National Show 2013 Report
Click here for some pictures of the 2013 National Show. (The Adobe Acrobat file may take a few moments to upload.)
APS 2013 National Show Adventure
Brisk, sunny, and in the midst of spring! What more could we want? Two fellow gardeners and I, eager to unravel the mystery of the Primula, headed north to Boylston, MA. Upon our arrival at Tower Hill Botanic Garden we quickly entered the main entrance and located the plant sale. To our delight we discovered tables packed with assorted Primulas, Hepaticas, and woodland beauties.
After filling many trays with plants, we decided our need to shop was fulfilled; besides we had to consider transportation issues with only one vehicle. While waiting for the show to open we enjoyed strolling through the Orangerie. Citrus standards, heavy with ripe fruit, one very large climbing rose, and an aloe in full bloom joined the eclectic display. As we wandered through the space I noticed, tucked away at the far end of the corridor, an exquisite Pan sculpture. Wondering why he was all alone I looked out the large glass windows to discover another open space. The Winter Garden beckoned: this area was nice and toasty and what a surprise to see two huge bronze turtle fountains flanking a Domitian Pool. I was smitten to see they were the eastern box turtle.
The other side of the Orangerie marks the entry into the Systematic Garden. Classically designed, the Italianate style garden was punctuated with beautiful sculptures,benches, pergola, fountains, and even darling cupids dancing in the open air.
Back into the show corridor I went. Eager to see how the show was being put together I took it all in. I was a bit shy because everyone was hustling to get table cloths on, plants benched, labels attached, and then, finally, get everything ready to be judged! As I watched, I was wondering the correct or proper way to show Primulas. What size container? Plastic or clay? One flower open or many? Forget the classification, for it was a bit overwhelming to me, but I was there to observe and so I did. It seemed that the containers were either clay or green plastic, generally four to six inches in diameter with a few exceptions. Flowers were mostly open, foliage cleaned, no moss on top of the soil, and a simple white tag to provide information. All plants were placed on raised benches according to their classification, with a perfectly colored green table cloth to show off the fabulous blooms.
One of the most helpful things we discovered at this event was the Primula wall of explanation!
Yes, here was a wonderful photo display created by the late Elaine Malloy which explained the various species and cultivars of this elusive genus. While we were inspecting this board one member from New York patiently helped us out byexplaining all the minuscule differences among the Primulas. I was relieved to finally have a sense of understanding these varieties and the needs of particular species. The three of us were all nodding in unison as the eureka-moment closed in. I now know why Primulas can be temperamental. The first thing I discovered is that they are generally found growing at very high elevations which explains their liking cool emperatures, high light levels, stony soil, and constant air flow. Then with his explanation of the various species still ringing in our ears,
we wrote it all down. Valuable information such as the fact that true Primula juliana typically has no yellow flowers. Primula denticulata, P. kisoana, and P. japonica prefer year round moisture. Primula sieboldii, native to Japan, tends to go dormant in summer and does very well in woodland conditions. Primula vulgaris is also a good choice for woodlands and can take dry spells as well. How to tell the difference between Primula veris and Primula elatior? No problem, P. veris typically has lower flower clusters that are more downward facing, and most importantly, P. veris has dark bars that surround the eye. Primula elatior typically has larger flowers with no distinctive bar marking the opening of the eye, and the flowers lean slightly to one side of each stem. Primula auricula, I now realize, are native to the mountains of Europe so that explains their succulent texture. But what about the fantastic flower colors? Guess I will have to wait until the next encounter with our mentor!
The most valuable information I took home with me was understanding what Primulas in general do not like: high temperatures (particularly at night), high levels of humidity that summer can bring, poor drainage which is sure death to most species, and hot scorching sun that can be experienced at lower altitudes. With this overload of information I finally realized that, hey, I too, can grows these mysterious beauties. Perhaps next spring we will jump into the excitement of entering some Primulas in the show?Once judging was completed and the ribbons laid out I took my time enjoying all the plants. While many entries had won the red, white, or blue ribbons, the diversity of this amazing genus, the Primula was truly amazing to me. Some notablewinners include:
Judith Sellers from upstate N.Y. with her Best in Show, Best of Division, and of course first with her outstanding example of a Hose-in-hose Primula. Judy also took the house in the auricula division with three blue ribbons and another Best in Display award.
Dorothy Swift of Wickford, R.I. had a huge clay pot of the most dazzling orange/red example of Primula veris gaining her a blue ribbon.
Deborah Wheeler of Colrain, MA. also had some beautiful entries with her precious double Primrose called ‘Belarina Pink Ice’ which won a blue ribbon and
Best in Division.
Marion Stafford, too, had many entries with one in particular being my personal favorite: a single pot of ‘Early Girl’ a stalked Juliana hybrid. This beauty won
a blue ribbon and Best in Division with it’s dark stems rising above deep green foliage, and flowers were the perfect shade of creamy white with yellow eyes.
Elisabeth Zander, a novice exhibitor with many entries, earned an assortment of blue ribbons and rosettes, including runner up for Best in Show with an acid
yellow auricula to die for. She also showed a tiny purple Primula hirsuta which was smaller than the blue ribbon!
Amy Olmsted, who is also a vendor with fantastic and unusual plant offerings, enjoyed her blue ribbon won for a large pot of Primula denticulata. It displayed
the softest purple/blue spheres floating above a swath of green.
Susan Schnare, another vendor with great Primula offerings, entered a number of winning entries as well. One that I found particularly intoxicating was the
deep garnet Cowichan polyanthus, and even though it won only a red ribbon (second) I was in love. She also enjoyed taking a blue ribbon with her entry of a
Mary Malloy of Delmar, N.Y. also gained bragging rights with her winning example of Primula veris.
Rodney Barker of MA., who is always so generous with bringing the sweetest little seedlings to share at the winter meeting, displayed a beautiful huge container
of white Primula polyanthus.
While this is only a sampling of the winning plant entries, all were exquisite. With such great examples to showcase this wonderful genus I was very much in