Sunday, 27 March 2016

Auriculas part 3, Alpines, Doubles, Borders & Seeds

Hi again!

So its been a few weeks since i posted, Birthday treats got thoroughly in the way! Im so not complaining, Ive been spoilt rotten. Just to brag for a moment, it started off with pizza & then I went to see Monet's Triptych and lots of other garden related art (brilliant and moving) then was treated to a Willy Wonka themed High Tea that had Umpaloompa cakes, pink Champagne and a Golden ticket (so spoiled!). The wonderfulness continued with more Champagne and a great turkish meal (my favourite!) and was rounded off by more pizza. All completed with the most amazing company of quite frankly some of the most awesome, generous, thoughtful people im lucky enough to have in my life!
Then i spoiled myself by visiting the Linnean Society for the first time to hear a lecture on the life and works of an incredibly inspiring lady called Marianne North. She travelled the world painting plants in their habitats at a time when it was considered incredibly unseemly for a lady to do so, for this reason alone i adore her! I have never been incredibly good at conformity, ive tried and failed and as such i admire anyone who has the ability to forge their own path. They inspire me to carry on being me and not to try to hide my light. As an aside, and quite honestly a shocking treat, as i was walking up the stairs of this magnificent and historic building where Charles Darwin first put forward his 'Origin of the species' thesis i looked up at a gentleman coming down towards me. He looked incredibly familiar and knowing my awful ability to forget people ive met and talked to i erred on the side of caution, i nodded and said hello with a smile, still puzzling where id met him before.
I joined a large group of people in the Library, a magnificent room which is worth revisiting, and proceeded to chat to a lovely man called Tom, there was no one i knew there and we were stood beside a couple of ladies when the gentleman i saw on the stairs approached the group, then i heard the voice!
Like a memory of childhood and fascination this voice like silk rolled out and suddenly the penny dropped!
I was stood next to Sir David Attenborough!!
Even writing this now i cant get over this... He was showing the lady a copy of a watercolour that he believed was possibly by Marianne North and being the cheeky mare i am, i firstly eavesdropped then turned and peered over the shoulders. The lady turned out to be Michelle Payne who was giving the lecture.
Im afraid i did waylay Sir David and his daughter on the stairs on the way down to gush at them. They were both absolutely lovley about it given there was this mad lady babbling at them! I sat myself in the seats with them in the row ahead of me and settled down to listen, afterwards i got myself a copy of Michelles book and had her sign it.
I can highly recommend living a life of saying "yes!" as i have now since Jan 2014, it works out splendidly!
Now back to auriculas...

 So, a quick recap of whats gone before...

Part 1, Me enthusing on how i fell in love with these enchanting little plants.

Part 2, A short history inc. ancestry and an introdution to the technical terms used when showing auriculas plus an outline of the classes of show auriculas.

and now onto Part 3, comprising of Alpine, Doubles & border auriculas. Also a guide into how to care for these incredibly forgiving plants, dainty and fragile they may appear but dont let that fool you. These guys came from hardy stock and will withstand a lot!


The main difference, to the amatuer, between an Alpine and a Show auricula may not be obvious at first glance. So here it is, the eye of the pip (flower) including the tube should be all one colour. Also there should be no evidence of Farina visible.
One of my own seedlings, classed as an Alpine but not show quality
Using one of my own seedlings, above, as a demonstration you can see the eye although beautifully clear white, with no sign of Farina, unfortunately has a yellow throat (or tube). On the older flower, at the top of picture, although the throat has turned white the colour from the petals has bled into the eye. The anthers clearly prominent are exactly what we want in an Alpine (Thrum eye) but sadly the colour of the eye and tube let it down and it would never win a show.
A true winner of an Alpine class looks like this....
   Best Alpine Auricula ANDY COLE grown by T Atkinson
As you can clearly see the eye is of one colour, clean pure white in this case although this can extend to a pale cream and still be acceptable (light centered). Alternately a deep rich, buttery yellow is also acceptable (gold centered) anything in between is seen as an inferior example and although i would still love it, it would never win a show.

Alpines, like Show auriculas, have subclasses which i'll outline below.

Light centered & Gold centered

As ive gone into this in detail above no need to thrash the point but here is a visual demonstation of a Gold centered Alpine winner.
Gold centred Alpine Auricula BANTRY BAY, pic credit  David Underwood


Im not really going to go into this in detail as it seems to be a relatively new class and from what i can tell is more about Polyanthus than auriculas? I could be entirely wrong? If i am please let me know.


Again a relatively new class, this one gives the Alpines that dont fall into the above catagories a chance to shine. Not all shows run with a fancy class but if your local one does you can be assured of some really beautiful, interesting plants. The plant should conform to the above Alpine standards but leeway on the colour of the throat is allowable as is patterning of the corolla.
Fancy Alpine Auricula HERMIA.Shown by Andy Thorpe.Photographed by Henry Pugh

Knowle April 2012


As i mentioned previously Double auriculas were almost lost entirely to cultivation. In the 17th Century they were the 'must have' addition to a collection. Thankfully though some dedicated breeders reserected them and they are now quite widely available again (including the beautiful 'Miss Sibsey') One such breeder from the 1950's was Florence Bellis. She is famed for developing the 'Barnhaven primroses' named after her Oregon home. More information on this fascinating lady and her writing can be found here timberpress author Florence Bellis and of course her nursery which supplies auriculas named Barnhaven from whom i have bought some lovely plants before.
So! Doubles!
The standards say " The minimum doubling needed is a row of petals (two in Northern Section shows) and enough additional petals to fully cover the centre. Open centred plants are disqualified.
All types of auricula that possess the required doubling are acceptable. Petals can have any patterning but should be smooth and unnotched and colours should be bright."

I think that covers it comprehensively, basically 2 or more rows of petals, no open centres and all subdivisions (show, alpine and border) can be included in a Double class.
From Matt Mattus's blog, link at bottom of blog

From Barnhaven, Primula auricula 'Lincoln Melody'. A stripey double produced by Derek Salt.
and of course my very own favourite 'Miss Sibsey'


Our final look is at Border auriculas, these are the ones you would, as the name suggests, plant out in your borders. Despite the auriculas delicate looks they are in fact completely hardy, the only thing theyre not really keen on is having soggy feet (who is!). The Border class of auricula is far more forgiving and allows for a lot more leeway than any of the others.
The basic rules are the flower truss should be unstaked and preferably multi trussed. Florist rules do not apply to the border, pin eyes are acceptable, colours clear and bright.

Seed sowing

 Growing your own from seed is amazingly easy (honest) the seeds are readily available through either the larger companies or, if your looking for a show stopper, some of the more specialist companys and breeders will do mixed packets.
All you need is a seed tray, i normally sow straight to modules but as the seeds are SO small a small tray is better. I tend to use a seed compost with a lot of grit mixed in as the base. Mix the seeds with sand as this will help you see where youve already sown and mae it easier to space them out. Then you can cover VERY lightly with either more seed compost, Perlite or my preference Vermiculite.
They dont want to be deeply buried, just enough to retain some moisture. Then cover with either a seed tray lid, if you have one, clingfilm works too as do those plastic boxes that caes come in from the supermarket (be inventive, youre helping the environment by recycling them!). If you have a sheet of glass thats great too! Germination can be slow, so be patient. Ive left mine in seed trays for around 2 months to allow those that have started to bulk up enough to be potted on, then replaced everything under the glass and more have germinated. No one told me how to do this, just trial and error, others may have a different view.  This is the beauty of gardening though, just do your best to mimic the optimal conditions the plant would encounter in its natural environment.

I hope you try out some of your own, maybe even enter a show? or grow some from seed?
This ended up being a far larger topic than when i initially started posting on it and honestly theres so much more i didnt cover but on my way heres some of the links i found....

growing auriculas for beginners
Barnhaven auriculas

Whilst researching i also came across these wonderful blogs
The auriculas of spitalfields
How to grow auricula primroses

Anyone ive missed in the last 2 blogs feel free to put your names and links in the comments box (there should be one located at the bottom of this blog). I look forward to hearing from more of you Auricuphiles, is that a real word? or one ive just made up?

No comments:

Post a comment