Vol 79, Issue No. 2 (Spring 2021)
Spring Quarterly 2021 (Vol 79 No. 2) read here
The View from Here by Elizabeth Lawson
Rethinking the Garden by Anne Hogue
ICRA Approval by Pat Hartman
Iconic Spring Primrose by Maedythe Martin
Kevin Baker’s Edges and Fancies by Susan Haddock
Neglected Woodland Primulas? by Maedythe Martin
Primula Tile by Maedythe Martin
Minutes November 22, 2020
Officers of the Chapters
The View from Here
by ELIZABETH LAWSON
As I write here in Ithaca in mid-March, the weather is decidedly piebald—spring one day and winter the next. But spring will arrive and there will be a new crop of wonderful primroses! Unfortunately, we cannot convene as a group to admire them. The National Show has been once again postponed due to COVID and the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the American Primrose Society, an important date in the society’s spring calendar, will again be held online by Chat.
With the AGM in mind, I am moved to talk about the importance of specialist plant societies. One of my favorite books that some of you may know is a volume in the Shire Garden History series titled Florists’ Flowers and Societies by Ruth Duthie (1988). The author describes the early history of societies devoted to garden plants grown for beauty rather than utility. In the 17th and 18th centuries nurserymen and plant breeders were called florists. Today florists are known as those who sell cut flowers. These dedicated enthusiasts formed societies that held feasts and shows to celebrate a select group of “florist flowers”— anemones, auriculas, carnations, hyacinths, pinks, polyanthus, ranunculus, and tulips. Pansies and dahlias were added in the 1830s.
The earliest “florists feast” was held circa 1631 in Norwich, UK. By the 18th century Norwich was known as “the Garden City” because it was deliberately half orchard/half city. It was a floriferous time. One Norwich nurseryman is said to have supplied 60,000 trees for the landscaping of the Fyfnone mansion in Wales circa 1794. The Norwich society no longer exists, but two, The Ancient Society of York Florists formed in 1768 and the Paisley Florist Society founded in 1782, still operate. The latter, founded by Paisley weavers in Renfrewshire, Scotland, is now called the Paisley Florist Society Gardening Club. When the oldest surviving minute book of The Ancient Society of York Florists suffered damage in storage, a restoration effort was undertaken. The signatures of the early members, with their lovely scrolls and flourishes, are visible once again. You can read the whole story at:
The Paisley Florist Society minute books have now been digitized: https://paisley.is/discover/paisley-florist-society-digitised-minute-books/
The names of members are an important part of the historical record, revealing social and cultural data for historians of all kinds. The records of the Ancient Society of York Florists state that that “happiness being the ultimate aim proposed by the Society” was to be obtained through “the cultivation of flowers.” The records of the Paisley Florist Society show that self-improvement was also a goal.
A society cannot exist without members forming the “body” of the organization. In becoming members of the American Primrose Society, we are adding our names to horticultural history and binding ourselves to the procedural policies of a registered society. Hence the AGM! Documents relevant to this meeting will be posted on the website a few weeks in advance so that all members can read the reports of the board members. The goal of the AGM is to reckon our yearly progress in furthering the “Purpose” of the society as stated in Article II of the Constitution:
The purpose of this society is to bring the people interested in Primula together in an organization to increase the general knowledge of and interest in the collecting, growing, breeding, showing and using in the landscape and garden the genus Primula in all its forms and to serve as a clearing house for collecting and disseminating information about Primula.
People involved in this effort usually gain both happiness and self-improvement! And what about the primroses/Primulas? As climate change, civilization’s insatiable gobbling up of land, and societal unrest around the world threaten the pursuit of horticulture, it is more important than ever that specialty plant societies undertake the custodianship of historical garden genera like Primula. Please contact me at email@example.com with any suggestions about how we can better fulfill the purpose of the society, and thank you for being members!