This genus consists of beautiful dwarf Alpine plants, of many species, which sport into elegant varieties, under the cultivation of the florist. They are valuable on account of their early appearance in the spring; some of them succeeding the Snowdrop, others keeping company with the vernal Phloxes and other early flowers.
The Primula auricula is a florist flower of great beauty, but has received but little attention in this country; probably on account of the severity of our winter and spring months, or the great heat of summer, which is more destructive to the auricula than the cold. The extremes of heat and cold render its cultivation difficult. The flower-stalk springs from radical leaves, six or eight inches high, bearing a truss of from five to seven flowers, which are of various rich colors, according to the variety. These flowers are called pips, which should be round, with a light-colored eye; the ground color, when very dark blue, purple, or brown, edged with green, contrast finely with the eye, and are considered richer than those varieties where the colors are lighter.
Primula polyanthus. - This is more hardy than the auricula, and succeeds well with little care, provided it can have a cool and sheltered spot, a rich and rather moist soil. They are in flower all the month of May, and some of the varieties by the middle of April. The flowers are produced on stems, eight to twelve inches high, in trusses of eight or ten flowers, or pips, and are of various rich colors. Brown, with yellow eye, is very common, with a delicate edging of yellow; also various combinations of crimson, yellow, sulphur, and dark-brown, either plain or shaded. It is easily propagated by dividing the roots after blooming.
Primula veris, - Cowslip, - is a native of Great Britain. The flowers are produced in trusses, but are not so elegant as those of the polyanthus, but look pretty in the border. The flowers generally are of a pale-yellow, but there is a variety with red flowers; they are propagated the same as the poly-anthus. There are many other pretty species and varieties, some with double flowers. All may be introduced into the garden, in cool, shady locations.