What is a border auricula?

The “Border” Auricula should be just that – a plant that can happily live in a garden.

Its origins are believed to be a cross between primula auricula and primula rubra (also known as hirsuta) giving us the pubescens, though this can have small leaves and small flowers, variations from further crosses can give a bigger more sturdy and floriferous plant.  Primula auricula is a yellow flower with farina or meal on its petals and leaves, growing in limestone regions. Primula rubra is usually pink/purple/red sometimes white and has smooth glossy leaves with no farina, found on acidic rocks. Further crosses explain the vast colour variation and types that have been recorded in manuscripts, paintings and photographs over the past four hundred years.

The “Border” is not a florists flower, its frilly edges and less than perfect centre does not compete with the formality, neatness  and perfect symmetry of the show selfs and edges. It has played its part though at the beginning of the quest to find more perfect blooms when standards were set by the florists. Today the Border Auricula has a place on the show bench displayed perhaps for effect but also as a reminder of some of the early ancestral crosses that led to the “perfect” auricula.

History suggests that Border Auriculas were usually mealed, heavily covered in farina (Latin for flour) and called Dusty Millers, the practise to use the word “old” before the plant’s name gave credibility to its age and provenance. Some of the older Borders in our collection have a history to at least a hundred years ago, not all of them have farina and certainly some of the original Borders would have been meal free. There is also a suggestion that Borders can be recognised by the fact that they offset readily, increasing to a large clump, but this is also true of the Alpines and other Florists’ Auriculas that have been micro-propagated. It is easy to grow the Alpine varieties well in the garden, “Sirius” grows like a dandelion for us! We have grown the lovely “Joel” (blue self) just like a Border in a nine inch pot, which looks wonderful when six or seven trusses bloom together. Double Auriculas also can be grown in the garden border, where they once did before being whisked away to the show bench. We are often asked what we feel about “failed” Alpines or “failed” Shows as Border Auriculas, well, I say, what goes around comes around, but the plant must look good and prove him/herself out in the cold, the place for failures is not always the compost heap, they could one day prove a source of new plant material when matched with just the right partner.

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