Double Primroses

The following is an extract from The Primulas of Europe by John Macwatt, pages 30-31, published by Country Life, London, in 1923.  Any errors in capitalization etc. are the product of the original author.  The double primroses which Macwatt lists here have probably all disappeared by now, but may be of historical interest.  Note the advice on double green primroses at the end.


“…[The] double Primroses have been cherished for years, but are never over-plentiful, because they are far from robust in constitution, and successful cultivation is in fact something of which one may be justly proud.  The great aim should be to choose a partially shaded situation, where the soil is deep and of good heart [?], and well drained.  Then see that during the flowering and growing season the plants are never lacking abundant moisture, and give periodically soakings of weak liquid manure.  Gather some of the flowers when the plants are heavily bearing, to prevent exhaustion, and in winter adopt some method of warding off excessive rains.  Don’t leave old clumps too long without division and replanting.  Thus managed, double Primroses should thrive.  If this treatment does not meet with success, plant them in stiff [?] soil among the gooseberry bushes where the shade is dense, and it will be found that they not only grow but flourish.

The double Primroses generally in cultivation [in 1923] include the following:

amarinthina Fl. Pl. (Red Paddy).  Bright rose crimson.

Burgundy.  Crimson purple, streaked white.

carnea plena. Flesh-coloured.

Crouseii Plena.  Deep lilac rose, edged white.

Cloth of Gold (lutea plena).

French Grey.

platypetala plena (A. Dumoullin). Mauve violet, tipped white.

Pompadour. Deep ruby velvet, very scarce.

Lilac. Good free-flowering.


Sulphur. Early.

White. Fine early.

sanguina plena.

Carmine rose. Margin white.

Old rose. Much stronger and easier to grow than Carnea Plena.

Several new double varieties have been raised, and we may confidently anticipate the appearance shortly of some handsome varieties with double flowers and more vigorous growth than the older favourites.  Much of then improvement effected has been due to the consideration and adoption of the Mendelian system, by which in the third generation double flowers are produced from single varieties fertilised by the pollen of double Primroses.

Whether or not the early raisers adopted this method of raising double-flowered varieties I cannot say, but in my own garden I have worked on these lines and have found it consistently successful, and I recommend any reader who has a desire and the facilities to produce new double Primroses and Polyanthus to adhere to this course, or, at all events, to try the experiment.

Both single and double green Primroses are occasionally found.  In cultivation they are difficult to keep.  The only way I have been able to get them to survive is to grow them in a situation where they get no sun.”

Webmaster’s note: Many new doubles were eventually raised by Hopley’s nursery in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, England.  I visited this nursery in 2000, and had a chat with the young owner, a member of the family that has always run the nursery.  He told me that nearly all of the original Hopley varieties of double vulgaris had been lost, and even told me that he would be very happy to receive some of these old varieties so that he could re-establish them!

The following two photos are of double primroses purchased in March 2011 in the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver Island).  they are not only glorious doubles, but also jack-in-the-greens!  They are currently patented (PP16365 and PP16373 respectively).

Below is a list of other doubles available in this part of the world (Washington State and British Columbia).  They have been around for a number of years, and have generally proven themselves reliable, though some are definitely stronger than others.  In the experience of this writer, two which are good doers are ‘April Rose’ and ‘Dawn Ansell’.  I have given a source at the end of the list.

‘April Rose’ – Lovely dark pink; relatively strong

‘Blue Sapphire’ – Pale purple-blue

‘Corporal Baxter’ – Red

‘Dawn Ansell’ – A ‘Jack-in-the-green’ double.  Has been a very good ‘doer’

‘Eugenie’ – Blue

‘Freckles’ – Red with, yes, freckles!

‘Ken Dearman’ – Apricot / pink mixture

‘Lilian Harvey’ – Lovely fuschia-pink

‘Marianne Davey’ – Cream

‘Marie Crousse’ – An old variety. Pale purple-pink. There is a double auricula with the same name.

‘Miss Indigo’ – Blue with dotted white lacing, extremely attractive but somewhat difficult

‘Paragon’ – Pink with bronze leaves

‘Quaker’s Bonnet’ – Pink. A very old variety

‘Red Giant’ – Its name says it.

‘Red Velvet’

‘Rosetta Red’ – Dark red with some lacing

‘Sue Jervis’ – Pale flesh-pink

‘Sunshine Susie’ – Stunning bright yellow

‘Val Horncastle’ – Lovely pale yellow.

These doubles are all available from Heritage Perennials (alias ‘Valleybrook’ in some areas) in 2011.