Pictorial Dictionary


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. . Introduction to the Digital Edition of American Primrose Society’s
Pictorial Dictionary of the Cultivated Species of the Genus Primula.

Updating the Pictorial Dictionary has been a topic for discussion as long as I have been in the American Primrose Society. Everyone recognized what a huge job it would be, and no one wanted to do it. Then John Richards’ book Primula came out. And now, with the widespread use of the World Wide Web, there are great image resources such as Pam Eveleigh’s website PrimulaWorld. No one suggested we re-do the Dictionary. Time went by.

This year, 2006, the B.C. Primula Group invited Pam Eveleigh out to visit our group in April, to coincide with the spring show to which our group members take their plants. There is also always a super display by our member Roxanne Muth. Pam treated us to several informative talks, and we enjoyed her visit. It was only after she spoke on species Primula and had returned home that I thought of the Dictionary again.

Coincidentally, in a clean-up of our library in January this year, a little black binder came to light. It had on the cover two stickers that said, “Very” and “Valuable”. Of course, this piqued my curiosity and I looked inside to find the original working copy for the revisions of the first issue of the Dictionary, done by Susan Worthington Watson. This is a name to be reckoned with on the West Coast. Susan originally lived in Oregon and was active in the American Primrose Society there, but sometime in the late 1950s she separated from Mr. Worthington and married Mr. Watson, moving to Vancouver, B.C. Canada. She was active in the original group in Vancouver, a combination of primrose and rock gardeners called the Primula and Alpine Gardening Society. Susan lived in Vancouver until she died in 1991. John Kerridge interviewed her a few months before her death, and I can only think the family gave him any of her papers relating to primroses, knowing his interest in them. Among them must have been this little book.

As far as I know, Susan began the Dictionary when she became editor of the quarterly of the American Primrose Society – from a sense of desperation and frustration. She apparently didn’t feel she knew enough about the species Primula and began collecting information on them, gradually building up a collection that became the Dictionary. It was originally published in sections in the quarterly in 1954, and then in 1967 reprinted as a booklet.

When Pam came and spoke on growing species Primula, it finally occurred to me that there was someone who might know the value of the Dictionary. Pam had never seen it, so I sent her a copy. They are now very scarce, but I luckily had two. Pam wrote back (isn’t e-mail useful sometimes?) that the little booklet has some still-useful cultural information. A scenario for learning about species Primula began to emerge. Anyone interested in color images of species Primula can look at the pictures of them on Pam’s website, www.PrimulaWorld.com, consult John Richard’s book Primula (Rev. ed., Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2003) for descriptive information and natural habitat, and check in the Dictionary to see if there is any useful cultural information.

In this age of technology, it is possible to scan and reproduce a document with ease. A booklet of a little over 100 pages takes a bit longer but is possible. With my daughter’s (Jane Guild’s) knowledge of the world of computers, we have captured the little booklet digitally and it can be used by anyone with a computer. This file is interactive – you can page through the booklet, or you can look under the Primula’s name and click directly to the page where it is listed. Some extra benefits are included. There is a link to Pam’s website PrimulaWorld. There is a partial index to the APS quarterly by Michael Plumb that covers the issues of the quarterly in which the Dictionary was originally issued. This provides an additional way to access the booklet. There is a citation to Richard’s book in our ‘Resources’ section if you want to find a copy. Hopefully, all this will enable Primula species growers to gather the information they need to succeed with these beautiful plants.

I hope you enjoy the digital edition of the Pictorial Dictionary.

This project was made possible by the generous donation of the B.C. Primula Group.

Maedythe Martin August 2006