Fagus Times Auricula
Mountain cowslip or bear's ear might not sound familiar but if you say auricula, most plants people will be smiling at the thought of them. These delightful colourful primulas have become something of a collector’s dream. Whether you favour striped, border, double, edged, self or fancy, auricula do not fail to impress.
If you have ever seen or been to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show you may recognise auricula specialists W&S Lockyer. After the sudden passing of founder Bill Lockyer in 2016, the nursery has continued with his son Simon and partner Louise and they carried on the tradition of wearing Bill’s trademark bowler hat and displaying copper kettles. This is a nod to the 1830’s tradition of using copper kettles to indicate where an auricula flower show was being held and these were then used as prizes for best in show. With over 20 years of exhibiting and numerous Gold medals won, W&S Lockyer really has earned expert status.
Auricula first made an appearance in European gardens mid 16th century but became collectable in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The earliest known representation of auricula was found in the Portrait of Martha Rodes by C.Steele in 1750.
Auriculas shy away from hot sun and drenching rain so are perfect for a shady garden spot with plenty of ventilation. Don’t let their delicate form and exquisite colours fool you, originating from the European alps these alpines are tough little plants. Dormant over winter they launch into life for spring. Terracotta pots are ideal containers as they absorb water, drain and keep roots cool. Do not top dress with grit; let water evaporate naturally.
Shade is very important and that is one reason why auricula theatres became such a fashionable way to display them. Theatres are tiered display cabinets, often wooden with pots arranged vertically. Repot each year to refresh soil - just keep a look out for vine weevil!
Warning! Growing auricula can be addictive!
Written for President of Fagus Gardening Club, Mary Payne MBE for the Fagus Times'
Plant of the Month.
All photos © Debi Holland 2022