. The creamy-white curved grubs feed on the root system of the plant until you go in one morning and find the plant lying limp on the surface. With auriculas the plant can sometimes be rescued by rooting the remains of the carrot or an offset in a peat/perlite mixture in a propagator, but the plant certainly won't be in any show that year.

Damage by vine weevils, especially in primulas, can sometimes be followed by an infection of Mushroom fly larvae (sciarid fly).

The adult Mushroom fly is a tiny black fly and the larvae which do the damage, again to the roots, is a tiny wormlike animal about 1 cm long. it is particularly common in soiless composts and causes a great deal of damage to petiolarid primulas. Again the first signs of damage may be to find the plant lying loose and rootless on the surface of the compost.

DDT and Aldrin were very effective against both these pests but DDT, Aldrin and related substances are now barred.

Fisons have now brought out 'Cudgel' to contain both vine weevil and sciarid fly larvae. Koppert have produced a biological control for vine weevil; this is an eel worm which does not affect the plants but only the vine weevil larvae, which they infect and kill, releasing more eelworms which infect more vine weevil larvae. The eel worms are supplied as a powder, mixed into a suspension in water and sprayed over the plants.

There is a disadvantage - for successful application the temperature of the soil must be 13°C or higher as the eelworms do not function at a temperature below this. They remain alive at 2°C but are not actively working and multiplying so they aren't much use for the North but might be useful in glasshouses in the Midlands, round Bradford and Manchester and in the South.

Looking Backward

Taken from the the 1961 Part 2 Yearbook, this article by an earlier Secretary R. H. Briggs. He looked back on the Society, some aspects are still relevant today!

R.H. Briggs

Gardeners do not need to be urged to plan ahead, as, with bulb catalogues already in their hands and seed and plant catalogues shortly due, one can imagine their pleasure during the long winter evenings planning for the year ahead, each full of hope that, whatever failures there may have been during the past year, the next year will surely be the best ever.

While it is undoubtedly good practice to plan well ahead, it is sometimes profitable to look backward to see where mistakes have been made and take pains to ensure that they do not occur again. Officials of societies are no more immune from making mistakes than are its individual members: from an examination of old reports and schedules one can only come to the conclusion that officials of our own Society, when in its infancy, at times lacked foresight.

Early schedules showed that in Show auriculas there were classes for twelve, six, four, pairs and singles, and several members could show in all those classes, but today we have very few members capable of doing so; there must be some reason for this decline, especially in Show varieties. The cult of the auricula in the early days of the Society's existence seems to have been confined to a radius of about fifteen miles around Middleton, which leads one to assume that few plants were distributed far afield or pains taken to create an interest in the flower outside the confines of this parochial area.

Possibly, or probably, these early devotees became too complacent and content with the varieties then existing; complacency, as we knows, spells ruin. In 1924 - when I joined the Society - the number of members had dwindled to less than half those recorded in the heyday of its youth. Classes for twelve auriculas had been deleted from the schedule. Of course, the First World War was no doubt responsible for some of the decline, but rather l imagine it was due to lack of foresight.

When the first Year Book was issued in 1945, one applicant for it wrote saying he had been growing auriculas all his life but, hitherto, had never heard, or read, of the existence of an Auricula Society. Rather a reflection on past officials, seeing the Society was founded in 1873.

Our Editor has asked me to give him some of the impressions made upon me during the tenure of office as secretary. My foremost impression is of the wholehearted support received from all when plans were outlined to make an effort to rescue the Society from the slough into which it had sunk; at that period there were but thirty-six members; to effect this recovery it was decided to issue a Year Book instead of a brief two-page report.

The first issue was well received and made an encouraging beginning. It enabled us to offer something new to members, and by judicious advertising, from that time we steadily increased our numbers. In 1951 I found the twofold job of secretary and editor rather too onerous, and handed the Year Book over to the present editor as, I hope, a going concern. Today it is published in two parts, and is regarded by our widespread members as an important link and a means of keeping touch with auricula happenings apart from the annual shows. It has been distributed not only in every county in this country, but in several countries overseas, particularly America and Canada. To cut a long story short; whereas in 1945 the membership was thirty-six, today it is near two hundred and sixty.

The Second World War caused a halt in activities, but failed to stop them. It speaks well for the determination of members and officials to stage at least some semblance of a show during those fateful years. The decision was to hold a “one plant one member” show if a suitable place could be found in which to hold it; no prizes were given; none were expected. The real object was to get as many members as possible together to give them an opportunity for an exchange of views and experience. The Coal Exchange, which had been the venue for the Show for many years, was closed to us; our present room at the Corn Exchange was far too big for the purpose we had in mind, so a small sub-committee was appointed to try to find a suitable room. Eventually, such a room was made available to us in the Deansgate Hotel, but, unfortunately, that place was burned down only a few weeks before the Show was to be held.

Not to be deterred, another attempt was made, and we deemed ourselves fortunate to obtain the accommodation we desired at the “Mitre,” and so for two years we had to be content with this limited accommodation, but for those who were fortunate enough to be able to be present they were enjoyable social gatherings. Unfortunately, Manchester was almost “out of bounds” to members living some distance away, for those who usually came by car could not spare sufficient petrol from their meagre ration, and many of those who usually came a considerable distance by train were conscious of the appeal of that slogan, “Is your journey really necessary?” - and responded to its appeal. It is perhaps too much to say that in going into Manchester those days one took one's life in one's hands, but certainly on one occasion when leaving the hotel, sirens were wailing and the ack-ack of anti-aircraft guns could be heard faintly in the distance.

Although some floral societies ceased to exist during those difficult years, the Auricula Society - at least, the Northern section - came through the ordeal bruised but not broken, thanks to the courage and determination shown by officials and members alike. It holds an honourable position among floral societies in the country today. To the best of my knowledge none of our members who were called up for war service suffered severe personal injuries, but a few suffered in other ways. Mr. Antrobus, who I think was the oldest of our members both in years and membership and was our foremost raiser and exhibitor of the gold-laced polyanthus; he suffered a great loss when an anti-aircraft shell failed to explode in mid air, but did so amongst his precious plants. He managed to save a few, but lost the major portion of his stock; it was a great loss both to him and to the Society. We were sorry to learn quite recently that Mr. Antrobus had passed away. His reputation as a grower and raiser of the gold-laced polyanthus is not confined to this country.

Except for this reference to Mr. Antrobus, I have purposely refrained from mentioning individuals; there are far too many who, during my sixteen years' tenure of office, gave me that unstinted support which made what might have been a toil into a pleasure, to refer to them individually, but I take this opportunity to express to all officials, past and present, and to all members whom I have had the pleasure of contacting personally or by correspondence, my gratitude for the many kindnesses shown to me and, at times, for their forbearance.

One cannot look back over a period of years without feeling a sense of loss of many with whom one had such pleasant associations. Our best remembrance of them is to emulate to the best of our ability the efforts they made to ensure the welfare of the Society.

R. H. BRIGGS, Rossendale.

Our Founding Fathers


The original Officers and Committee of the Society's creation in 1873, should be considered our founding fathers. Probably the first document issued by the Society dated 1874, lists those involved.

1874 doc



Clement Royds was our first President from its formation in 1873 to his death in 1916. He was instrumental in maintaining the Society by his patronage and very generous support. Born into a wealthy banking family, Clement was a soldier becoming the Commanding Officer of the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry. He became MP for Rochdale from 1895 to 1906. On his death he was succeed as President by James W. Bentley J.P. C.C.



Elected as our first Secretary and Treasurer, he held these posts until 1891, being replaced by Samuel Barlow as Treasurer and W. Smethurst as Secretary. He was then elected to the post of Vice President, which he held until his death in 1912. Horner delighted in raising seedlings in collaboration with Ben Simonite of Sheffield.


Of the two original Vice Presidents, little is known about John Rowland.

SAMUEL BARLOW (1825 - 1893)


Samuel began to grow Auriculas in the early 1870's inspired by the Rev. Horner. Credited with 31 varieties of green edges, 23 varieties of grey edges, 20 white edges, and 28 selfs. He also grew about 40 varieties of Alpines. Samuel succeeded Horner as Treasurer in 1892 until his death the following year, when he was succeeded by his nephew J. W. Bentley.


As above, little is known regarding the original Committee members, with the exception of Ben Simonite.

BEN SIMONITE (1834 - 1909)


Arguably the finest grower of his time! Ben was a committee member from 1873 to 1904, being elected as Vice President in 1905 to his death in 1909. The 1928 Annual Report, paid tribute to Ben: “We are justly proud of this Northerner, and all Auricula growers owe him a debt of gratitude for the work he accomplished. When a youth he came in contact with Horner, and the closest friendship was established through their mutual love of Auriculas. It is well know that they exchanged plants for the sake of the pollen, and Simonite acted the distribution agent. He once told a friend that for the first ten years he never raised a thing worth a brass farthing, nevertheless, he was the actual raiser of Rev. F. D. Horner, Shirley Hibberd (another old friend), Dr. Hardy, Raven, Ruby, Gladiator, Cleopatra, and about a score of others. There was little concerning the Auricula and Polyanthus, either as regards cultivation or history, that he was not conversant with. Born June 24th 1834, died march 29th 1909. On his tombstone in the Cemetery, City Road, Sheffield, is a medallion of an Auricula plant.”

Our First Harrogate Show 1973

As well as being our 150th Anniversary this year, it is also the 50th anniversary of our first Harrogate Spring Flower Show in 1973. This article is taken from the 1973 Yearbook.



The Society staged its first display of Auriculas and Primulas at the Harrogate Spring Flower Show this year, from Thursday 26th April to Saturday 28th April.

Harrogate stages Britain's largest early spring flower show in the beautiful Valley Gardens a flower show in themselves. Leading nurseries provide displays of flowering trees and shrubs, and an endless variety of flowers, too numerous to list. In conjunction with this show the Alpine Garden Society hold theirs, and it was in their tent that the Society staged it's exhibit.

The idea of staging the display began with thoughts of showing our plant to a large number of the public who would be interested in horticulture and spring flowers in particular.
In August last year the first approach was made by the society to Mr. A. Ravenscroft who is the Show Director and the Parks Director for Harrogate Corporation. It was his helpfulness in the early days that made the whole thing seem feasible and so provide the will to carry on with the idea.
Mr. Ravenscroft through his wonderful staff made all the necessary arrangements at the show. They built the staging to our specification and provided the peat and stone to exhibit the primulas.

Plants were delivered to and collected by Messrs Millward, Hadfield and Kilshaw over the Easter weekend. It was really at this time the three of us knew the show was on. As before this we were not too sure that sufficient plants would be ready or available.
At the crack of dawn Wednesday 25th April, three cars full of passengers, plants and exhibitor's necessaries were got ready and then driven to Harrogate where we all met up and the two ladies, Mrs. Allison and Mrs. Kilshaw were introduced.
So there we were, now joined by Mr. & Mrs. Allison, champing at the bit and raring to go. The tactics of staging and organisation were discussed decided upon and the business of preparing the stand and selecting the plants began.

It had been decided originally to stage the Auriculas in the classic style, that is, on a tiered stage against a black ground, this is where the first problem arose - not enough cloth had been bought, so the show superintendent was approached and proved only too willing to help us out with as much material as we required. Thus, all our immediate worries abated, we set about preparing the stand; cloth; tacks; pins; and finally, Mrs. Allison on her knees, sewing the material together to make all as neat as possible.
Next the plants; three tiers each holding fifteen or sixteen pots. and in front, an area about sixteen square feet for Primulas.
Basically, the Auriculas were staged - one tier Alpines, two Shows, but to even the display up this had to be modified somewhat.
The most likely looking plants were placed on one side where the ladies popped each into a plastic long-tom and disguised the deed by dressing with peat.

As the staging was being carried out, the inevitable lookers-on gathered, nursery men who grew alpines, but had never seen anything like it before, and the warped ladies from the flower arrangement classes who wanted to use green edges for flower arrangements!

Eventually the Auriculas were in place and we started on the primulas, these were slightly disappointing as we had nowhere near enough, having to pad them out with small specimens of Auriculas. The Primulas were set out buried in peat, and a scattering of rocks to present as natural setting as possible, we thought it looked quite presentable! Then we were able to relax and wander around the other stands, mouthwatering displays of spring flowers and the like.

Thursday morning showed us the reward for our efforts, a large silver medal. very gratifying!
As soon as the gates were opened to the public and the crowds came into the marquee, the stand became a centre of attraction, gasps of admiration and wonder, and the inevitable question, “Where can I buy them?”
People who showed more than a passing interest in the plants were encouraged to become members of the Society.
Forty new members joined at the show, and others took the necessary details and joined later by post or at the show in the Corn Exchange, which had been well advertised at Harrogate.

A pleasant surprise was the number of Society Members who came and made themselves known, people who couldn't come to Manchester, but always made the trip to Harrogate, this alone would have made the effort worth while and it poses the question as to whether or not we should make the effort regularly, so giving those of us who can't make the annual show a chance to see Auriculas on a bench.

In conclusion, we would say that the results were very satisfying to all who took part. we had the pleasure of staging the show, the thrill of the award, and the satisfaction of showing our favourite flower to many people and persuading some of them to join us.

The following members supplied plants for display, Messrs. Allison, Crooke, Telford, Elliot, Hadfield, Ollerenshaw, Millward, Ellerton, Moore and Kilshaw.

Auriculas shown were in the following varieties - Royal Purple, Argus, Bilton, Neat and Tidy, White Ensign, Greenshank, Linray, Hew Dalrymple, Sweet Pasture, Greg Monarch, Downton, Girl Guide, Prince John, Alice Haysom, Teem, Argus, Craig Vaughan, George Rudd, Colbury, Edgbaston Blue, Walton, Sheila, Grisedale, Lepee, Vulcan, Trojan, Hawkwood, Moonbeam, Serenity, Rowena, Jenny, Fenella, Moonrise, Bill Elliot, Gordon Douglas, Kintail, Waddington, Green Mouse, King Cole, Basuto, Mary, Margaret Faulkener, Sunflower, Isaac's Folly.

A Short History of Society

This month we look at a highly abridged version of an article by the then Secretary R. H. Briggs from the 1949 Yearbook. I say abridged, as the original article spans 20 pages. Well worth reading the original.


In the absence of an organised Society it was left to individuals, or a small group of enthusiasts, or the landlord of some Inn, to stage an exhibition of plants, formulate rules, and offer prizes; in the Annual Report issued in 1931 there is recorded a copy of an invitation issued to florists and gardeners by one John Barnes to a Show of auriculas and polyanthus to be held in his house in Lichfield in 1769, other references are to be found of landlords of Inns advertising Auricula Shows to be held on their premises.

It was during or after the Show held in Middleton in I872 that the growers got together and decided the time had come to form a National Auricula Society to co-ordinate efforts to exhibit auriculas and to formulate definite rules and regulations to govern such exhibitions, this informal meeting resulted in the calling of a General Meeting to discuss the suggestions made and to appoint officials to formulate rules and to carry out the work of an organised Society.

The Minutes of the Annual Meeting held in March 1874 afford enlightenment as to who were the officers of the Society, for the last item to be recorded says:- “The following gentlemen were appointed officers for the year 1874.”
President - Clement Royds, Esq.
Vice-Presidents - S. Barlow and John Rowland
Hon. Secretary and Treasurer - Rev. F. D. Horner
Committee (with power to add to their number)
S. Cooper, Dr. Foster, R. Gorton, E. Pohlman, J. Holden, R. Lancashire, B. Simonite

It was in 1876 that the alpine auricula began to receive more recognition for it is recorded in the Minutes that it was decided to introduce a class for a pan of four in addition to the single plant class.

In 1878 there was an innovation, classes were introduced for 12 Fancy auriculas, 12 Fancy polyanthus and 12 single and double primroses, also, this year an assistant Secretary was appointed, Mr. Wm. Bolton, of Warrington.

In 1880 we find that the venue of the Show was altered; hitherto held in the Old Town Hall it was transferred to the new Town Hall.

Although no schedules are available for the next six years giving the officers of the Society, there are references in the Minutes to losses sustained by death, although the names of the deceased are not specified, at the General Meeting held in January, 1883, one Minute states that Wm. Prescott, George Geggie and Wm. Taylor be elected to fill the vacancies on the committee.

1887. Jubilee Year. At the Annual Meeting held at the "Old Bulls Head“, Manchester, on the 26th January, the Chairman, Mr. S. Barlow, reminded members that this being the jubilee of her Majesty Queen Victoria's Accession he invited a proposal for the holding of an Exhibition of National Florists' Societies (National Auricula Society, Royal National Tulip Society, and National Carnation and Picotee Society), such was proposed and agreed to unanimously.
It was resolved that the sum raised he divided amongst the three Societies - according to their needs. There is no record as to the amount subscribed.
It was proposed at this Meeting by Mr. Potts and seconded by Mr. Booth that the schedule he purged of all “fancy" classes so as to retain the purity of the auricula; this brought forth an amendment that they be retained, on a show of hands there was a tie, the chairman, Mr. S, Barlow, gave his casting vote in favour of their retention.

The printed schedule for the year 1891 reveals a few changes though no reference to them appears in the Minute Book. The Rev. F. D. Horner was elected as a Vice-President.

1892 saw the resignation as Secretary of the Rev. F. D. Horner who had occupied the position since the Society's inception twenty years ago; much regret was expressed and a letter of appreciation of his valuable services sent to him, Mr. Wm. Smethurst was elected to succeed him.

ln 1894 the Society suffered a great loss by the decease of Mr. S Barlow, he had not only been one of the promoters of the Society, but a keen exhibitor and always in the absence of the President, Chairman at the Annual Meeting, and was Treasurer, his nephew, W. Bentley, was elected Treasurer to fill the vacancy.
The Minutes of the General Meeting held in January 1894 is recorded that all "extra" classes shall he abolished, as previously mentioned these were those for 12 fancy auriculas, 12 fancy polyanthus, 12 primroses.
The advocates of the pure auricula and gold-laced polyanthus schedule had previously made attempts to have these deleted from the schedule but Mr. Barlow was a keen advocate for their inclusion, indeed, he provided the prize-monies himself for one of the classes, the fancy auriculas, and so long as he was chairman they were retained, evidently no time was lost by the purists in doing their best to have them excluded and apparently succeeded for they never appear in subsequent schedules.
For the first time as far as can be traced the year 1894 was the first occasion on which a printed balance sheet was issued, and this reveals that despite a grant of ten guineas from the Royal Botanical Society, the Society could only barely make ends meet though there had already been a severe curtailment in the prize-monies as compared with the original schedule.

Up to 1897 the work of the Society so far as can he gathered was carried out amicably and effectively, but it would appear that at this period some dissension had arisen for the Minutes state that all the officers be re-elected except those of Secretary and Treasurer “so as to remove existing difficulties" and that J. W. Bentley he thanked for volunteering to act in both capacities.
For the first time an actual deficit on the year's working is recorded.
At the same meeting it was decided to hold the next show in the Masonic Hall, Middleton, and that should the funds at the disposal of the Treasurer be not sufficient to warrant the payment of the prize-monies in full, an adequate discount be deducted; ultimately 20 per cent. was deducted, in 1898 the deduction amounted to 33 per cent.

A set-back to the Society was the intimation received from the Royal Botanical Society that the customary grant would he discontinued, the Secretary was instructed to make enquiries as to the reason for this and report to a subsequent meeting; whatever the results of the enquiries were is not known nor is there any reference in the Minutes to any report or subsequent meeting.

Alpines by this time had come to be almost as important a feature of the Show as had Show varieties for in 1904 there were classes for six, four, pairs, as well as single plants of both light and gold centres though the prize monies to be awarded were slightly less.

From this period until 1911 there is an unaccountable gap in the Minute book for there is no reference to the affairs of the society in any shape or form, the next to be found is a printed Report of the Annual Meeting held in February l911 at which the resignation of the Secretary, W. Bentley, is referred to. He had been Secretary since l910 and his valuable services to the Society were to be recognised by presenting him with a testimonial, which took place at 4-0 pm., on April 29th, 1911, the day of the Show.

As far as can be ascertained no official list of the names of prize-winning plants was issued until l910 but this year a Report was issued in booklet form giving full details of prize-winning exhibits and successful exhibitors at the 1909 Show.

Very little can be gleaned as to the affairs of the Society during the War years 1914-1918, but a strong team had been got together, all keen growers and competitors.
Clements, now Sir Clement, Royds, who had been President of the Society died in l9l6, J. W. Bentley was appointed President to fill the vacancy thus created.

The brief report issued in 1919 concludes by saying — “ We are short of polyanthus growers and fresh varieties of white and grey-edged auriculas"

The year 1922 being regarded as the Society's jubilee year it was suggested that preparation be made to celebrate the occasion and several "Jubilee" classes with special prizes were introduced into the schedule whilst quite an elaborate Report was issued well illustrated with photographs of plants which were aristocrats at the time, as well as of officials of the Society, indeed it was a worthy production; a very useful inclusion being a list of plants which had gained Premier award in each section from 1912 - 1922 inclusive.

ln 1924 several other of the older members passed away, fortunately several new names appear amongst the list of members, but as these apparently had not the stocks of plants as had the older ones, both the number of entries and entrants soon began to show a decline; in 1928 there was only one entry in the class for six Shows and two in the class for four, whilst alpines showed a decline but not so pronounced.

About this time several new members became very active. W. H. Riddle, Dr. and Mrs. Boothman, Mrs. Evans, W. M, Hyslop, who together did much to fill up the gaps caused by losses of old exhibitors, indeed, the list of prize winners reveals an entirely fresh list of names to those listed even ten years previously.

In 1927 it was reported that the financial position of the Society was none too good and a resolution was passed that the maximum prize-money for any class be not more than 10/- in order that the smaller growers might receive their prize-money in full.
The financial situation was eased by the invitation of the Royal Botanical Society to hold the next Show in conjunction with their Spring Show and by their offer to provide the prize-monies for the Show section in addition, the expenses of issuing a separate schedule was saved.
It was the unpleasant duty of the Secretary to notify members that no prize money could be paid out to those entitled to such from the last Show as there was only £12 in the Bank, and this would be required to pay for the Reports and a few other items outstanding: the committee expressed their regret at having to adopt such a course but deemed it to be in the best interest of the Society. Just at that period the Royal Botanical Society ceased to hold a Spring Show, so the Society was thrown back on its own resources.

To broaden the scope of the Society and to try to increase greater interest, it was decided to introduce into the schedule classes for alpines, and Major P. A, Ferns generously offered to provide a Cup for the best exhibition of alpine plants, for which he was asked to accept the Society's thanks.

Unfortunately the war soon intervened and these classes, as well as most of the usual auricula classes had to be abandoned, in addition, the Society lost three valuable and very active members in the passing of the President, W, M. Shipman, Dr. W. S. Boothman and Wm. Crindrod, the latter being one of the old brigade who stuck religiously to Show varieties, Mr. G. D. A. Hall also passed away during this period, he had specialised for many years in gold-laced polyanthus of which he raised several new varieties.
ln l94l the effects of the war had become very pronounced, the usual type of Show had to be abandoned, but in order to maintain interest a miniature Show was arranged at which each member could stage one plant in each section, a small room in the “Mitre Hotel“ being used for the purpose.
In 1943, Mr. Riddle having reached the ripe old age of eighty resigned, explaining that he felt the best interest of the Society would be served by the appointment of a younger person, he had served the Society faithfully and well for eleven years. R. H. Briggs was appointed to succeed him. Mr. G. Lancaster was appointed assistant Secretary.
The finances of the Society at this period were considerably strengthened as those who had not been called up for active service loyally paid their subscriptions, whilst the expenses were considerably reduced both by the issuing of a typed Report and reducing prize-money to a nominal amount in addition to which the expenses incurred in holding the small Shows were almost negligible.

At the conclusion of hostilities when it was decided to work back gradually to the pre-war schedule, the committee were faced with the problem of finding a fresh and suitable place in which to hold the Show for the Coal Exchange, was completely destroyed in the great Manchester blitz, ultimately the Houldsworth Hall was the place decided upon.

Earlier it will have been noted complaints were voiced at one General Meeting that the Society was not being sufficiently advertised and that no attempt seemed to be being made to attract new members, it was therefore decided to launch a campaign to remedy both these defects.
The first effect was the issuing of and liberally advertising a Year Book instead of the usual Annual Report, which was only sent out to members, and this met with a good response attracting new members, in 1947 and 1948 this was further improved upon by issuing a Year Book illustrated with coloured plates and advertising as such, this brought enquiries From all parts of the country as well as many from overseas, particularly America, and resulted in a great increase in membership; the numbers rising from 46 in 1945 to 180 in 1948.

Another change decided upon which has helped materially to increase interest in the Society was the inclusion in the schedule of classes for primroses, primulas, and the ordinary polyanthus, and as these classes became popular adding greatly to the attractiveness of the Show and were likely to become a permanent feature it was felt the time had come to make the title more comprehensive.
Bearing in mind that the Southern section had always included the primula in their title, it was thought advisable to bring the Northern section into line, and with these ends in view a resolution was proposed, seconded, and carried, that henceforth the title of the Society should be “National Auricula and Primula Society” (Northern Section).

Hardy Florists' Flowers Part 2

Hardy Florists’ Flowers (Part 2)
James Douglas
Published 1880



This is effected by seeds, to obtain new varieties; by dividing the plants, and by offsets, to increase established sorts. The greatest success in producing good new and distinct varieties is obtained when the seeds have been saved from sorts that have been carefully impregnated by the pollen of another flower; and usually the pollen parent has the greatest effect on the progeny. To make sure that the flowers are not self-impregnated, the anthers must be removed from the seed bearer before the pollen is scattered. This can be done with a pair of sharp pointed scissors, before the flowers are open. A small camel's-hair brush is used to convey the pollen from the anthers of one flower to the stigma of the other. Of course the very best varieties only should be used, both as seed and pollen bearers. It is better not to cross one class with another, but rather to let the green-edged be crossed with green.

The seeds will ripen in July and should be sown at once, in small shallow pans or pots, using the ordinary potting material in the bottom, and some fine soil on the surface. In three or four weeks a few plants will appear above ground, but the largest proportion of the seeds will not vegetate until the spring of the following year, though a few will continue to appear at intervals during the summer. It is very desirable that the later plants should be well cared for, as they usually produce the best flowers. The young plants are very small, but as soon as the first leaf after the seed leaves is formed the plants must be pricked out, about a dozen of them in a large sixty or three inch pot. They will speedily gain strength here, and when the leaves meet together they must again be potted, say four plants in the same sized pots, and again when these become crowded they should be re-potted singly in similar pots, in which they should be allowed to flower.

Propagation by division is effected when a plant forms two main growths; split the plant carefully down the centre, then rub the wounds well with dry lime and pot each portion separately. Offsets are thrown out more numerously by some varieties than by others, but they should be removed when roots are formed at their base; place three or four of these round the sides of thumb pots in light soil. Sometimes the top of an old plant can be taken off and potted, when a number of offsets will start from the old crown. In this way I have raised about 50 plants of Taylor's Glory in three or four years. The tap-root, or carrot, has to be cut off at potting time, and if this is potted in light soil and placed under a bell-glass, a number of plants are sometimes produced from the offsets. All the offsets form roots most readily if the pots are placed under a close glass. They require but little water at first, and the glass should be occasionally wiped as this, with careful watering, will prevent any of them damping off. When it is seen that the offsets are established, air must be admitted, and be given more freely as growth is made. Re-pot them singly into small pots, as soon as they are well-established.

To grow Auriculas well, they must be attended to all the year round, though during the winter season, when the plants are at rest, they require the least attention, and, during this period, only sufficient water should be given to the roots to keep the plants from shrivelling.
About the end of February growth commences, and at that time the surface soil should be removed to the depth of an inch or more, replacing it with a rich compost, made up of two parts of rotten turfy loam, and one of rotten cow manure, with a fourth part of the bulk of leaf-mould. After this water should be applied to the roots rather freely, but still admit plenty of air, and if any green fly are to be seen on the plants it ought to be destroyed by fumigating the frames with tobacco smoke, on a still evening. When the trusses are well developed, the frame must be covered with mats, to preserve them from being injured by frosts, when there are any signs of it at night. Indeed, it is safest to cover the glass with mats every night.

It is not necessary to have frames specially designed for Auriculas, to grow them well, as ordinary garden frames, such as are used for Cucumbers, answer very well. The plants when in bloom may be removed to a house of any construction. The Rev. F. D. Horner, of Kirkby Malzeard, places his plants in a lean-to house, with a stage 3 or 4 feet wide in the front; then a path and a stage at the back, which is at a very considerable distance from the glass. The best plants are, of course, placed on the front stage near the glass, where they get a good supply of air when the ventilators are open. At Loxford Hall the house in which the plants are placed to open their flowers, is a span-roofed structure, running north and south. The plants are arranged on either side of the centre path, and they are placed as near as possible to the glass. Those who cannot afford the luxury of a house for their Auriculas, need not be envious, as they can obtain very good results from the frames. It is needless to urge the importance of shading the blooms from the sun, which would destroy them in an hour.

When the flowering period is over, it will be time to see to the re-potting of the plants; that is, if it is not intended to save seeds from them. Remove the plants to frames behind a north wall at once. There is no mystery, as some suppose, about the potting, any more than there is about the potting material. The compost should consist of turfy loam four parts; leaf mould one part; sharp river or silver sand one part; and a few bits of broken charcoal mixed with it. The pots to be used should be from three to four and a half inches in diameter, inside measure; about one inch of potsherds should be placed in the bottom of each pot, and this over some fibrous turf, from which the fine particles of earth have been removed. The old soil should be shaken from the roots of the plants to he potted, and before potting cut off, if necessary, a potion of the main root. In potting, press the soil rather firmly round the roots. When the plants are potted replace them in the frames on a level surface. Keep the lights rather close for a few days, and do not water them until the third day after potting. It ought to be stated that it does not answer to cut the loam within the range of the smoke of large manufacturing towns, such as Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, &c. The plants will thrive in the midst of the smoke, but the loam must be pure.

When the newly potted plants are established, the frame lights should be removed except when it rains. I do not like to see the beautiful foliage injured by rain, at any time. The old leaves will continue to decay during the summer months, and they must be removed, as they become yellow. May and June are the best months in which to re-pot; but those plants which are reserved for seeds, cannot be re-potted until the seeds are gathered in July. Green fly is a most troublesome pest during summer; if only a few plants are attacked by it, they may be removed with a soft brush. If they are spread all over the frame it is best to fumigate.

During the last two or three years the roots of Auriculas have been found attacked by a species of louse, resembling the American blight, which attacks Apple trees. It has been described as Trama Auriculae by the late Mr. Andrew Murray. The pest clusters round the neck of the plant, as well as burrowing under-ground. The only effectual remedy is to shake the plants affected out of the pots and wash the roots with soft soapy water, repotting again in good soil.


It would be difficult to say how long it is since the first Auricula exhibition was held, as the oldest growers now living cannot remember the time when there were no Auricula shows. During the last few years they have been held in Manchester and London on a much larger scale than they ever were before. And their popularity has been evidenced by the large number of visitors that crowd to see this lovely flower in its best dress.

There are two methods adopted of conveying the plants to exhibitions; one of which is to turn them out of the pots, and to wrap the roots firmly round with cloth or paper, so that they may be placed closely together in a suitable box, for transmission to the place of exhibition. By this system of packing, one grower can place sixty plants in two boxes, which he can carry in his hands. Those living close to the show take the plants as they are in pots, in a light van, placing some hay or straw between the pots to keep them from injuring one another. The trusses must be secured to a neat stick, and some cotton wadding must also be placed between the pips, to prevent them from being injured.
On arriving at the place of exhibition, the plants that were turned out must again be placed in pots, without undoing the roots, some nice green moss being placed on the surface, to hide any defects. At the exhibitions of the northern section of the National Auricula Society, held in Manchester, all “artificial packing” must be removed, not even a stick being allowed to keep the truss erect. The southern section of the society hold their show in London, and here it is recommended that the trusses be supported with neat sticks. It seems to be an old rule with the fanciers that no sticks should be placed to the flower stem. The old growers were proud of exhibiting them, so that they might show the stem stout and elastic. My own impression is that a neat stick placed behind the stems is an advantage, as showing off the trusses better, because they are all held erect; and there cannot be any more harm in supporting an Auricula flower in its place than there is in placing sticks to any other flower.
The colours should also be harmoniously arranged on the tables, and the classes must also be judiciously arranged. If the exhibitor intends to show in the class for twelve Auriculas, it is best to have three distinct varieties from each of the four classes.
A year or two ago the Rev. F. D. Horner was at considerable pains to collect lists of the best varieties of Auriculas, from the principal growers in Great Britain and Ireland, and twenty-six growers sent in returns.

The Auricula cannot be propagated very rapidly, and it may be a number of years from the time a seedling is first seen until it is in the hands of the public. There are many persons now raising seedlings on a scientific basis.
Rev. F. D. Horner has some good varieties in all the classes; and Mr. B. Simonite, of Sheffield, has made even greater progress, if we may judge from what the intelligent Sheffield grower has exhibited during the last few years.

Hardy Florists' Flowers Part 1

Following on from the article in this years Yearbook, the following is an extract from Hardy Florists' Flowers by James Douglas, published in 1880. Part 2 next month.

(Primula Auricula).

The generic name, Primula, is derived from primus, the first, in allusion to its early flowering; and the specific name, Auricula, from auris, an ear, the leaves having some resemblance to the ears of certain animals, such as the bear. It has also been called “Bear's-ears” in some districts, and “Sow's-ears” in others; while it is also not unknown as “The Dusty Miller,” from the leaves of some varieties being thickly covered with white farina. The native home of the Auricula is Switzerland, Austria, Syria, and the Caucasus. In its wild state it is most frequently found with powdered leaves, but occasionally plants are met with in which the foliage is destitute of meal. The flowers are borne on trusses, and are of a bright yellow colour. They are sufficiently hardy to grow out of doors in any part of the British Isles. It has been stated that the refined varieties will not live out of doors through the winter, and that if a few should succeed in withstanding the rigours of our winters, they will not flower satisfactorily; but that the whole of the Alpine section will live during a very severe winter, I have proved conclusively, by planting out a selection of our best varieties in October, 1878. These plants were fully exposed during the ensuing severe winter, and not a single plant failed; they were quite as healthy as those in pots, and flowered quite as freely, though somewhat later.

The more delicate sections of edged flowers were also represented in this group, and they braved the winter quite as well, but the flowers were worthless, owing to their delicate marking being so easily injured by rain drops.

To enjoy the fine varieties that have been selected by many generations of florists, they must be grown under glass all the year round. For facility of reference and identification, the Auricula is divided into five sections or classes, and are arranged as follows:

I. - Green-edged Flowers.
This class includes all that have the outer margin of the flowers quite green, or dusted very sparingly indeed with farina; in which case the spots should be so thinly placed that, notwithstanding their presence, the edge still appears green. Inside this edge is the body colour; and black is the most esteemed, though, perhaps, no flower has really a black body colour. The purplish maroon is, however, almost black; and there are, besides, other shades, such as maroon, violet, and plum colours. The colour strikes or flashes into the edge, and has not yet been found in an almost compact ring. Should the body colour strike quite through the green colour, it is a. serious defect, and spoils the appearance of the flowers. The inner edge of the body colour should be quite circular, but it is not always so, being sometimes angular, while, in other instances, it appears as if little bits had been scalloped out of it. These are all defects, and tell very much against any flowers, no matter how pure the colours may be. One of the very best green edges, Freedom (Booth), has an angular paste, which is the one glaring fault of this otherwise fine flower. Admiral Napier (Campbell) is another example of a flower with this defect. The paste comes next, and it should be dense and pure white, the whiteness caused by a dense coating of white farina, and this should encircle an eye or tube of bright yellow. The paste, body colour, and edge may be faultless, but if the tube is not highly coloured, the flower wants expression. Apollo (Beeston) has a very good green edge, but its great fault as a flower is a pale-coloured tube; and Prince of Greens (Trail) is a more striking instance of a flower having a pale tube, while in other respects possessing points of the highest order. We are still a long way from perfection in green edges, although many of the varieties are very beautiful.

II.- Grey-edged Flowers.
This class comprises all those that have the outer edge, which is green, so thickly dusted with farina that the green is almost hidden, and the edge is grey. The other points are the same as I have already defined in the last paragraph. It is worthy of remark, that the most perfect Auriculas yet raised are to be found in this class. George Lightbody (Headly) is the best Auricula yet raised; the stem supporting the truss being strong and elastic, and never needing any support, while the pips are regularly arranged on stout foot stalks, forming a very symmetrical head. Lancashire Hero (Lancashire) is also a noble flower, and when at its best is but little inferior to George Lightbody. The edge, however, is not quite so decided a grey, the farina being occasionally so thinly scattered on the edge that it may be classed with the greens.

III.- White-edged Flowers.
This class is distinguished from the grey by the greater density of the farina on the edge of the flowers. In some instances this is laid on so heavily that it is as thick as the paste. A fault often apparent in white edges, and one from which many of the greys are not exempt, is the body colour being dusted with the farina which ought to be on the edge instead. Catherina (Summerscales) has this fault, but it is otherwise a good flower, though small. Earl Grosvenor (Lee) has the same defect; and others are no bad that they cannot be tolerated in a select collection.

1V. - Selfs.
The Selfs are flowers that are all of one colour outside the paste. The ground colour lacks an edge of any kind. The Self class contains many colours which are or ought to be solid, without shading; these are yellow, slate, bluish violet, violet, purple, and maroon. In all of the above the leaves are green or white, in about equal proportions, except the green-edged class, which contains no varieties with white leaves.

V.- Alpine.
This section is considerably removed from any of the above classes, and it is the hardiest of all. The flowers are, or ought to be, destitute of farina; the centre of the flower being free from meal, as well as the other parts. The centre should be golden yellow, but it is of various shades, some being very pale, nay, almost white. The edge is of one colour, shading off paler towards the margin. The best Alpines are those with gold centres and maroon shaded edges. Those with pale centres have usually mauve or light purple shaded edges. There are also self-edged Alpines, which are very pretty, but they have a heavy appearance in comparison with the shaded flowers. Many otherwise good Alpines have the fault of the stigma. protruding above the anthers, and all of these should be discarded. The stigma should be placed well down in the flower, the anthers filling up the mouth of the tube. The truss in all cases should be well formed of five, seven, nine, or eleven pips, as even numbers do not seem to fill in quite so well as odd ones. The stem should be stout and elastic, and long enough to carry the head of bloom above the foliage. To the ordinary observer the edged flowers have considerable resemblance to each other, but the fancier is usually quite satisfied with their distinctive marks, and can name any flower in the collection, whether they happen to be in flower or not. The diversity of foliage is very striking indeed in the Auricula, some varieties having the foliage quite as thickly dusted with farina as the flowers; others, again, vary much in shape, and also in the serratures of the edges.

Body Colour

An article by D. G. Hadfield, taken from the 1980 Yearbook.

Body Colour
D. G. Hadfield

Years ago, as we all know, any hue was acceptable as a body colour the only stipulations being that it should compliment the edge, die well, which meant that it should retain its colour as the pip aged and, naturally, that is should have the correct proportions. Then along came those generations of men known as ‘The Victorians’: desecrators of beautiful churches, polluters of land, water and air in pursuit of portable property, defilers of taste in the arts, who decreed that body colours should be black, presumably to match their need to drape all things in funereal colours. That in most other walks of life the Victorian taste was quickly recognised as a debasement of true standards and promptly abandoned while Auricula growers still adhere to their dicta, has never ceased to amaze and one would like to see a return to the original acceptance of part colours. However, it is not with its colour that we are concerned at the moment but rather with its other properties.

According to the old writers, an Auricula’s body colour should be about half the width of the edge into which it should flash without striking the periphery of the pip; and I remember, when new to the Auricula growing craft, Dr. Newton questioning why we were allowed this one lapse from rigid formality, namely why the body colour should be permitted to flash into the edge as against having a solid dividing line, at first sight the correct choice for such a formal flower as the Show Auricula: but after paying particular attention to body colours over the past few years, it is fairly obvious why the original standard was arrived at.

It is quite simply that in varieties where the excursions are few and/or coarse, the body colour appears to have been applied with all the finesse normally associated with white-washing, whereas in flowers of the more refined type, it can look as if it has been applied with the artist's brush; Superb is such a one where the feathering is so refined it appears to have been applied by a Corot, gradually merging with the edge, lightening the overall effect.

What then should be the ideal? I would suggest that the illustration in Emmerton provides the ideal - where the limits of the excursions form a circle half-way across the edge and that the feathering (a better description of what should be aimed at than flashing) should be fine and regular so that the band where the excursions occur is equally divided between body colour and edge.

Such feathering has the effect of lightening the otherwise overbearing dominance of a correctly proportioned body colour.

The Auricula Introduction to England

An article by Ruth Duthie, challanging the accepted view of how the Auricula was introduced into England. Taken from the 1990 Yearbook.

The Introduction of the Auricula into England.
Ruth Duthie

Undoubtedly the auricula had to be introduced into this country since it is not a native plant but it is distributed (both Primula auricular and Primula rubra) widely in the Alps. So often has it been said that Flemish weavers brought auricula plants with them when they emigrated to this country that it has now become regarded as an established fact. I however, believe there are NO grounds for this belief. The influx of Flemish refugees to this country was very largely in the second half of the sixteenth century and at that period the auricula had only just become known as a garden plant. Though other sixteenth-century botanists (herbalists) knew the plant, it is from Clusius (1526-1609) that we learn most about the kinds of auricula then grown. While he was working at the Imperial gardens of Vienna he was familiar with the yellow flowered mealy P. auricular which grow in the mountains. and he was also familiar with one which seems to be the hybrid kind we now know as P. x pubescens (the parent of our show and border varieties) though only growing in the garden of another Viennese botanist. He also referred to a small number of other kinds which he saw in German gardens on his journeys to the Netherlands and to England. It is probable he brought specimens with him when he became director of the Leiden Botanic Garden. In his book of 1601 he clearly shows that auriculas were still uncommon garden plants; mainly confined to botanic gardens (then only developed in Italy, France, Germany and his in the Netherlands) or those such as Royal gardens where distinguished men were in charge. The chances that Flemish weavers, or other such persons, would have possessed a plant is most improbable.

What is more there is no evidence that a florist movement existed in Flanders or anywhere else as early as l600. The earliest records of feasts held by flower lovers of any kind date from the l630's in the cities of Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and in Norwich, and it is only in the latter that the feasts were at all like those we know from eighteenth-century England. Those held in what we now know as Belgian cities were gatherings of great Church dignitaries and had only a minor connection with horticulture. It was not until the eighteenth century that there is evidence of humble people, like weavers, making a hobby of growing fine flowers and meeting together to hold competitions.

Further evidence that the auricula was by no means a common garden plant by early in the seventeenth century comes from examination of the beautiful flower pieces painted by Dutch and Flemish artists of the period, particularly those of the prolific artist Jan Breughel the Elder (l568-l625) nicknamed “Velvet”: by carefully looking at some of his canvasses one can just make out an occasional auricula, always yellow or pinkish flowered, almost hidden amongst his great collection of flowers and which always included carnations and striped tulips. lt is only later in the seventeenth century, or even more clearly in the next one, that auriculas play an important part in flower pieces, such as those of Jan van Huysum (l682-l749).

It is legitimate to ask who was responsible for the introduction of the auricula to England, but I don't think there is any more mystery of how the auricula reached these shores than for other plants of the period. At the end of the sixteenth century auriculas must have been quite rare plants in the gardens of any country but keen horticulturists were obviously busy exchanging plants and there was much toing and froing between English and Continental plantsmen - Parkinson (1629) and even Gerard (1597) indicate this. It is likely that the auricula was being improved in England at the same time as it was on the Continent and quite soon there was exchange in both directions. Some of these keen growers of new kinds of plants were professionals like Clusius or L'Obel but others were apothecaries, merchants or bankers who had come to this country as religious or economic refugees and had often settled near London in order to better themselves; but they were not weavers or other humble people.

I believe it is therefore clear that Flemish refugees did not introduce the auicula into this country. This is not to deny that these immigrants were not excellent gardeners, for they certainly improved methods of cultivation and introduced new varieties of vegetables and even new crops, such as hops and flax.

Hints for new growers

This month, an article from the 1932 Year Book - the author is not identified. It is interesting to note the change in our thinking, especially with regards to pots!


Pots. With many plants the precise shape of pot does not matter much, providing that it affords proper space for the roots, but in the case of Auriculas preference should always be given to pots that are exceptionally deep in comparison with their diameter at the top. The plant forms a long tap root, and the ordinary pot does not give the depth which is desirable. Do not overpot, 4 inch pots for full-sized plants, or slightly larger for the very robust varieties, being ample.

Soil. No one will deny that the Show Auricula is worth the special pains bestowed, and given a suitable compost of, say, 8 parts turfy loam, 2 parts leaf mould, and 1 part manure thoroughly decayed, with sufficient sand or crushed oyster shell to give porosity, no difficulty will be found in their management. The soil should be just moist.

Re-potting. When the flowers fade, re-potting may be taken in hand at once. Shake out the old soil and examine the end of the "Carrot"; if found brown and soft it must be cut back to where it is white and sound throughout. One or two varieties have a purplish wood; this must not be mistaken for rot. When this basel rot has been in evidence, it will be wise to re-pot the plant into a pot at least one size smaller than before. The plant should be put in fairly low, in order to allow for top dressing in the Spring. The soil must be made fairly firm, and after re-potting the plants they will be all the better for being somewhat close for a week or two and protected from strong sunshine, not more water being given at this stage than will just prevent flagging. During this operation of re-potting, the roots are almost sure to want cleaning from the woolly aphis, which is the most constant in attendance of all enemies of the Auricula. This can easily be done by a touch of methylated spirits applied by a small camel-hair brush to the affected parts.

Cultivation. The following hints should be observed:- Damp in winter and drought in summer should be avoided. water should be applied very sparingly while the plants are at rest, and care should be taken that it does not lodge in the hearts of the folded leaves. During the period from the beginning of November to early February, ample ventilation is necessary, and should not be withheld even during frost; but once new growth has started and flower buds have formed, it would be well to protect against frost. About the middle of March disbudding must be started in the earliest blooming sorts, and some judgement will have to be exercised in leaving a nicely balanced truss.

August Jobs

Jobs for August, taken from one of our Library books published in 1871 (pp277 - 278), "The Culture of Flowers and Plants" by George Glenny F.R.H.S.

Ideas on how to re-pot have changed over the last 150 years, so please refer to auriculas.org.uk/growing-guide for the method used today.

AUGUST.——This month we propose to re-pot the general collection, and we advise one prevailing rule, to disturb as little as possible the balls of earth of all those that have been one year potted in the smaller flowering-pots; remove the offsets as carefully as possible, and be careful to preserve the roots of the old plants from injury, as much as you can. The surface of the balls may be rubbed off a little, so that the fibres are not bruised or broken, and the loose crocks at the bottom may be taken away; but the next sized pot must be supplied with crocks, and sufficient compost in them to raise the ball to the surface. Compost must then be filled in between the ball and the pot, and pressed between, without moving or displacing the root. If, on turning out any of these balls, the roots do not appear to have grown much round the sides, they may be replaced in their own pot, and allowed to go over another season in the same, but if the plant be not healthy, you may conclude there is something wrong at the root, and therefore you should shake out all the soil, and examine it, as directed with regard, to new plants. The plants that have-been bloomed the second year, and have been one season in thirty-two sized pots, may be shaken out and deprived of some of their roots; and the best way to do this is, to shorten the main centre, or carrot-like portion, with the fibres attached to it; they must be then carefully re-potted, in the same sized pot, if strong, and if not strong, in a forty-eight sized pot; but mostly these plants from the large sized pots are strong, and although deprived of their lower roots, want room; besides which, the present potting of them will do for two season, if they are healthy. The present month must be looked upon as the potting month, and the whole collection, down to the smallest plants that have not already undergone it, should be changed. Look well to the watering of seedlings, pricking out, potting,, or shifting all that require it; when these are potted, shifted, and properly attended to in all these particulars, let them be returned to their shady frames, watered, to settle the earth about their roots, and closed up altogether for two or three days, after which they may have air as usual, and be protected from heavy rain, but except against violent or too much rain, they may be wholly uncovered. The offsets taken off during all the potting operations must be placed round the edges of pots, to strike root, or if rooted, potted off into small pots about the size which the plants warrant; very small ones, even if rooted, may be planted three or four in a pot, and stronger ones should have pots to themselves; but there is always danger of suffering for want of water if plants are kept in very small pots, so that many prefer keeping them round the edges, three or four in a pot, to giving them small pots to themselves; and if a man be so situate as not to be able to attend very often to them, they will do better in the larger body of earth; however, a large sixty-sized pot will take a pretty well rooted offset, and keep it growing well until it is full of roots, and the ball should then, without reference to the time of year, be transferred, with its ball of earth undisturbed, to a pot a size larger. All this work should be done before the month is out.

Seven Years

A view on Show Auriculas taken from the 1962 Part 2 Yearbook.

SEVEN YEARS - This is the length of time I have been growing auriculas, both Show and Alpine types. The alpines I now grow reasonably well and have now come to expect a good show from them every year. The shows are another kettle of fish, and but for this year the title of this may have been “Seven Years with the Wrong Woman,” as divorce from these powdered flirts was on my mind.

As plants, they grow alright; some are great big fine things that to look at them they look as if they will produce at least three trusses with numerous pips on each truss. This is where the powdered ladies first start to deceive you by one of their four moods.

First, as Spring comes, you gaze into their hearts looking for those great trusses that should be showing. Do you see any? Not on your life! All you see are leaves, but every day, like a drowning man clutching at a straw, you gaze into their great hard hearts. This goes on right until show day, just in case something may be showing, so that when you get to the show you can say in all truth “Mine are a little late this year in blooming,” but most years you cannot even say this with truth. I often wonder, when talking to different members at the show, if they are in the same boat as me, and should add to the above phrase “A year too late.”

The second mood of these spoilt flirts is you see a truss at the time you should see one. When this happens you are on top of the world; you go about the house singing and whistling; you are on the best of terms with the rest of the household. Your wife just gives a knowing smile. I know the reason for the smile now. This showing of the truss is at about the same time as the ladies in the house are thinking of spring wardrobes, so you dig deep into your pockets and happiness abounds. I have an idea now that my wife sneaks into the greenhouse in the wee small hours (this is about the only time I am not in) and with lady-like guile they manage this between them. The truss starts to grow. How many pips? Maybe ten; you cannot make out yet just how many, but a few days later you know: one -big miserable pip, at the best two. Still, this is better than nothing; at least it saves you trying to explain what show auriculas are when visitors come. (This is a hard task with no flowers to show). You make the excuse that as it is the first year it has bloomed you cannot expect too much. (You don't add in six years).

The third mood is to my mind the worst deception or all. The truss shows at the right time and grows well with six or seven pips. They start to open, and you start making plans for the show. Come show time and they are still in the just opening stage. You wish they had a class for Lily of the Valley. But you are not beaten yet; on to the operating table, you are going to open them yourself. Then this is the time when you find out that somewhere in their complicated make-up there is just a dash of high tensile steel. After a few hours you give it up as a bad job, or keep on until all you have is a truss of torn pips smeared all over with powder, and yourself a nervous wreck.

Then you have the fourth mood, and the greatest. (I don’t know how often this mood shows up with other growers, but with me up to now every seven years’). After a winter that you think will never end, no sign of a truss when there should be. So you ignore them and give your all to the alpines. But true to their flirtatious nature, they cannot stand this, so they at once send up a truss from nowhere. You still do not take any notice as you mumble to yourself “that the powdered dames are not going to fool you again.” This nearly gets them (a woman scorned and all that). They keep on growing, but then comes a gale. I got into the greenhouse to find them covered in glass with trusses flat. In savage glee you shout “Serves you right,” and you take your time to get all the glass off. My G.L.P. had glass and part of someone’s garage on them, and they won a cup! They came first! At last you get around to taking the glass off them; this time the high tensile steel is in the stalks and they spring upright as soon as the glass is removed. This makes you stare a bit, and these ladies know that it will not be long before you are back with them. They continue to grow and keep on past the Lily of the Valley stage. Out cotton-wool; arrange the pips; you have no chance now, they have got you. They are out; just in time for the show. Your wife tells you they are wonderful (another deep dig in the pocket). You know they are not world-beaters or even good, but they have bloomed. So now it is hi-ho, off to the show. They get a RED card for you; the beautiful, adorable creatures. There never has, or ever will be such refined, lady-like plants.

Now the pips are dying, and in my more sober moods I am wondering if it will be another seven years of flirting. Should I treat them with contempt? I think it was some old sage in days of yore who said about women, “The more you beat ’em the more they do for you.” (I hope my wife does not read this or I may get a black eye). I don’t know if there is any moral in all this unless it is ‘never trust a painted lady.’ Treat ’em rough, and hope for a gale to cover them with broken glass. There again the glass part might be just for another trick they have cooked up for next year. A little powdered glass in the system, so when in the Lily of the Valley mood, and you try and open them up, they will crack and splinter and cut all your hands. Maybe that’s the moral: out-think ’em. Still, bloom or no bloom, they are worth growing if only for the foliage, and I LOVE ‘EM.