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Welcome to the Auricula Monthly Newsletter

This page is intended primarily for 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 most welcome.

Further information may also be found at Growing Guide.

August 2022

All Things Auricula - August 2022.

The last few weeks have been very challenging with the heatwave and lack of rain. Keeping any plant cool is very difficult and I have found a daily spraying of leaves and dousing the shading net with water kept mine cool enough to survive.

One of our experienced members has sent me these photographs of seed pods to show what they should look like when they are developing. The first one shows a seed pod swelling and developing


The second shows it when it can be removed from the plant. The stalk has turned yellow/brown and has died so will not be sending any nutrients to the pod.

Remove it and place in a glassine or paper bag (not plastic) while it dries out and releases the seeds. Remember to write the crosses on the bag.

The photograph below shows failed seed heads – they have not swelled and have withered and died.

Below is a reprinting of an article first published in our 2020 Yearbook that I hope you will find interesting and encourage you to try your hand at taking seeds as a way of getting plants.

How I grow Primula and Meconopsis from seeds by Jeanie Jones;

Where do you start? Well I think seeds come first. If you have collected your own seeds, dry them, and put them in either glassine packets or envelopes, clearly labelled with their name and date. Put the packets into a sealed glass jar in the fridge. If you are buying your seeds from societies such as the Scottish Rock garden club, Alpine Garden Society or NAPS, when you get them put them straight into the jar. Primula and Meconopsis seed can be short lived if not stored this way, and garden centres seem to display their seeds where the suns rays can fall on them so the seed is not viable, even before you buy it. When going through a friend’s jar she gave me a packet of Primula boveanna ’09 and they germinated ten years later!

Next is compost. Everyone has their own recipes, from using Multi-purpose straight out of the bag to complex combinations. I usually use the following well mixed:-
4 x John Innes Seed compost;
2 x Humax multi-purpose compost;
1 x perlite;
1 x sharp granite grit.

Labels – I colour code each year. This year it is red for Primula and blue for Meconopsis and other seeds a yellow one. The name, date sown and where the seeds came from is written in pencil and a Dymo label is also attached.

Containers – I find a 3" (8-9cm) square pot is more than sufficient for the number of plants I want to grow. The pots are filled to within half and inch (12mm) of the rim, and a sprinkling of Osmacote slow release fertiliser is mixed into the top inch. Then the pots are topped with 1/4" (6mm) sharp granite grit.

A pinch of seed is sprinkled onto the grit, covering the whole area very thinly, then I use a hand sprayer filled with fresh water to spray the seed into the grit. (I got this idea from our gravel paths where anything seems to grow from seed which falls there). A layer of grit on top of the compost stops liverwort and moss growing on the compost. The pots are watered from below and allowed to drain.

I have a table on the north side of the house, and put large trays (the size a grow bag will fit into) which have had holes drilled into the sides half way up, and fill them level with the top with charcoal chips and then fill them with fresh water up to the drainage holes. This gives a nice moist atmosphere, and the charcoal keeps the water ‘sweet’. I think slugs and snails find it difficult to get up to the pots if they have to travel over the charcoal, this is an additional deterrent, compared with putting the pots on the ground.

I start sowing on the 1st of January and the sown pots are placed on the charcoal to take whatever the weather brings. I have heard snow aids germination, but that may be an old wives tale.

If the sun shines on the pots the tiny seedlings will shrivel up, and you might think the seed was not viable, if you have not noticed them. It is important to put the pots where this will not happen, or to cover them with fleece.

As soon as I see any germination I turn the pots 90 degrees, so I know that has happened (the position of the label will indicate this) and the pots get a misting of a weak seaweed or tomato fertiliser solution. As soon as there are a few seedlings in a pot it is taken into my cold north facing greenhouse and given at least a daily misting of the seaweed solution. The pots may be covered with fleece if they are in a position where the sun comes in, or it is going to freeze.

When the seedlings are just large enough to handle, I prick out about 40 into trays using a similar compost but substituting John Innes No 1 for seed compost. They are watered from below and placed in a cool place for a day or two, then put where there is good light on the green house shelves. When they have grown on, I will put them outside to harden off then plant out 4" (100mm) apart in the old vegetable garden to grow on.

If they have grown on well enough by the autumn, they are transplanted into the woodland area, and if not it will be done in the spring.

I hope this is of help and if you try it this way, I do hope it will work for you.

My thanks to Jeanie for suggesting I send you this article and if you follow her instructions you will be on the road to producing some wonderful plants.

Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications

July 2022

All Things Auricula - July 2022.

I hope all of your Auriculas are now settled in their summer quarters outside - cool shady and not being over watered. Sitting in warm wet compost will stew the roots off so beware. They will not be looking at their best, but will pick up at the end of August, and put on a growing spurt in the autumn. If you cannot get them outside and have to keep them in a greenhouse you have to shade it and have all the vents open as well as the door. Water the floor daily to drop the temperature and look out for red spider mite. These mites affect plants with farina on their leaves predominantly but do strike others as well. Dry hot conditions attract them and you will spot tiny red dots on the underside of the leaves - I had to use a magnifying glass to see them. There are commercial sprays to combat them and some use an oily substance and are organic. Getting the plants outside is the best way to combat them so try and find a spot if possible.

As we have had so many members joining us recently, I would like to remind you all about our mentoring scheme. It is available to all members experienced or complete novice. If you email me on archivist@auriculas.org.uk and give permission to pass on your e-mail address to an experienced long term fellow member they will become your mentor. It is an informal scheme, and they will not bother you but be there if you need any advice or guidance. Knowing you have someone you can ask is reassuring and a good way to learn. This will be the only time your e-mail address will be given out and the mentor will not pass it on to anyone else - we are very strict on confidentiality.

One member asked me recently about seeds so I asked someone who has knowledge of this topic to write a short article - see below.

"OK - so all of our Northern Section shows have now been completed for 2022, a few members took home prize cards from the Ancient Society of York Florists Spring show and the Harrogate team's display stand (coordinated by Alan Clelland) was awarded a Premier Gold. All very satisfactory, but what have growers to look forward to now? Perhaps repotting your plants although you may want to leave that until later in the year, - see: auriculas.org.uk/growing-guide .

But, before you chop off the redundant flower stalks - remember to just cut them half-way down to avoid getting rot into the crown - consider harvesting some seed. Many members will have made their own deliberate 'crosses' but, if the bees or other insects have been busy, you may have some incidental crosses amongst your plants. It will be well worth harvesting seed to grow on yourself or to donate to our Seed Exchange later in the year. Carefully remove dead petals from the pip and examine the area where they were attached - a ring of green sepals should remain along with the remains of the pistil. At the foot of the pistil, look for a small green ball, perhaps with a brownish tip. This will be the seed pod. If the flower has been pollinated this pod will gradually swell in size up to about 3-5mm. Many growers 'mark' their promising seed pods by tying a small length of wool or thread around the stem so that the heads do not get sacrificed. Keep the plant normally watered while keeping an eye on the seed pod. Over a couple of months it will begin to go brown as the seeds mature and the pod dries. It is important to watch out for this as seeds may be lost if an open pod is shaken by the wind. Carefully remove a ripe pod - some growers place in a paper envelope or on a saucer to dry fully. Make sure each pod is labelled so that you know where it originated - either the name of the pollen donor plus mother plant or as 'open pollinated' (+ mothers name). Shake dried seeds into a paper or glassine packet and store labelled - this may be in a fridge in a sealed container (to exclude moisture).

Some seed can be sowed immediately or kept until the following Spring - see: auriculas.org.uk/grow-seed for advice on growing your seed on.

Alternatively, consider donating good quality or rare variety seed to our Seed Exchange - an appeal for seed will appear on the website later in the year. Remember that auriculas only grow true to variety from offsets of the original plant. By doing your own deliberate crosses or harvesting seed from your plants you may be the breeder of the next top show-winning variety."

Good growing and have a go!

Thanks to our member for his contribution.

Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications


June 2022

NAPS (Northern) - Monthly Newsletter
June 2022

What a wonderful month May turned out to be! Our first Auricula Show in three years, and in a new venue, was lovely. Though some classes were rather thin on exhibits, the meeting of fellow enthusiasts after such a long time made up for this. The number of new members who came to see their first show was remarkable and bodes well for the future. The plant sale was very popular and took an admiral amount of money – half goes to the member who donated the plants and half to the Society. It was very encouraging to see the standard in the Novice section and we had a few new members vowing to put plants on the bench next year. A good way of learning what the judges are looking for is to ‘run’ for the judges. This involves taking the judging slips to the recorder and making sure the winning plants are identified with red/blue/green tags. We had two new ‘runners’ at the show and they both seemed to enjoy their experience and their help was much appreciated.

Following on from the main Auricula show was my local show at Newbottle. Organised by a small band of 'northerners' it was its usual welcoming and social affair. Again, some classes were rather thin but the season had been early this year and a number of us did not have any plants left with pips on. The plant sale ran out of auriculas for sale! Getting good quality plants is proving a challenge and the Society is looking to what we can do to rectify this. New members need plants and good quality at that - if you are repotting now do think about potting up some offsets to help.

I am repotting now and have used a peat free multipurpose compost in my mix (I still use 1 part john Innes 2, 1 part multipurpose, 1 part fine grit). I am trying the one endorsed by the RHS and I am finding it is a lovely texture. It does not have big lumps of unknown origin that have to be discarded, so even though it is more expensive than some, it works out better value. There is still peat in the John Innes compost I use but my plants are gradually being weaned off peat, so by the time it will not be available (someone said this will be 2024) I hope they have adapted.

I have not found any vine weevil in my plants! This is the first time in a number of years to be weevil free - I do not know if my experiment with solid toilet blocks could be one reason but I will continue to have them placed between the plants when they are in the greenhouse. I am getting used to the 'public toilet' fragrance. I have top dressed with grit to deter weevils getting into the pots. The plants are now out in their summer quarters - shaded, cool, and where they get good air flow so it would be difficult to have toilet blocks with them as they would get wet and dissolve! With the plants being outside, and finding out what rain is all about, I am hoping the root aphid will be kept under control- there was a small amount when I repotted but I washed them off with water and disposed of the compost, so they do not get reinfested. All the pots have been washed and stored for the future. I have twice as many pots as I need so I am not tempted to reuse dirty pots before I get a chance to wash them.

The only plants not repotted are the ones I have crossed and hopefully will produce seed. They have been fed a little tomato feed to help them produce good quality seed and I will repot in the autumn. I have taken as many offsets as I can to help with the plant shortage and should have some green edges as well as red and yellow selfs.

This month is the time to write an article for the Yearbook! It would be lovely to have some articles from new members, maybe about why they joined and what they would like to get out of membership. I would love some pics of Auricula Theatres as there seem to be a vast variety of them out there. I already have a very contemporary one made with wire baskets and natural planks of wood that you will see in the Yearbook. If you would like to send me your 'take' on a Theatre you might see it in print. My e-mail is archivist@auriculas.org.uk. The deadline for article/photographs is the end of June so get typing.

Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications


May 2022

All Things Auricula - May 2022.

Wonderful! We have at last been able to meet and hold a show after two long years. Ossett on the 2nd of April was well attended and everyone seemed to be having a good time and catchup. The benches were full of the most gorgeous primula with their different colours and forms – you do not realise how much it has been missed over the last two years. I was given the opportunity of assisting the Auricula section judge – thank you to Barry Thompson who was so generous in encouraging me in my first steps at judging. It was also lovely to see a new exhibitor in novice bringing not one but a number of plants! More than a lot of us could manage on the day!

The week after Ossett the Ancient Society of York Florists held their spring show. Another great event well attended by NAPS members. It has a variety of classes apart from Auricula and Primula and the scent from the daffodils was just lovely. One NAPS member won the best handicraft award and another won the best photograph category. It shows we are not just plants people but can turn our hands to different tasks!

I learned a very valuable lesson on the day! Concentrate when benching! I was so busy catching up with fellow enthusiasts I popped a Lilac Domino on the bench – the judge wrote on its card ‘lovely plant but it is purple’. Yes, it should have been in the class ‘any other colour’ not the ‘blue’ self class. The name LILAC Domino should have been enough to alert me before I was NAS’d (not as scheduled)! It did not spoil the day and it is a lovely day out in a typical Yorkshire village.

Harrogate Spring Flower Show came hot on the heels of York and what a lovely show it was. After a lot of hard work, we were awarded a PREMIER GOLD! The stand looked superb, and the judges were very complimentary about our efforts. We also had a number of new members joining us, so we still continue to grow as we head to our 150 years anniversary. The feedback from visitors at the show was very positive and to find so many of them growing auriculas! Theatres have taken off in the last few years and I was shown some lovely examples on visitors’ phones. The absence of Nurseries selling auriculas in the sales section was commented on by many and finding a supply of good plants is becoming a problem for new growers. Our plant sale at our show at Wetherby on the 7th May could prove to be very popular! If you have any surplus plants bring them along and they will find good homes and help new members start their collections.

On travelling down the A1(M) to Harrogate from the Northeast it was very uplifting to see drifts of primroses and primula veris (cowslips) for mile after mile growing on the embankments. They obviously like the conditions and thrive on very little attention.

This is the time to cross pollinate to produce seed for new plants. If you are not sure how to do this look at our webpage, auriculas.org.uk and go to the page ‘auriculas from seed’. There you will find a short video of how to pollinate a plant and once you have tried it, it becomes quite addictive! It is a lovely way to increase your collection and you can always give any surplus seed to the seed exchange!

Wetherby Auricula Show is fast approaching, and it is our main chance to see and marvel at all things auricula and primula. The plant sale starts at 12.00 noon, and it looks as if it could be very popular this year.

Look forward to meeting old and new friends there,

Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications


April 2022

NAPS Monthly Newsletter - April 2022.

I have returned from a lovely holiday to find my auriculas bursting with life! I watered them before I left and, with a quick drink on my return, they have thrived in my absence! Maybe that is a lesson - not to mollycoddle them!

My pond is also thriving and has frog spawn covering the surface. This meant I could tidy my garden of old foliage and leaves. I must leave a good covering in the winter as the frogs hibernate under this and I do not want to disturb them. When I was tidying, I uncovered some lovely gold and silver laced polyanthus.
They were planted out at least three years ago and have taken to my garden. I could not decide where they would be best suited, so I tried different locations and HEY PRESTO all have thrived. They look so delicate but have grown and will need splitting when they have finished flowering this year. Gold laced polyanthus have been on the show schedule of the Society since its inception in 1873. They were the only type of primula shown for years and had many named varieties. Steadily they declined and other primula overtook them on the show benches. The named varieties disappeared, and the decline continued, however there are some dedicated exhibitors who are now trying to reverse this decline with some success. They have also started to appear in garden centres and seem to be very popular, quite rightly as they look lovely in a garden border or in pots.

I purchased some seeds through our seed scheme and my Lindsey Laced cross seeds are growing and look very healthy. I will prick them out when they have grown more leaves and pot into individual small pots and let them grow on.

Tomorrow sees the first of our shows for two years! Ossett is our primula show but it also has classes for auriculas. It is too early for my plants as I am in the far north – or the Northeast as some would call it! I will still be going to help set up and have a long overdue catch up with fellow enthusiasts. The sight of a bench full of primula is well worth the journey. As there will be a plant sale it is also a chance to restock after the long hiatus we have endured.

I can see trusses forming deep down in the foliage of my grey and green edges so I have just given them a quarter strength feed of tomato fertilizer. The selfs are further on as usual and any showing ‘colour’ in the pips have been fed enough this year and will be left to develop the truss. Plants should not be left to dry out but must not sit in water for more than it takes for them to have a good drink. Over watering is the biggest killer of auriculas.

I have taken a peep at my husband’s plants – he grows anything not in section one (section one is grey/white/green edges and selfs) and his are coming along nicely after his disaster with the Jeyes fluid. The ones that survived seem to be progressing well and the ones he bought, or were given, at the AGM are thriving.

The Society is, once again, exhibiting at Harrogate in the Societies marquee. This is a chance to show ‘the public’ what the Society stands for and how we display our plants. The stand attracts a steady stream of onlookers, and they are always very complimentary about the display. It is a chance for anyone to ask us about the plants and we can help answer some of their queries. It is where I first fell in love with auriculas and joined the Society. We always need volunteers to help set up (and take down) the stand so if you could spare a few hours on the morning of Wednesday 20th April or later afternoon on Sunday 24th you can either contact myself on archivist@auriculas.org.uk or Alan our webmaster and Harrogate organiser on website@auriculas.org.uk . Both of us will be at Ossett so you could also see us there so you can be added to the list of our volunteers.

Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications


March 2022

All Things Auricula - March 2022.

February seems to have gone by so quickly and here we are nearly March. You are getting this Newsletter a bit prior due to my long overdue holiday!

I hope you found your Vernalis useful and have put the dates of the shows in your diary. Plants are now well on their way and will soon be identifiable as to which ones are forming pips. The younger ones can be put to one side to mature and will go outside soon to stop them getting red spider mite.

It is not too late to send a request for seed – the e-mail you will need is p.scott.rowley@gmail.com or if you prefer sent a letter to:

Penelope Scott-Rowley
58 – 60 South View Road
East Bierley Village
West Yorkshire

There is also an order form on our website www.auriculas.org.uk. under ‘seed exchange’ that you can print, or copy, and a list of available seed, and it has instructions as to what to do. Do not send money with the order as you will be sent an invoice.

In the last newsletter I mentioned an old article from the Yearbook recommending ‘toilet blocks’ placed on the benches to deter vine weevil. Well, I am trying it though my greenhouse now smells like a public convenience! It could deter me before the vine weevil take the hint but I will persevere. Someone pointed out that they need to be kept out of the reach of young children as they are caustic, however, as my greenhouse is full of sharp tools and fertilisers, I am always cautious with granddaughter.

Preparations for the shows are underway and we have two new Show Superintendents to organise these much-anticipated events. In our 149 years of NAPS we have never missed two years’ worth of shows. In the 1918 – 1921 Spanish flu pandemic no mention of it can be found in Yearbooks or committee minutes. They were a hardy lot back then!

One show I never miss is the Ancient Society of York Florists Spring show. Held this year on the 9th of April at the Recreation Hall, Wiggington, Nr York, YO32 2LL. They have classes for auriculas and primulas as well as daffodils, tulips, floral art, and handicrafts among others. It is a very friendly show held in a very picturesque part of the country, and well worth a visit.

Watering at this time of year can take quite a lot of patience as the farina on the leaves can be so easily marked. If you grow grey/green or self varieties this can be a problem and to see a lovely plant on the bench spoilt by blotchy marks is a great let down so be careful. I wrap a cloth around my small fine watering can as it is always the best plant that catches a stray drip! Watering is increasing as the plants are in active growth but pick up each pot to test how heavy it is before being too liberal with the watering can. Just because the surface of the compost looks dry it may be wet underneath and over watering kills more plants than under watering – so beware.

It is with great sadness that I will not be sending some of you any more newsletters as you have chosen not to renew your membership for 2022. It is not too late to change your mind though if you decide against, I wonder if you would like to drop me a line at archivist@auriculas.org.uk if there is any reason why and if we can rectify any short comings. It is always disappointing to lose members and not know why. If you would like send a cheque, made payable to NAPS (Northern Section) to:

The Treasurer,
5 Chollerford Ave
Whitley Bay
Tyne and Wear
NE25 8QD

or request details of the bank account to do a bank transfer contact him on treasurer@auriculas.org.uk . Full details are also on our website, www.auriculas.org.uk.

Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications


February 2022

All Things Auricula - February 2022.

Last February I was not able to write the Newsletter, due to a nasty dose of Covid 19, (this was before vaccination was available to me) so I am delighted to be able to ‘pen’ this in 2022.

I wrote in December about there not being many good years for auricula growing weather wise; well this Winter has proved my point! On Christmas Day, here in the Northeast, it was perishing with a bitterly cold wind and then, a few days later, there were reports of children building sandcastles on the local beach, it was so mild! I have resisted the temptation to water too much until I see signs of ‘greening up’ on the leaves and the plants beginning to put on some growth. I am hoping for some offsets this year as, due to my dose of Covid last year, I did not bother and the benches in the greenhouse look a little bare.

Reading an old Yearbook, I found someone suggesting a way to deter vine weevil that I thought I would try. They used ‘toilet blocks’ – placing them in between the plants as they thought the smell repelled the adult weevils. By ‘toilet blocks’ I presume they meant the small disinfectant blue discs you put in the cistern to keep the toilet clean. They usually have a strong smell so I will see if they have any effect. I will have to put them on saucers as I use capillary matting and any leaching into this could get into the soil.

When the weather is warmer, I am also going to try nematodes. The soil must be above 5 degrees centigrade so March/April is the earliest I can apply so I will report on my progress in a future newsletter.

With a change in venue for our Auricula show, we are hoping it will be as successful as Cheadle where we have met for many years. Rodillian Academy, Lofthouse, Wakefield is near good transport links. Holding shows after a two-year break will be wonderful – never in the Societies history have we lost two seasons, even during two World Wars. However, we need help to set up the shows and for manning the plant sales. Can you help? No experience is necessary as our show superintendents will be there cracking the whip!! Just joking! If you can be of assistance e-mail me on archivist@auriculas.org.uk and I will pass on your name to the superintendents so they can welcome you at the shows. The dates are Primula show, Ossett, 2nd of April and Auricula show, Lofthouse, Wakefield, 7th May. Please consider this as it is vital to have successful shows.

By the 7th of May, fingers crossed, I should have some plants with pips! Last season I had very few pips and I have realised this was due to the infestation of red spider mite the summer before stressing my plants. Last summer I kept a close eye on them, and they went through the summer looking a lot happier!

My other ambition this year is producing some seed – preferably from greys and green edges. They are more difficult to get seed off than alpines, or so I keep telling my husband! He has a batch of seedlings in the greenhouse at the moment and I am determined I will have the same next year!

Talking of husband, or ‘Treasurer’ to give him his proper title, he is busy accounting for the incoming subscriptions for 2022. Members have until the end of this month to send theirs by cheque or standing order. If you need any advice as to how to set up a standing order you can e-mail him on treasurer@auriculas.org.uk and he will be able to help. With a standing order the Society has no access to your bank details, so it is very safe and secure. You control it and can cancel or amend it at any time. It is not the same as a Direct Debit payment – large utilities companies use this method and can cancel or change them and they hold your bank details.

Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications


January 2022

All Things Auricula - January 2022.

Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas with your family and friends and are looking forward to a plant packed 2022.

November and December were quite eventful with storms Arwen and Barra and so many gardens took a battering. A lot of vegetation in my garden is now black and dead looking, however, I am hopeful that the plants will recover come Spring.

On the Northeast coast where I live, we were in the brunt of ‘the Beast from the East’ in 2016. Four lampposts snapped on the seafront, and I live a quarter of a mile inland. One of my small upright, plastic covered greenhouses overturned during the night and when I went to investigate all the plants had come out of their pots and were scattered around the ground. I was horrified since if the plants get separated from their labels it is very hard to identify them. I did not have to worry as the labels were stuck to the frozen compost. I popped them all back into their pots and a few weeks later found them happily growing none the worse for their ordeal. I did not lose one plant and from then on decided they were hardier than me!

Have you seen the NAPS-Northern Facebook page? It went live in the middle of December and is looking lovely. If you need a ‘fix’ of good plants, have a look and you will be rewarded by some wonderful photographs.

I go into my greenhouse in early January and check that my plants are still ‘sleeping’ and arrange the more mature plants together and varieties alongside each other. The young plants that will not be flowering this year are checked to see they are looking healthy and showing no signs of rot or fungal disease on their leaves. The compost should be very slightly moist but not wet and it will be another month at least before they show signs of growth. Be patient and one day you will see a fresher look to them, and they will rapidly start to develop.

As you all know it is subs time again! I think you will agree that for £10 a year you get quite a lot for your money. With the Spring Newsletter, Yearbook, 2 Monthly Newsletters (Auricula Monthly and Archives Miscellany), Twitter and Facebook it seems good value for money. You then get three shows and four mega plant sales and an AGM/social meeting. Last but not least you also have the seed scheme that is only open to members. For the price of two drinks! Not bad! The original cost of a year’s membership was 10/-. Though 10/- is equivalent to 50p in decimal currency, it was a large sum in 1873 so the Society was only open to those who were well off. The price stayed the same until 1967 when it was raised to 15/-. To keep the membership fee the same for nearly 100 years was quite a feat as prize money was awarded throughout this period.

Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications


December 2021

All Things Auricula - December 2021.

This month I want to quote a sentence written in a Yearbook decades ago: ‘do not mollycoddle your plants in winter’. This wonderful turn of phrase is still as relevant today as it was when first written. Many of you have acquired plants this year so are approaching the first winter as auricula growers and will be wondering what to do. Well do not ‘mollycoddle’ – that is to say, in modern parlance, do not over-fuss and over-water and over-warm!

Your plants should by now be in their winter quarters – if you want to have a go at showing next year they will be inside a cold frame/greenhouse/or on upright covered shelving and not in a heated conservatory or house. They need very little and certainly not copious doses of water. They should not be ‘dust dry’ but again they should not sit in water. Wet compost will rot the roots off them and come next spring they will keel over and die.

Now the plant is resting and will not show any signs of growth until next year – mine in the Northeast usually start to look greener and fresher about the middle of February. Until then they are kept on the dry side and cool. My greenhouse has the glass door panel removed, the vents open and I encourage as much of an air flow through as I can.

My husband built a cold frame in the summer, so his plants are now going through winter in this new home. It was becoming a bit crowded in the greenhouse, so I ‘evicted’ him. It is best to give each plant space so one of us had to move.

Plants that are on an auricula theatre should be left to their own devices, though if they have saucers under the pots they should be removed as standing in water will rot them. Garden plants will be fine to be left to get on with the winter and do not need cloches or any protection. They will be a little later coming into growth but will produce a lovely display nonetheless.

It is very mild at the moment and this is not good for our plants. They need definite seasons and a mild dull winter does not encourage them to be dormant and they get confused as to when to start growing. The ideal winter is hard to come by and in reading this passage from the 1957 Yearbook this is not a new problem:-

A Curious remark made by one of the printing staff engaged in turning out the Yearbook came as a somewhat comic shock. He said he would like to ask a question about a matter which has puzzled him a long time. Fair enough! What was it? He said he had been setting this up for some time on the linotype machine, and was interested, as I know in the contents as well as the job. Was there ever, he asked, a good year for auriculas? The only answer that came at once to mind was a rather dubious ‘Yes, I suppose so'. Then he replied, it has not been in my time. Each year it is too early a season, too late, too cold, or too warm. The winter has been too severe or too mild. The plants have been checked by a cold snap or else they have continued in growth and not had their needful rest. The previous summer had been too hot, or else had not been warm enough to ripen the growth. There had been greenfly, too much root aphis and red spider mite. Well, that was enough to be going on with, and it led to some hard thinking and a bit of stocktaking. It is true there had been a good deal of moaning about the effect of our climate on our plants. Maybe it has been over done.

Yes, he had a point as we all say, ‘it has been a bad year’ and then put the most spectacular plants on the bench! Obviously not too bad a year for some!

I wrote in my last newsletter that I was putting slug traps in the green house made of old beer. The result – slugs none, mould lots of! I have quickly disposed of the mouldy mixture and am going back to night-time hunting with a torch!

I am now spending the dark winter months reading through the Yearbooks as a start to writing the book on our Society that will be given to all members to celebrate our 150th anniversary. Some wonderful facts are emerging and are leading to further research. In the late 1940’s to 1950’s we had a large American membership. In 1952 out of a membership of 226, 62 were from across the pond! They were welcomed to our shows and a number did make the crossing to see for themselves our wonderful plants. I would presume they would have to sail across the Atlantic as commercial flights were not that common. In the 1959’s our American cousins put on a photographic competition, open to all. Our own Dr Newton won five firsts and in two classes won first, second and third! Not bad!

Wishing all the best for the season and you will hear from me again in the New Year.

Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications


November 2021

Monthly Newsletter - November 2021.

Where has the year gone? We are now approaching winter and a time of dormant plants and no shows this year but next year, hopefully back to normal! The saving grace this year is that we could hold our AGM, and it was lovely to see and hear our friends after such a long absence. We also welcomed a new Secretary and a new President. For the first time in our history, all 148 years, we have a female Secretary, and she has kindly sent me an introduction to her vision of the Society for the future to be included in this newsletter. Our new President has also sent a contribution, though she was pipped to the post as first of her kind by Mrs A E Smith who served us so well in the 1980’s.

I spent an afternoon putting my plants into the greenhouse after cleaning the pots and removing fallen leaves so not too many slugs joined them. I went out the next night around 10.30pm – my neighbours are used to seeing me plodding down the garden, torch in hand, muttering ‘death to the little blighters’ - to find a virtual gardens worth of the critters munching away quite happily! I will not use any chemicals to control them as I have a pond and a colony of frogs and do not want to kill them by ingesting poisoned slugs. I am going to try beer traps – a shallow dish with left over beer next to the pots to see if that controls them. I will just have to watch out for drunk frogs drowning in the pond!

The offer of mentors has been well received and our members are taking the opportunity of having a named person at hand to help them get their plants through the winter. You can request a mentor anytime just e-mail me at archivist@auriculas.org.uk and I will pass on your request.

All the officers of the Society have new e-mail addresses in place so if there is a change in the committee in the future the addresses can be handed on and we are not using our own personal e-mails for Society matters. They are all on the website and are easy to follow – secretary, treasurer, editor, archivist, website all lower case followed by @auriculas.org.uk

Just a note of caution, some email programs do not recognise some email addresses, so please check your SPAM box regularly.

A Message From The President

At the NAPS Northern AGM on 16 October 2021 I had the honour to be elected as Society President. I consider this position to be one of leadership, responsibility and direction for the Society, its members and all we stand for. Ours is a long history and during my tenure we will reach a landmark that few other Societies can claim, that of 150 years as an active horticultural body. Plans are under way to mark that anniversary in 2023. I see our future as a positive one especially as we further embrace new technology. Many of the membership now use the internet; we communicate as much as possible by email; our membership has increased as a direct result of the NAPS website; we can now encourage interest in auriculas and primulas worldwide and across generations. I thank you all for your support and I shall do my very best to ensure that NAPS Northern continues to thrive and grow, along with our beautiful plants.
Kate Gwillym
President & Editor.

A Message from the Society Secretary

I am honoured and excited to be elected as Secretary of the National Auricula and Primula Society (Northern Section) and I’m looking forward to all I have to learn as I help guide the Society forward into its 150th year and beyond. My role is not to decide and dictate but instead to lead. To ensure any actions and decisions taken are aligned to our Society values and in what we want to achieve and how we want to grow. The best kinds of organisations are made up of diverse groups of people, our Society is no different. Experienced members that share their knowledge of the plants, the depth of experience that only comes from years of growing and new members who bring fresh eyes and energy to the team. Exhibitors, non exhibitors, horticulturists, novices, creatives, techno wizards, the chatterboxes and the quiet reflectors. There is a place for everyone and everyone has something they can contribute and a voice to be heard. We are united in our love for our plants.
I live in Selby, North Yorkshire with my partner Toby, my son Sam and our 2 whippets.When I’m not working I am mostly to be found pottering around my unruly garden or walking the hounds. If the weather is too inclement for either of those things then I find solace in baking or crochet. I rarely sit and do nothing, much to my families exasperation at times!
I look forward to seeing many of you at shows and events over the coming years and I hope you will seek me out and say hello.
Lisa Peacock

Lesley Key

Archivist and Publications.


October 2021

All Things Auricula - October 2021.

A big ‘Thank You’ to all who responded to my last newsletter and the mystery of my husband’s dying plants. Weighing up all of your suggestions I have come to the conclusion it has been an over enthusiastic use of Jeyes fluid. This preparation, used in the correct quantities, is a marvellous way to keep root aphid in check, however too much can act as a weed killer! It is a lesson learned and he is now building up a new collection, thanks to the generosity of a good few of our members. I will go back to using a small soft paint brush and methylated spirits to rid the roots of this persistent pest.

With September veering from cold and windy to beautiful sunny days in this part of the world it has been very difficult to decide if I should water, or start to decrease, as Autumn has arrived. Look out for the “Archives Miscellany” article later this month on “Watering”. By the end of October my plants will be in the greenhouse awaiting winter and will be resting before starting to produce flowers next year. I am always optimistic!

My plants are still outside but I have ‘potted up’ into one size larger the ones I ‘potted down’ a few months ago. I mentioned in an earlier article that the plants that did not flower, or produced few pips, were potted down to encourage root growth. This was recommended by a very experienced grower from the Northeast so I have given it a try and will see if it encourages mine to grow more pips next year.

It is lovely that we have welcomed another two new members this month and the Society is growing, and its future looks very rosy. So many plant Societies have struggles over the past decade, so it is wonderful to see new members each month. If you can, join us at the AGM at the Riverside Farm, York on the 16th of October – you will get a warm welcome! It is an easy venue to get to by road or rail (with York’s wonderful park and ride a short walk away) and has a lovely restaurant, so we should all be well fed!

It has been very interesting watching the Chelsea Flower Show on television – no auriculas this year but it has given us a look at Autumn flowers for a change. By the looks of it you should have colour every month of the year in the garden, or backyard in containers. It was nice to see their new category of ‘balcony’ gardens – yes, you do not need an acre or two to have colour and greenery!

I was intrigued to see a backyard is now referred to as a ‘yarden’ by our local Estate Agents, and how much you can grow even if you do not have any soil. With an auricula theatre and somewhere shady to place your pots in the summer a yarden, or balcony, can accommodate quite a collection of auricula. You would need a covered cold frame or small greenhouse (plastic or glass) if you want to show your plants but most yardens and some balconies are large enough for one or the other. These are not to provide heat but to stop the plants getting splashed by rain! I only grow and show Section 1 plants (grey/green edge and selfs) and the farina on the grey edge leaves can so easily be washed off with rain or sloppy watering.

The offer to find mentors for new (or not so new) members has been very successful, and now we have e-mail and zoom (and other types of computer interactions) there will always be someone that can help, even if they do not live nearby. Just e-mail me on archivist@auriculas.org.uk for further details.

Lesley Key

Archivist and Publications.


September 2021

All Things Auricula - September 2021.

I must start this Newsletter by telling you of the informal mentoring scheme we operate in the Society. It gives you a chance to engage with one of our more experienced members to ask questions/opinions/ and have help with suggestions on pests/diseases/compost/growing conditions/and general encouragement. It is informal but it can be very helpful for novices and more experienced members to share tips and experiences. If you are interested I can, with your and their permission, put you in touch. Just e-mail me on archivist@auriculas.org.uk Please note my new e-mail address. I will try to find someone within your area, however, if that is impossible you may have to use e-mail or phone calls to make contact.

The great dying plant mystery

The mystery is what is going on with my husband’s auriculas? I have included a photo below of some of them and as you can see, they are either dead or dying! I have been asking around the experienced members as to what this can be and how it can be resolved. My plants have not been infected and they were in the same greenhouse, before repotting, and going into their summer outside quarters, so it is not a pest or infectious disease. I have interrogated him as to what he has done with them, and this is what he has said – in late autumn he repotted (equal parts John Innes 2/multipurpose/grit) and included for the first time some Epsom salts. He watered them in using a very small amount of Jeyes fluid in the watering can. They soon went into winter hibernation and when they started to come out of the dark months something was not right. The leaves were growing flat across the pot and the flower stalks were very exposed growing like daisies in a lawn. The stalks and flowers were very small and some looked deformed. The leaves then started to go yellow and turn ‘soggy’ and the plants collapsed and turned to mush. Repotting at the end of May (using equal parts John Innes/multipurpose/grit) did not stop the decline and they have slowly died until very few are left. Apart from a feed of weak strength tomato fertiliser in March and keeping them on the dry side they have looked as if they have been ‘overwatered’! If any of you have seen anything similar and have any conclusions, please let me know at archivist@auriculas.org.uk, as it looks as if he will lose all his plants. I can see he will be first in the queue at the plant sale at the AGM!

Speaking of the AGM, it is at a new venue this year and a new date – 16th of October 2021 at the Riverside Farm, York. The Committee held their recent meeting at this venue to see if it would be suitable – it is roomy, well ventilated and can accommodate a good number of members. It is on the first floor but has stair lift access if required. As it is also a restaurant, meals can be taken during the break in proceedings. We all look forward to a bumper event this year!

Lens plant

Hubby’s plants;

Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications


August 2021

All Things Auricula - August 2021.

It is now a year since I started writing this Newsletter – it only seems like a few months ago that I was reporting on August repotting and red spider mite. This year I repotted in early June and then put my plants out into their summer quarters. I have not been infected by the dreaded mite and all looks well. As I reported in an earlier Newsletter, I used some peat free compost in my mix, and it seems to be working well. I watched a programme on TV about peat free and the presenter uses topsoil and composted bark to retain some moisture. I have noticed when using only general-purpose peat free compost, for annuals and young plants from the garden, that water goes straight through the pot and out the drainage holes with lightning speed. Adding a bit of topsoil and composted bark seems to be the solution and gives the plant the chance to absorb the water before it disappears. Whether you need to use it in an auricula mix is debatable, as John Innes has peat in the mix, but soon that will be missing. All very confusing but I will persevere and report on my progress. I have managed to source the wool and bracken peat free mix from a garden centre in Yorkshire – it does not seem to have come any further north yet! It is like all the peat free mixes I have tried in that it is courser and has some large ‘bits’ in it than traditional mixes.

The Society is holding its first committee meeting in nearly two years next week, and we are all eager to get back to ‘normal’ and arrange this year’s AGM and next year’s shows. The Northeast branch is also resuming its meetings at Newbottle WMC on the first Tuesday of the month. It starts at 7.00pm and all members are welcome. If you would like more information on this you can contact the Northeast Secretary, Kate Gwillym on editor@auriculas.org.uk

My Auricula Theatre is now empty of plants as they are resting so I have used the space for a display of pansies and sedums. Sempervivums (house leeks) are also an ideal maintenance free plant for this spot. They do not require any attention when I have my summer holidays – I think I can remember what a summer holiday is! If any of my Auriculas put up an autumn truss, I will display them this year. Usually, I remove the stalk so as not to detract from the spring truss forming, however, I would like to enjoy some auricula colour this year. This will impact on plants available to show but this year it is worth the sacrifice to enjoy my plants.

As I had very few plants flowering this year, I have not been able to do any crosses for seed. My attempts at finding a new and exciting plant have been, so far, a complete failure. None of last years seed germinated so I am back to square one. When you see the number of seedlings entered in the photographic competition it is so encouraging that some of our members are working so hard to breed new varieties. It takes patience and time and can be very frustrating but to see some of the results can be very, very rewarding.

Having spent some time looking at the winners of the photographic competition and marvelling at the ‘Peoples choice winner’ I thought I would ask Chris what his summer routine was – here is his answer:
"I do away with the greenhouse straight after the last show.  I remove all flowers, just leaving a short stem.  The plants then go outside, open to the elements, but not in a south facing aspect.  Keep an eye on the compost.  These small pots can dry out very quickly, but only water once they have dried out.  Don't water if not required.  They seem to prefer the rain.  They get a couple of feeds of a tomato fertiliser.  If you find you need to have to spray for pests (I have had a touch of trouble with greenfly) don't spray midday, spray early morning or preferably late evening.  You don't want the spray on the leaves at the hottest part of the day.  I just leave the plants to their own devices.  I don't remove any leaves and then I repot 1st August.  The plants remain outside and do not go back into the greenhouse until November time.  Just keep it simple. For a healthy truss the following year, the plants have to be grown well the previous summer."

Well simply good old fashioned plant husbandry! No expensive equipment or fancy mixes and something we all can aspire to. I can but dream! As my plants were stressed with red spider mite last summer it is now obvious why I got such poor flowers this year. Would anyone like to share their autumn regime with us? E-mail me on archivist@auriculas.org.uk and I will print it next month.

Lesley Key,
Archivist and Publications