Pat Duke: Primroses will give you a lifetime of spring colour

yellow flowers of primrose

Plant some primroses while its still mild enough - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Being one for rifling through the garden centre sale area after every season, it’s surprising how long primroses stay on the racking.

They can appear tatty and bedraggled or on death’s door, often having been left in full sun without a drink for too long.

Primroses must be the cheeriest flower in the garden and are often the very first sign of spring.

In fact, their name derives from the Latin ‘primus’ which means first.

They need very little looking after apart from partial shade and water. Generally they look after themselves and are very successful at spreading across the woodland floor or wherever you decide to put them.

I have a friend who still lives in Stoke Fleming, where she was brought up, and every year she is delighted to see the same bank of primroses in her garden that she marvelled at as a child. I mustn’t say how many years they've been there but it’s a lifetime.

Living where we live, you can get away with planting the flowers now while it’s still relatively mild. Two weeks ago I was contemplating sun cream!

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Once you've chosen your primroses they will flourish in most soils although neutral and acidic work best.

As long as they are somewhere moist and shaded they will give you pleasure for as many spring times as you can enjoy them for.

In fact, they will probably outlast you, whatever your age which makes them exceptional value.

An additional feature that makes them great value is that every few years you will need to divide them as they reproduce famously.

Dividing them will also strengthen them as plants and maintain their colours unless you want them to firmly establish somewhere for a lifetime.

They are seriously frost hardy and will survive even the type of winter that makes brass monkeys nervous.

Once they are in the right position you won't need to worry about them growing well and flowering every February and March.

Coming in a variety of different colours, there really is very little to dislike about them.

They are often available as plug plants and can be dotted under trees.

They will enjoy life among the leaf litter to show like abandoned jewels come early spring.

The acidity of the this environment suits them just fine.

If you didn't want to plant them in the ground, they make a bright addition to a spring planter or a pot on the patio or in the yard.

Playing around with colours can be a bit of fun and give a bright display.

Every spring I love to see the combination of pale yellow and imperial purple to help trigger my mind more towards what’s going to be good in the garden and in life for the coming year.

Planting them with crocuses, narcissi and violas can lead to an uplifting pot of colour in the right spot.

Primroses are an important flower for local bees and offer early nectar after a long winter of slumber and sustains them for as long as they flower which can be well into summer in some cases.

The distinctive, sharp, sweet scent acts like a siren to sleepy bees so early in the season.

Sometimes you will see wild primroses (primula vulgaris) used as cake decorations or in a salad. The fact that they are edible is the alternative cherry on the cake.

If I were you, and you don t have as many primroses as me in the garden, primed underground, ready to announce the arrival of spring then I would urge you to plant some while its still mild enough.

You will more than likely turn into that person who only ever decides winter is well and truly over when you announce to passers by that its spring because ‘the primroses are out in the garden’.