How to see Fairies (Part One)

primrose bank

Spring is coming soon and Primroses will be one of the first signs of it. The name ‘primrose’ comes from the latin prima rosa or ‘first flower’, and they start coming out in February, providing important nectar for early bumblebees.

It’s said that if you look over the petals of a Primrose bloom you may see fairies.   And sometimes that, five Primroses growing together mark a way into Fairyland.  So if you can find some Primroses (don’t pick them !) now is a good time to start looking.

We are planning some very special wildflower activities for the Fairy Fair so remember to keep the date free (24th and 25th May – come either day).

Primroses grow naturally in woods and hedgerows. They are the food plant of the rare Duke of Burgundy Butterfly and are favoured by bee-flies (furry with long ‘tongues’ and hover over flowers like hummingbirds) and bumble bees.  Quite a few moth  caterpillars eat the leaves including the Large Yellow Underwing, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Setaceous Hebrew Character and Silver-ground Carpet the Belted Beauty and Water Ermine moth.

Primroses flower throughout spring.

bumble bee on primrose s

Primroses are easy to grow in your garden, and tolerate north facing shady spots as well as sun or partial shade, and will greatly improve it for wildlife. Just be sure to plant real native primroses (Primula vulgaris) not a hybrid or the multi-coloured primulas that are almost useless for wildlife.

You can try sowing seed but it may take years to come up and we recommend getting ‘plug plants’ from http://www.wildflowers.co.uk/ which you can do by post (find primroses on the website under “shade”). Their catalogue is also fantastic (download it or request a hard copy at the ‘contact’ page).

Plantlife say:

‘How to plant and when: Plant bare rooted or potted Primrose plants in autumn or spring (immediately after flowering) into well-dug, moist but free-draining soil. It is essential to keep young plants watered during the hottest months.’

April 19th is known as ‘Primrose day’ after former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who loved primroses and died on April 19th 1891 . Queen Victoria supposedly sent him bunches.  Old names for Primroses include Butter Rose, Jack in Box, Jack-in-the-Green, King-Charles-in-the-Oak, Lady’s Frills, Milk Maid,   May Spink, Summerlocks and, in Scotland, Simmerin, from the Norwegian for ‘cow anemone’.  Primroses are also said to bring luck in love, and have a sweet scent.

Doing more at home to encourage wildflowers will be a feature of the Fairy Fair this year – more details soon.

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