This was a week’s TV viewing for me as a child in a family which didn’t own a televison set. After lunch my face would be washed and my hair brushed and I would go over the road to the home of two sisters who were happy to entertain me for the duration of the programme. I used to cry when it was ‘time to go home’ for Andy and Teddy and they were waving Goodbye, but my favourite was Bill and Ben with their co-star Weed in their kingdom of clay pots.
In 2003 when I saw my first display of Auriculas, childhood memories prompted me to buy a packet of seeds from Pops Plants and according to my label, I sowed them on May 21st of that year. Since then the resultant seedlings have been propagated, given away to friends and generally brought a lot of pleasure.
So on Saturday morning , despite the weather, I spent a wonderful few hours down on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border at the Pops Plants Open Day.
Lesley Roberts and Gil Dawson run the nursery and while Gil was packing up some plants for transport to the Isle of Wight, Lesley spent some time with us talking about the plants, all 12oo of them. A news journalist by profession she has been growing Auriculas for thirty years and is a keen and good communicator on her subject. Regular exhibitors at RHS and specialist shows they have also built up a significant following on the internet, with much of their business done by mail order and 25% of sales going abroad with regular customers in the USA, Japan and Alaska. Lesley explained that as a ‘florists’ flower Auriculas have their own very strict rules about naming plants, with a new cultivar having to be exhibited at an Auricula show in order to register a name. Have a look at their website for more information on the history and types of Primula auricula.
Apart from the large covered area displaying the Collections and plants for sale, there are two Auricula theatres in the garden, displaying specimens to their best advantage and at eye level. These have been used for centuries as a way of protecting the blooms from the rain, particularly the Show Auriculas with their farina, or paste, on the petals and sometimes leaves.
And it was all hands to the pump to man the gate, the sales table and the all important refreshments – delicious lemon drizzle cake and date and walnut loaf.
Pops Plants propagate all of their plants using offsets and with the Collections available to showpiece the flowers, I could have spent a fortune on plants. Unfortunately/fortunately I had forgotten my cheque book and my purchases were restricted by the amount of cash I could muster. But there’s always the workshop the Southern section of the National Auricula and Primula Society are running on May 19th at Great Bookham, not too far from Guildford – and there will be a plant stall. Mercy says that I am in the danger zone regarding these plants and she may be right.