This monthly newsletter, full of hints and tips about growing Auriculas and Primulas, is now only available to members via e-mail. As a member, if you are not currently receiving this email, please contact Lesley on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Examples of recent newsletter may be found below.
NAPS - Northern Auricula and Primula Scribblings
It is lovely to see how many of our members have stayed with us, for our 150th year, and also how many new members have joined! This year is so special and for one year only the Spring newsletter, Vernalis, will be sent to all members by post and in the envelope will be our 'celebration booklet'! This is to mark the beginning of a special year as so few Societies have survived for so long. We are not only surviving but are thriving.
Those who have chosen not to stay with us I hope you will continue to grow and appreciate our auricula and primula and maybe we will see you again in the future.
Our members will have received their March Newsletter by e-mail by now and I hope they find it helpful. Jeanie's guide 'How to prepare a primula for the show bench' is particularly interesting.
Please check your 'spam' folder if you have not received it, as my e-mail address is often mistaken for junk mail! It is sent out on the 1st of the month except for the April letter which will be sent out a few days earlier due to our Primula show being on the 1st of April.
This newsletter is now only available to members via e-mail. If you have any queries regarding this change, please contact me on email@example.com.
Archivist and Publications
NAPS - Northern Auricula and Primula Scribblings
The season for our plants is fast approaching and we all need to get ready. I am sourcing good quality composts and have already bought a supply of fine grit. Old composts lose a lot of the nutrients over time so I always buy new bags every season. Next year, 2024, sees the withdrawal from sale of composts containing peat so I am gradually changing my 'mix' so the plants do not have a an abrupt change.
After the shock last summer of heat, drought and every pest and disease known to members (and some I had never heard of) I am going to be prepared if it happens again this year! I have bought another water butt to store rain water, some greenhouse shading to make a shady spot in the north facing part of the garden and have spent some of the cold wet days in January researching white fly deterrent. Encarsia Formosa is a tiny wasp that you can order online -they come on a card that you hang up in the green house/cold frame and they excel at controlling the dreaded white fly. The temperature has to be above 10oC so they will not work yet, but at the first signs of these awful pests I will be putting in an order.
The perennial problem of vine weevil is one I have not been able to conquer so I am going to order some nematodes as chemicals have failed. I much prefer organic solutions, if possible, and nematodes can be used in the greenhouse all year round if the temperature of the soil is above 5oC and out in the garden in summer. There are products available to deter adult beetles getting into pots and traps for them so I am going to try all and see how I get on. All are available if you search the internet, and I am determined to eradicate vine weevil from my garden and greenhouse if possible - I am an eternal optimist!
One of our members has asked - where does the name 'long tom' used for the long terracotta pots we use come from? If you know e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is the first article by Jeanie our Primula expert
Each year I try to sow my Primula seeds on or as soon after 1st January as I can. This year the first seeds were sown on 10th, ones I had from my own collections, from the Meconopsis Group seed exchange and the Alpine Garden Society. The Scottish Rock Garden seeds arrived on 14th January and at that date the American Primrose Society ones had not arrived.
Do refer to our website, Primulas from Seed. for more information on growing primulas from seed.
Labels named with Brother machine, black pen and pencil on reverse. Tray with sown seeds, on top of grit, pots with slow release fertiliser mixed in, far right mixed compost, grit and pearlite.
Pots sown with Primula red labels and Meconopsis blue labels.
Five members chose some Meconopsis seeds - companion plants on the NAPS (Northern) seed exchange. I grow Meconopsis exactly the same way as Primula. Perhaps more people will try them next year, there are many more species and cultivars from the Meconopsis Group and I will put more in the Seed Exchange as I grow quite a range.
Be aware that some Meconopsis are monocarpic - they die after they have flowered, but they usually set masses of seeds. Some flower in 18 months from sowing, but they can take up to three or four years to mature but have lovely leaf rosettes, with either silver or golden hairs. There will be more Primula content as the months progress and I am sure you will find it very informative.
Just a reminder - subs (still just £10) have to be paid by the end of February so if you need guidance on how to pay see our website auriculas.org.uk or e-mail our Treasurer on email@example.com.
Lesley Key and Jeanie Jones,
NAPS - Northern Auricula and Primula Scribblings
Happy New Year! Happy 150th New Year!
This year is our 150th and it is an achievement not many floral Societies can surpass. We may be a small society, but we are dedicated to maintaining the Florists standards for auricula and primula. We are going to celebrate in various ways throughout this year so keep an eye out by looking at our website auriculas.org.uk
Our seed exchange has proved very popular, and is now closed, so those who ordered seed can now look forward to receiving and sowing their seeds and waiting to see if they can raise an interesting new variety. Our new seed exchange co-ordinator has worked very hard to get seed to all who put in orders and her 'how to sow and grow seeds' was included in the July edition of this newsletter. If you would like to read this, you can find it on our website.
Our plants are now dormant, and after the severe frosts and snow in December, are marking time until they start to show signs of growth in early February. If your plants have been exposed to the frost, and the outer leaves are looking a bit yellowish, carefully remove them as they could start to rot and this will damage the carrot (root) and ultimately kill the plant. Mine usually start to show signs of growth about the middle of February as I live north of the 'Wall' but members further down the country will see their plants spring into life a few weeks sooner. January is a time to get ready for the coming season and make sure that you have new stocks of good quality compost and grit.
Starting soon, I am being joined by a vastly experienced Primula grower and exhibitor in contributing to this newsletter. I have been aware it has focused on Auricula as I cannot offer advice and tips on Primula, as they are a complete mystery to me, so welcome to Jeanie and I am sure her tips will be much appreciated. If you would like any direct advice, or any topic covered, on Primula just e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will pass you query on to her.
I hope you will all have a look at our revamped website auriculas.org.uk as our webmaster has spent a considerable time making it even more enjoyable. There is a larger section on Primula, and he has added details on how to grow from seed. Well worth a browse.
There is also a new way to pay your subscription (now due for 2023), via the website - Paypal! For those who have a Paypal account there is one link and you can also pay via Paypal with a debit card on a second link even if you do not have an account. Membership using this method will cost £11.00 for a member and spouse/partner. Unfortunately we cannot at this stage accept overseas payments. Please note that, although PayPal ask for details from your card, they only pass on your contact information to NAPS with your payment. There is a small charge as we do not get a free service but with the cost of postage it is well worth it and less hassle! You can still pay by standing order and cheque (£10.00 UK or £15.00 overseas; for member and spouse/partner) and the relevant info as to what to do is, again, on the website or you can e-mail the Treasurer at email@example.com.
Archivist and Publications
All Things Auricula - December 2022.
Where has the year gone? It seemed to me I was just writing the January letter last week and now Christmas and turkeys are all on our minds.
Today the Societies Seed exchange opens! Look at our website auriculas.org.uk for what is on offer and how to apply. It is very popular so do not delay and you never know you might raise a new prize-winning plant. It is open for a month and will close on December 31st and is only open to members.
I have been asked by a member what 'feed' should be given to auriculas throughout the winter to keep them growing! The answer is non as the plants need a dormant phase and they will be stressed if they are encouraged to grow. The ideal conditions for them are a cold winter, very little water, and plenty of ventilation. If you are wanting the plant for the show bench next year any flowering stalks that appear at this time of year should be removed, by cutting off near the top, so as they preserve their strength for the spring display. I let a few, non-show standard, plants to flower as it brightens up the greenhouse but they will not present a good truss (head of flowers) in spring. The spring flower truss is formed in the Autumn so needs all the plants energy and after the stresses of this summer's drought do not expect miracles from your plants. Give them a rest and enjoy Christmas!
At the AGM last month someone asked "what happens at the shows"? Well, here is my attempt to explain and hopefully reassure our new members that it is not a frightfully stressful experience but a great day out! Here goes - the committee, and anyone wanting to help, arrive as soon as the doors open and set up the hall with benches decked with cloth and dividers for the various classes. They are there to also assist any newcomers who appear looking lost. If you arrive at this point - in plenty of time before judging starts - you will see, in the preparation area, exhibitors "dressing" their plants and placing them on the benches in the appropriate class. Most have done an amount of preparation over the previous week - ie, cleaned all pots (vital! judges hate dirty pots) taken dead dying leaves off, put a small stake (barbecue type) next to the flower stalk to support it and sometimes spaced-out pips (individual flowers) with cotton wool. The final "dressing" is left until the day.
The Secretary and recorder will be at a table with an exhibitor's book - write your name next to a number and that will go on your plant label as all judging is anonymous. Next to this will be plant labels, pins and exhibitor cards - you will need one for each plant. See above. You will see the two plants in class 7 have exhibitor number and name of plant on the small label attached to the pot, and the same on the large card with the class number added. The judge will use the large card to circle the award (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) and this goes to the recorder. One point worth mentioning - the photograph above shows the two plants in class 7 at Wetherby 2022 and you will see if you look in the Yearbook they were awarded 2nd(Pikey) and 3rd(Sea Peep) with no 1st given. This is a good example of judging, as the Judges do not award a 1st to the best of what is on the bench but judge to the 'standard'. The reverse can happen - if there is one plant in the class and if it is of a 'standard' it can be awarded 1st.
We are aiming to have a novice "dressing" table with experienced exhibitors to show you how to finish off the plant. Hopefully, you will have with you, the show schedule you received when you joined but do not despair if you forget it, a copy is on the Secretaries table. It is also handy if you have a small box with spare stakes, wool, thread or wire, small nail type scissors, small brushes and a pen. The show superintendent will be walking around the benches making sure everything is in order and will guide you as to the correct class or classes. One point - you are not allowed to touch someone else's plant so if the class is full ask the Superintendent to "make space". At noon you will have to leave the hall and the judging commences. Time for lunch and a chat to friends and a look in on the plant sales. At about 2.00pm the doors reopen, and you can see how your plant has fared. The judges stay around the benches and are more than happy to chat to you and take you through how they made their decisions. This is one of the things I found most helpful, and I learnt a lot in a few minutes! After a while, when you have had a chance to look at all the benches, chat to fellow exhibitors and admire the top winners, we have the prize giving. When this is over you can remove your plants and go home, hopefully deciding that showing is for you and you will be back next year.
Just a quick reminder that on the 1st of January the subs are due. Send a cheque to the Treasurer - address in Yearbook or on our website under membership, renewal, do a bank transfer or set up a standing order. If you go to our website - auriculas.org.uk about halfway down the page you will see a blue 'standing order' - click on that and it will take you to the blank form and it has on it our bank details.
Have a happy Christmas and I wish you all a lovely New Year.
Archivist and Publications
All Things Auricula - November 2022.
Have just returned from a lovely day spent meeting old and new members at our Annual General Meeting in York. The plant sale was very well attended, and I saw large numbers of plants disappearing into car boots! A number of unsold plants were kindly given to me, to overwinter, and take to the Northeast Show's plant sale. A big 'thank you' to those growers for supporting us as we are a small offshoot of the Northern Section, and the plant sale helps with our finances and gives our more Northerly members a chance to buy quality plants.
One very important topic on the agenda was the date of our main Auricula show next year. Unfortunately, King Charles III has decided to have his Coronation on the 6th of May! This is the date we usually hold our Show, and we realise most members will want to see this historic event. After a discussion it was decided that we would explore the possibility of holding the show on Sunday the 7th of May. Our show superintendent has been tasked with this and will report back to our Secretary as soon as he finds if it is possible. Watch this space!
We then had a very interesting talk by Brian Coop about the breeding of Green Edge Auriculas, one of my favourite types. He demonstrated, with a variety of slides, how the green edged types came into existence and developed into the plants we see on the show bench today.
My plants are now in their winter quarters - the unheated greenhouse - and have been treated with a systemic bug killer to get rid of the tiny white flies that have plagued them throughout the summer. I have also hung yellow sticky fly traps over the benches as a precaution so, if they return, I will spot them quite quickly. The plants are sunk into horticultural sharp sand and were quite wet when I brought them in so I will not water them much until the Spring. They should not be 'dust dry' but do not over-water and they should not be left standing in water for more than a few minutes. At this time of year they should be encouraged to be dormant as they will be forming flowers for next year. These will not be seen until the spring when they start to grow but have been formed the previous autumn. Encouraging them to continue growing will inhibit them and weaken them for next years display. A cold Winter will do them a lot of good, so the greenhouse should be unheated, with the vents and door open and a flow of air going through. Old leaves on your plants will turn yellow then brown and can be left on until spring, however if they start to show signs of mould remove them and destroy as this could be botrytis. The other pest to look out for are caterpillars looking for a meal! If you find leaves curled up and stuck together, a tiny caterpillar may have taken up residence.
The only auriculas I leave outside over Winter are borders. These are the hardiest of all auriculas and will happily stay in the garden, or their pots if grown that way, and live for years with minimal attention. They can get congested over the years and in Springtime may need lifting and dividing to give them more space to grow. Apart from that, true border auriculas are easy to grow and give great pleasure when they flower in Springtime. Unfortunately, there are on the market plants that are usually alpine crosses of poor quality and not up to standard but are given the title 'border'. These are not true borders and will be a poor substitute for the true plant. Most true borders, but not all, have a scent and can fill the garden with the most glorious fragrance in the Spring. They are well worth a space in the garden so give them a try.
Next month I am going to explain what happens at our shows and what to expect if you turn up with your first show plant! It may sound a daunting prospect, but I think I can put your mind at rest and help you to decide to have a go at exhibiting. Once you have the 'bug' it will never leave you. We are a friendly lot and there is always someone to help and offer advice.
Archivist and Publications
All Things Auricula - October 2022.
I thought I would start this newsletter with a photo!
Above is a scene from the Botanical gardens, Tromso, Norway taken a fortnight ago. I am in the photo to give it scale and what you see is four large beds of outdoor grown border auriculas. They have obviously been in the beds for a number of years and look very healthy, with no slug or snail damage or signs of disease. Some as you will see have yellowing leaves which are common this time of year. Tromso has in the summer two months of perpetual daylight and in the winter two months of perpetual darkness and still the plants looked fabulous. There were also a large collection of primula, though unfortunately I did not have a pen and paper to jot down the wide variety on display. It shows how we sometimes over protect our plants and leaving them to their own devices is sometimes worth it! The name tags in the beds had names such as Auricula Lofoten, or Finmarken, which seemed to indicate where they had been sourced as these are geographical areas in Norway. I could not find anyone to ask for information but if anyone has information, please let me know.
Before I sailed off to the high arctic, I cleared out my greenhouse and washed and disinfected it with jeyes fluid. I will now, over the coming weeks, start to return my plants to their winter quarters. I need to purchase some horticultural sharp sand to line my benches and then one by one inspect the pots. I knock out each plant looking for snails' eggs - translucent balls in a cluster - and remove them, slugs, and any sign of root aphid. I have, in the past had a problem of worms getting in through the drainage hole. If you notice a heap of what I describe as ultra-fine pellets (a bit like propelling pencil leads) on the surface of the compost it is usually a worm. Remove it and return it to the garden. You will not find all pests so over the next month keep a sharp eye out for any leaf damage - leaves that are curling or are stuck together could indicate a caterpillar hiding inside. All of these problems are not exclusively auricula problems so if your plants share a greenhouse with other species, they will need checking as well.
The greenhouse vents and door are left permanently open as a cold winter is needed - warmth and wet compost is the most common killer of auricula in the winter months. The compost should not be dust dry but do not over water and do not let a plant stand in water for any length of time. Water in the morning so the plant has time to absorb all during the daytime.
This is the time of year I sort out my collection and decide if I have any surplus plants I can take to the AGM plant sales on the 29th of this month. I also look for gaps so I can justify a spending spree! I hope we can meet up at the AGM as it is a social occasion as well as a chance to share knowledge and listen to a talk in the afternoon.
Archivist and Publications
All Things Auricula - September 2022.
Problems with Thrips and Red Spider?
I have been asked by some members to show some photographs of signs of pests!
Below are the signs of thrips and a lovely pic of the offending creature itself. The leaves look as if they are being bleached by the sun but on close inspection of the underside, you will see tiny grey/white bugs - thrips. They are sap suckers and will drain the energy from your plant. Difficult to get rid of, check the under undersides of the leaves and rub off the insects - they often look dead but don't take the chance.
Typical leaf damage
The insect itself
Red Spider mite, that tiny little bug that lurks in hot and dry greenhouses also bleaches the leaves. They mostly target auricula with farina on their leaves, though some growers say they have seen them on alpines. The first signs are a colour fading of leaves and on the underside, you will see tiny red specks. (I have to have a magnifying glass). Both thrips and red spider have thrived outdoors this year, which is unusual, but this has not been a typical British summer! Increasing humidity helps so spray water around the plants and I wet the shade netting as well to form a moist atmosphere. Organic bug sprays that are 'oily' in texture can act in blocking their respiratory system and they will die.
For anyone just joining the ranks of auricula devotees it has been a challenging year - do not despair as any type of plant has had its problems throughout the summer. My berberis and aquilegia have mildew, the roses have black spot and what has happened to my delphiniums, I would not like to speculate! Next year should, hopefully, be 'normal'' and trouble free with the plants outside in the summer and needing little attention, until they come into the greenhouse/cold frame in October.
I hope you are using our website, as it has a wealth of interesting information and is regularly updated. You will find it at auriculas.org.uk. The growing guide is particularly handy and has advice on when to repot and what compost mix to use. It can be quite bewildering at first when you buy a plant, and you have no idea as to its needs and even when it should flower. The website will answer most of this and more so take a look. There is a short video on how to cross plants and how to grow from seed. The photographs of plants at our recent shows are always a joy to behold - essential winter pick me ups!
It also has news of shows and our AGM. The AGM will take place on the 29th of October this year at the Riverside Farm, Shipton Road, York, YO30 1JX. It is easily accessible and has a good carpark and is also within easy walking distance of York Park and Ride at Rawcliffe Bar for those travelling by train. It will be very popular as we will be holding our usual plant sale, so if you need to restock or add to your collection this is the place to come. We have the formal meeting and a talk by one of our members. We always take a break at lunch time and the Riverside has a restaurant you can book in advance (you have to book directly with the Riverside) - see their website Green King. The meeting is in one of the upstairs rooms and there is a stair-lift for anyone who may need it - it is not obvious where it is but the staff at the venue will assist anyone - just ask!
This is a good time to clean and disinfect the greenhouse in preparation for the plants returning - a job I hate but very necessary! During the winter fungal infections can strike any type of plant in the greenhouse so good hygiene is essential.
The newsletter will be a tad late next month as I am off to hunt for polar bears and the northern lights. Your Yearbook will be on its way soon so enjoy that in the meantime!
Archivist and Publications
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
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.
Archivist and Publications
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
"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.
Archivist and Publications
NAPS (Northern) - Monthly Newsletter
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 email@example.com. The deadline for article/photographs is the end of June so get typing.
Archivist and Publications
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,
Archivist and Publications
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Alan our webmaster and Harrogate organiser on email@example.com . 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.
Archivist and Publications