Primula florindae (himalayan cowslip)
A primula that combines great poise and charm with stalwart reliability. From a stout clump of rounded leaves come 60-90cm stems from which hang an ever increasing number of pale lemon fragrant flowers dusted on the outside with a pale yellow farina. The scent of Primula florindae (himalayan cowslip) is the most delicious and complex of any of the primulas, rich and heady like a sweet nose full of Pears soap. I think it ranks as one of the best perfumes of the year – right up there with the best of the roses and so easy to grow as well. Any moist to soggy soil.
The genus Primula covers over 400 species which inhabit many continents, but almost all come from areas of cool summers with adequate moisture and humidity when in active growth. Although many come from high altitude areas in the Himalayas they will readily thrive in Britain given humus rich soils and shade from the heat of the sun.
The section Proliferae contains the candelabra primulas with their stunning whorls of tiered colourful blossoms. They are easy to grow and very rewarding, especially spectacular when planted in groups and drifts.
Many of the Primula contained in this section hail form high montane or monsoon areas of Asia. They enjoy very moist soils but will thrive in deep moisture retentive loam, enriched with organic matter. Where adequate moisture is assured by planting in streamside or marginal conditions, sunny situations are ideal, but many will make lovely drifts in shade or woodland with reasonably retentive soil. Often described as ‘bog primulas’ it is important to realise that they will rot in water-logged soils; instead they need to seek out moisture below the surface. They dislike lime in the soil.
Another section of Primula often linked to the candelabra Primula is the sikkimensis section, containing, besides Prinula sikkimensis, P.florindae and P.secundiflora. These are elegant perennials from wet mountain meadows and require more moisture than the candelabra types and are best suited to marginal conditions or damper soils. They thrive on the nursery, embedding themselves in any damper crevice near a tap or sandbed. They have tall strong stems which are topped by umbels of deliciously perfumed, nodding, mealy coated blossoms over a long season which starts after the candelabras in June and can continue well into August.