Auriculas are hardy and in the main are quite happy grown in the garden. However to achieve the best plants for exhibition, protection from the worst of the winter weather is preferred. An unheated greenhouse, cold frame or other protection is sufficient.
Auriculas can be propagated either vegetatively or from seed.
We are frequently asked how to grow our plants, the guides below
Auriculas originated from a natural cross between Primula auricula and Primula hirsuta where they grow together in the Alps. The resulting hybrid, Primula pubescens, has been bred for over 400 years to produce the types and quality that we recognise today.
Show Auriculas have 3 or 4 balanced concentric circles. The inner one is the tube, which should be yellow or golden and like all Florists (originally meaning a grower of plants to set standards, rather than the modern meaning) have no pin (the stigma) visible. Next comes a circle of farina, where tiny hairs are set on the petals so dense that it is like a white paste. The farina is easily marred by rain and even the feet of insects. As such they require protection from the weather especially in the weeks leading up to the shows.
Edged Show Auriculas have the outer half split with the inner part, nearest the paste, being called the body colour. This is of petal consistency and is most often black because this is considered to contrast best with the edge. The fourth circle, called the Edge, is the same consistency as the leaf, an occurrence known as virescence. Florists have used this to produce Edges with a smooth, circular finish where there is no flashing of the body colour.
It is farina that differentiates the type of Edge. Where it is absent it is a Green Edge; a thin covering makes it a Grey Edge and a dense covering makes a White Edge.
Edged varieties are considered the most difficult to prepare for the show bench as the pips can take weeks to open and are very variable.
Self Show Auriculas have the outer half of the pip of one colour. The main colours recognised by classes at the Shows are yellow, red, blue and dark, but there are many shades ranging from cream through to dark brown and purple.
Alpine Auriculas can be distinguished from Show Auriculas by the lack of paste in the eye, indeed they should not have any farina on the plant at all. The tube and eye combine to make a Gold Centre or a Light Centre, the two types of Alpine Auricula. Outside the eye the colourful pips come in shades of red and brown for the Gold Centres and pink through to blue for the Light Centred. These colours in turn shade from dark near the eye to lighter hues at the edge.
Alpine Auriculas are considered easier to grow than Show Auriculas and adapt much better to garden cultivation. However they are probably the most colourful.
Double Auriculas were very popular in the 18th century, but fell out of fashion and were almost lost to cultivation. They have been revived and raised to Florist's standards in recent years in a wide range of colours including striped. The degree of doubling can vary from those with neat camellia like flowers through to full doubles with many petals. The main criteria are that the petals are rounded with no notches and that they fully obscure the central pin.
Striped Auriculas are another recently revived variety and becoming very popular. The stripes should be from the outer edge of the eye to the outer rim and are usually formed from alternating rays of petal and virescent material. The virescent stripes are often grey or white due to the presence of farina which inhibits their growth. The alternating petal material grows faster and is why the Stripes can show a ragged rather than circular edge. There is a wide range of colours and still plenty of scope for the amateur hybridist.
Fancy Auriculas are the name for those Auriculas that do not fall within any of the above categories. They range form Show Auriculas with red, blue or other body colours that flash to the edge; to shaded Selfs and unshaded and picotee Alpines. Many are chance seedlings but this provides a good seed bed for new classes and types of Auriculas to emerge from.
Border Auriculas are shown for effect rather than to Standards and are also judged on how they are suited to the garden border. They should be capable of growing into clumps and overwintering without deteriorating in a partially shaded position with moderate water. There is often strong competition in the border classes and some varieties are many years old. They come in a range of mostly pastel colours and should preferably be scented.