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Primula auricula


All About Cleeve - May Plant of the Month - Primula auricula


Mountain cowslip or bear's ear might not sound familiar but if you say auricula, most plants people will be smiling. These delightful colourful primulas are a collector’s dream. Whether you favour striped, border, double, edged, self or fancy, auricula do not fail to impress.

Look out for auricula specialists W&S Lockyer. The family nursery continues to be run by Simon and partner Louise after the passing of founder Bill Lockyer in 2016. The tradition of wearing Bill’s trademark bowler hat continues. Displaying copper kettles is a nod to the 1830’s; copper kettles where used to mark auricula flower shows and as ‘best in show’ prizes. 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.

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!


All photos © Debi Holland 2022