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.
Any member who would like a full list of its contents, please e-mail the Archivist, Lesley Key on email@example.com.
This page will be updated monthly, to share interesting extracts from the Year books and to introduce past members who shaped the Society.
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.
Archive Miscellany - May 2021.
This month we look at the still disputed topic of the best time to re-pot. The article is taken from the 1946 Year Book. It is quite a long article but it makes very interesting reading.
The Time to Re-Pot
By G. LANCASTER
That the annual re-potting of established plants and the potting-on of younger ones is a necessity, is admitted by nearly all who have ventured to express an opinion on the subject, but there can scarcely be a matter connected with Auricula culture about which such a diversity of opinion has been expressed as to when best to carry out the operation.
Truly it is an instance of "a multitude of counsellors causing great confusion" for the further one delves into what literature is available on the culture of the Auricula, the more one becomes perplexed as to whose advice to follow; for dates vary from February to September can be found recommended as being considered the best in which to carry out the operation.
Let us go back over 150 years and see what Maddock says - he was regarded as an authority in his day. Writing in his Florists' Directory, issued in 1792, on this subject, he advocates re-potting early, as soon as the flowers have faded. The reason he puts forth being that if potting is deferred the plants remain too long in a state of inactivity during the heats of Summer, rendering them liable to contract a destructive disease or distemper.
Advancing but two years to the time when Hudson wrote his Florists' Companion, we find an entirely different opinion expressed, for he says the best time to re-pot Auriculas is either the first week in February or the first week in September and gives as his reason that these are the two periods in the year when new growth is about to begin. Advancing to 1819 we find Emmerton advising that strong, healthy plants which apparently like the compost in which they are growing, should not be re-potted, but suggests that the re-potting of others should begin on June 10th, but advances no particular reason for this choice of date.
Three years later we find Hogg advocating August as the best month in which to commence re-potting, stating his reasons thus: "If you re-pot plants at an early period in the year the strength of the compost is greatly reduced in the long period before flowering time."
Early re-potting is, he says, attended by another evil, it forces the plants prematurely into bloom and encourages them to produce Autumn trusses, off-sets too, he continues, are better rooted by August and are more easily detached from the parent plant and with less injury.
Doyle, writing in The Flower Garden in 1839, reverts to Maddock's suggestions, but refrains from giving any solid reasons for so doing.
From this period until we come to modern practice there is a see-saw of opinion, mainly centred on the propensity of early-potted plants to throw up Autumn trusses.
Whilst on the subject of Autumn trusses, we have it on the authority of Mr Lewis Ambler, whose collection of George Rudds is probably the finest in the country, that having carried out trials over a period of many years, he has come to the conclusion that the propensity to produce Autumn trusses is in no wise influenced by early or late re-potting, but is, in his opinion, more or less determined by the climatic conditions prevailing in any particular year.
This view seems to be borne out to some extent by the experience of members last year as, although re-potting had been carried out at the usual times, all complained of an abnormal number of Autumn trusses.
No contribution on this subject of re-potting would be complete which did not take into account the views of present-day growers who have specialised in the cultivation of the Auricula, and done much to bring it to its present high degree of perfection - so for this reason we have sought the views of the two largest growers in the country. Mr Jas. Douglas and Mr G. H. Dalrymple, and take this opportunity to express on behalf of members our gratitude to them for the ready and willing response to the request made.
Mr Douglas says that early re-potting (June) is safe and desirable, especially with one-year-old plants, and they begin with these any follow on with the older plants leaving the more vigorous until last. It is his opinion that if very vigorous plants are re-potted early there is certainly a danger of them utilising such vigour by producing Autumn trusses. His advice to the smaller grower is to arrange to have his plants all re-potted by the middle of July, leaving the more vigorous ones to the last. Plants left until August in the old compost lose their virility, he believes, and become an easy prey to insect and other pests. The compost Mr Douglas recommends is referred to on a later page, under the heading. "How to grow Auriculas."
Mr G. H. Dalrymple's views are that re-potting should be started soon after the blooms have died off, and just when the new root system is starting. Only examination of the plants can reveal when that is. If the soil is loosened round the collar and shaken off and new roots can be seen, then re-pot at once. His reason for recommending early re-potting is that you can catch the new roots before they have made much growth and there is less danger of breaking them off, which would give the plant a sharp check. If the new roots can get down into the new compost without a check, a better plant in every way will result.
Another reason is that when the new roots get going - and that won't be long - they will accept more water and there is less risk of over-watering.
If plants are left until the new roots are very active and well advanced, it means a greater check when disturbed and as it takes them longer to re-establish themselves and being less able to take up moisture there is more risk of root rot setting in. Mr Dalrymple ends by saying he would never dream of re-potting after July and advises the small grower to arrange to have his plants re-potted not later than the middle of that month and stresses the danger of over-potting - pots larger than 3 1/2 inch being rarely required.
Mr Douglas remarks that Ben Simonite (sic) and the Rev. F. D. Horner, both experts in the growing of Auriculas, had one stock answer to any query as to the time to re-pot. "Pot 'em up my lad as soon as they need it." The difficulty of the average amateur has been to decide just when they need it. It is to be hoped that this contribution will go some way towards helping to solve that problem.
Archive Miscellany - April 2021.
The second in the series looking at some of our noted past members. This article taken from the 1929 Year Book.
The Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH) is awarded to British horticulturists resident in the United Kingdom whom the Royal Horticultural Society Council considers deserving of special honour by the Society.
Rev. Francis Daltry Horner, M.A., V.M.H.
"The Rev. Francis Daltry Horner, M.A., V.M.H., was the last link with the old generation which raised George Lightbody, Lancashire Hero, Richard Headley, and other flowers now superseded. He was the son of Dr. F. R. Horner, M.D., F.R.S., a well-known florist and writer on floriculture in the gardening papers of his day. Mr Horner was born in Hull, in 1837, educated at Ripon and Trinity College, Dublin.
He entered the Church, and while incumbent of Kirby Malzeard, near Ripon, he was able to indulge his taste for flower-growing, and to produce those wonderful Tulips and Auriculas which are still remembered by some of our older members. While living in Kirby Malzeard our Society was brought into being in 1873, and he was its first Honorary Secretary, a post he retained until 1891. Mr Horner did important work for the Society, and it was largely due to him that it exists at all.
Some of our eldest members can recall the very pleasant hours spent in his company. He delighted to discuss the merits of various varieties over a pipe, and match after match would be used to aerate the soil as the specimen was lovingly handled.
A story is told of how on one occasion he travelled to a London show with a plant in a glass case, so that its mealy foliage might not be damaged.
Mr Horner delighted in raising seedlings and in collaboration with Mr Ben Simmonite, of Sheffield, thousands of seedlings were raised. He is known amongst growers as the raiser of Heronine, Favourite, Buttercup, Orient and Ossian.
For many years he lived at Burton-in-Lonsdale, amongst his favourite flowers, but for some years was laid aside by illness, and the end came on 11th July, 1912."
Auricula Miscellany - March 2021.
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!
A FEW HINTS FOR NEW GROWERS ON THE CULTIVATION OF SHOW AURICULAS
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 - February 2021.
Our first look at some of the items from our past Year Books, we start this month with one of our renowned growers.
Ben Simmonite was one of the founders of the original society in 1873. His death was noted in the 1910 Northern Section Year Book:
"It is with mixed feelings that one writes the report of our thirty-sixth annual show; for the recent death of Mr. Ben Simonite (sic), who had worked so long and so faithfully to improve the flower that we love, cast a shadow over us all. ....."
The Northern Section 1928 Year Book began a series of articles on the Society founders, there only being the one Society in 1873, the first in that series being Ben Simmonite.
"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, afterwards the Rev. F. D., and the closest friendship was established through their mutual love of the Auricula. It is well known that they exchanged plants for the sake of the pollen, and Simmonite acted the distributing 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."