The National Auricula & Primula Society

Northern Section



Welcome to the Auricula Monthly Newsletter.

Intended primarily to those new members who wish to learn more about the care and propagation of these beautiful plants and indeed about the Society, however everyone is welcome.

Further information may also be found at Growing Guide.

October 2020

All Things Auricula - October 2020.

I hope you have all received your Yearbook and are busy planning the next season. Fingers crossed, we will have shows to attend, though they may be ‘socially distanced’ and the judges will have to form a two metre ‘huddle’ to discuss the results!

I have finished planting the seeds I obtained from my own crosses and am awaiting them appearing above the compost. I have followed the advice from an experience grower - sow them in small seed trays filled with a peat-based compost. I watered this and then covered it with a layer of sand. After scattering the seeds, I gave another thin covering of sand to anchor the seedlings when they germinate. I was told it is best to cover the trays with a pane of glass or clear Perspex to stop them drying out. Apparently, they do not mind the cold although, during a hard frost, I will give them an extra cover of greenhouse fleece just in case. The seedlings will remain small over winter but usually develop true leaves for pricking out in February and grow away fast from there, with a good prospect of them flowering the following year.

In my September newsletter I was moaning about my plants being attacked by aphids and one of our members with over forty years experience sent me the following which I think hits the nail on the head.

"Root aphid has been a problem for as long as I can remember, it is always bad in a warm dry season like the currant one. At one time I used Chlorpyrphos, it did a superb job but is no longer available. All you can do now is to try to keep plants clean and ‘not too dry’ as they seem to not like constant damp compost, though a problem with root rot may follow! When you find a plant with root aphid remove all old compost and gently wash the roots in water containing a few spots of washing up liquid, swill in clean cold water, allow to dry and then repot with fresh compost. Then, and this is most important, put all your old compost into a polythene bag and put it in your waste bin. These aphids also like lettuce plants and a number of common garden weeds so keep your place clean. Also carefully examine any gifts and purchases from Plant Sales with great care, you are not the only grower with root aphid!"

Wise words and again good hygiene seems to be the answer to a problem.

Now the weather is becoming colder and days are shortening my thoughts are with winter preparation – when to bring the plants back into the greenhouse? I usually start at the end of October – criky, that’s this month, time flies! Time to disinfect the benches, clean the glass and get rid of all the junk I have stored in it as it could be harbouring pests and diseases.

Some members have asked about what is the best ‘mix’ for compost and I thought it would be a good topic for next month’s newsletter. It is a difficult question to answer as a lot depends on where you live. I live at sea level next to the North Sea but some members live high in the Pennines with a lot more cold and frost. I listened to a very interesting talk, at the Scottish Auricula Society AGM one year, given by a Plant Nursery owner and he stated he could not use any soil based compost (John Innes) in his ‘mix’ as it was too cold and damp in the Perth area of Scotland. His ‘mix’ would be too light for my needs and I still think using a ratio of 1:1:1 John Innes 2, multi purpose compost and alpine grit is a good base to start. Do any of you have any observations on any other ingredients that you have found helpful? E-mail me on with any ‘recipes’ you have found to be a success and I will include them in the newsletter for members to try.

Lesley Key


September 2020

All Things Auricula - September 2020.

I am writing this second newsletter with a heavy heart - as you will see the AGM has been cancelled. This is always a great chance to catch up with friends and to swap stories as to how our plants are doing (or in my case not doing!). However, the safety of our members is paramount so we have had no choice but to cancel, so it means we will not meet up with many friends until the next show.

With not going away on holiday this year I did not turf my auriculas out of the greenhouse into the shady spot that is their usual summer residence. What a mistake - Red Spider Mite invaded my plants, however a quick e-mail to an experienced grower in Harrogate resulted in a very speedy reply as to how to fight this awful bug.

I had kept the plants in a hot dry atmosphere, the ideal conditions for the little critters! I sprayed them with an oily deterrent and then put them outside and kept the surrounding area damp and cool. I seem to have been successful so far and have learnt a valuable lesson – do not mollycoddle auriculas. I will have to be very vigilant as they will be back!

Once the weather turned a bit cooler, I have repotted; the Growing Guide on this web site is ideal, for novice and experienced growers alike. If you follow it you will not go far wrong.

Once again, I have found root aphis! Having spoken to several members it has been very prevalent this year and I wonder if the hot dry weather in early ‘lock down’ time has provided the ideal conditions for it to thrive. I would love to hear from anyone as to how they deal with them as I feel I am fighting a constant battle. I have renamed my greenhouse the 4* bug hotel.

The one thing I am strict with is hygiene for my scissors. I have a small pot of white spirit (or methylated spirit) on the bench and I plunge the blades EVERY time I use them. This stops any infection spreading around the plants. I also dust the carrot end (when shortened) with ground charcoal to stop any disease. The plants are now back outside and will remain there until October.

This year I have tried to produce seed, from crosses, of my grey and green edged plants as well as my selfs.

As I could not show, I crossed any suitable plant in flower and have managed to get sixteen packets of seeds. They vary from one or two seeds to about fifteen, so I will plant in seed trays in September and, fingers crossed, I might get some plants.

Once again, I have asked an experienced grower what to do and have received some very solid advice. Most members are very willing to pass on their experience (this is why I call us the ‘Friendly Flower Society’) so if you have a query, I can pass it on to a member who can help I will not pass on your e-mail address as the Society follows a strict data protection protocol so you will receive an answer back though my address.

In the next few years it will be very interesting as to how many new varieties are named Lockdown Blue/Lockdown Miracle etc.

The next item on our calendar is the Yearbook – this year without any show results but, having spoken to our Editor, it is full of interesting articles on all things Auricula and Primula so look out for it early October. Members, some of whom are new and some who have never thought about taking to print have risen to this year’s challenges and made a book that is worthy of any year.

Lesley Key


August 2020

All Things Auricula. This is the first of my newsletters to our new, and not so new members, and I hope it gives you a few tips as to what to do with your plants on a month to month basis. I would like to hear from any members with their queries and I can be contacted on

I have only been showing these fascinating plants for twelve years, so I am not an expert, and this column is intended as a lighthearted look at the pleasures and pitfalls encountered throughout the year. If you have a query drop me a line and I will try to answer it through this column – if I cannot then I will know of experienced members who I can call on for a solution!

This year has been the most challenging for all of us and it was a great disappointment that we could not meet any of our new members, in person, at the shows. Hopefully, next year we will see many of you and you will be able to add to your collections through our plant sales. These are held at all our shows, and the AGM, where it is a chance for our seasoned exhibitors and growers to sell their surplus plants, often not available commercially, at very reasonable prices. So you can acquire some first rate specimens and also help the Society with its finances. A win win situation that has been a great loss this year.

This year also has seen changes in my schedule of re-potting due to the closure of the specialist Nursery where I obtain my good quality John Innes 2. I have always re-potted straight after the shows (third week in May) however I have just now been able to buy the fresh compost and grit needed for this job. I will start this week (first week in August), the time favored by a number of seasoned exhibitors. I will report on my progress next month.

You will see on this website a cultivation page giving details of how and when to re-pot and a guide to what compost to use. I still refer to it as it has many good tips and advice. The most important thing to remember when re-potting is USE CLEAN POTS! A good soak in Jeyes fluid, or similar, will stop any bugs or disease re infecting your plants!

I hope over the coming months to hear from you with your questions, and I am sure some of you will have solutions to the problems encountered in growing Auriculas. Let us know and we will share them with others.

As I am the Societies’ Archivist, I can also help anyone interested in the history of the Society and members can borrow material, either in hard copy form or electronically. Some of the early Year Books make fascinating reading and are all stored in a form that can be sent to your computer. Remember and if you would prefer to receive this newsletter via e-mail send me your name and your e-mail and I can send it direct every month.

I look forward to receiving your questions and comments.

Keep safe, keep growing Auriculas.

Lesley Key

Society Archivist

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