Friday, November 28, 2008

Planting A Primrose Path

Planting A Primrose Path

An area of any size, a path of any length, or even a simple wooded corner has in it a potential Primrose Path. Whether four feet long or four hundred, it can have charm. It isn't necessarily length and size that make for success, but rather an indefinable element compounded of composition, arrangement, Tightness, and vigor of the plant material involved.

The soil on our Primrose Path is partly composed of rotted leaves and old stumps. It is rich and black and loose, and almost always slightly moist to the touch. The nearby stream runs with ample water the year round, and in flooding spring rains the primroses are occasionally under water. Our slope is slight and to the southwest. The plants bask in morning sun briefly till about eleven, when trees shade them, then again filtered sunlight dapples them through the afternoon.

Of course a brook isn't essential. And primroses will thrive as happily on east, south, or west slopes—but not so well on the north. They definitely do want a cool moist area, and shade from the noonday sun. In other words if your garden is high, dry, and hot, better to plant marigolds!

We have well over a hundred plants now, and our goal is unlimited. Each year we buy a few more from the catalogues, the local nursery, and the grocery store. (You can successfully transplant primroses in full flower.) Every year we also start more plants from seed (partly because a thousand of anything is costly).

Plant seeds outside in May, in a small six by six seedling corner of the vegetable garden that gets five hours of sun daily. We sow seeds one eighth to a quarter of an inch deep in light well-drained soil. In two weeks or so seedlings first appear. We thin them to stand six inches apart.

In the fall we cover the small thrifty plants with pine or evergreen boughs, and then leaves. The boughs prevent the leaves from packing on the crowns. The plants remain in the nursery through the first winter. Early the next spring they are set on the Primrose Path.

We dig a hole and loosen the soil in the area around it, giving each plant a site with plenty of good growing room. We free it from roots and encroaching greenery. A few trowels full of leaf mold or superphosphate mixed in the earth under the plant is helpful. Set each plant and firm the soil up around the crown but never cover it. Water, and then the fun begins. Observe how they take hold and grow. If there are normal spring rains no further watering is needed.

One of my favorite pastimes is to wander in our nearby woods with a small dump wagon or basket, collecting leaf mold and material from inside old rotted stumps. Both can be used in Or on top of the soil, and will greatly spur primroses to their best. Many of the first-year plants will flower the following spring on the Primrose Path. They'll be tentative, small blooms, to be sure, and only a few, but enough to reveal colors. The subsequent spring they really let go and bloom riotously.

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