H. Perennial & Old Fashioned Garden Plants & Flowers by John Wood
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Primula Sikkimensis - Hardy Perennial
Author: John Wood
Primula Sikkimensis Described.
Primula Sikkimensis - Nat. Ord. Primulaceæ.
The specific name of this noble and lovely plant has reference to its habitat, Sikkim, in the Himalayas, where it was found not many years ago. It is not largely cultivated yet—probably not well known. It may, however, be frequently met with in choice collections, where no plant is more worthy of a place. Its general character may be said to be very distinct, especially when in flower. It is herbaceous, hardy, and perennial. Its hardiness has been questioned for several years, but the winters of 1880 and 1881 settled that beyond the region of doubt. I had then many plants of it fully exposed, without even a top-dressing, which is sometimes given to plants of unquestionable hardiness, and they stood the winters as well as their kindred species—our common Cowslip. It was also said to be not more than biennial, as if it were a plant too good to be without some fatal fault for our climate. However, I can say emphatically that it is more than biennial, as the specimens from which the drawing is taken are three years old. Several correspondents have written me stating that their plants are dead. That has been during their season of dormancy, but in every case they have pushed at the proper time. I may as well here explain, though somewhat out of order, a peculiarity in reference to the roots of this species: it dies down in early autumn, and the crown seems to retire within the ball of its roots, which are a matted mass of fibres, and not only does it seem to retire, but also to dwindle, so that anyone, with a suspicion, who might be seeking for the vital part, might easily be misled by such appearances, which are further added to by the fact that the species does not start into growth until a late date compared with others of the genus. So peculiar are the roots and crown of this plant, that if a root were dug up in mid-winter, and the soil partly shaken from it, a two-year-old specimen would be found to be the size and shape of a cricket ball, and the position of the crown so difficult to find that, on planting the root again, considerable discrimination would have to be exercised, or the crown might be pointed the wrong way.
P. Sikkimensis is a Cowslip. The flowers are a pale primrose yellow, rendered more pale still by a mealiness which covers the whole stem, being most abundant near the top, but whether it is produced on the petals, or, owing to their bell-shape and pendent form they receive it from the scape and pedicels by the action of the wind, I cannot say. The flowers are considerably over 1in. long; they are numerously produced on long drooping pedicels, of irregular lengths; the tallest scape of the specimen illustrated is 18in. high, but under more favourable conditions this Cowslip has been said to reach a height of 3ft. The leaves are 6in. to 12in. long, wrinkled, unevenly dentate, oblong and blunt; during the time of seeding the leaves increase in length, some becoming spathulate, or broadly stalked; it ripens seed plentifully, from which seedlings come true.
Although I have never grown this noble plant otherwise than in ordinary garden loam well enriched and in shady borders, it is said to be more at home in peaty soil always in a moist state. However that may be, I have proved it to do well under ordinary treatment; it should be well watered during hot dry weather; amongst dwarf trees, in the more damp parts of rockwork, or at the foot of a north wall covered with any kind of foliage, it will be grown and seen to advantage.
Besides by seed, which should be sown as soon as ripened, it may be propagated by root divisions at the time the crowns are pushing in spring.
Flowering period, June and July.
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