A bank of wild primroses is a sure sign spring nearly upon us. Fortunately we can see and enjoy these gorgeous lemony flowers in most of Scotland.

Primroses, Primula vulgaris, are often associated with woodland, but they do need some, though not blazing, sun and you’ll usually find them in woodland edges, as mine are. The wonderful yellow carpeted bank sloping down from the orchard is nothing short of pure joy for me just now. Further up the valley behind me I come across more clusters of delightful primroses on moist but very free-draining banks leading down to a burn.

And it may not be hard to find a suitable spot in the garden, primroses don’t need a specially designated wildflower meadow. I often feel we underestimate the value and beauty of our wild flowers as folk have for centuries. Writing in A Late Voyage to St Kilda a little over three centuries ago, Martin Martin noted that “It is a piece of weakness and folly merely to value things because of their distance from the place where we are born. Thus men have travelled far enough in search of foreign plants and animals and yet continue strangers to those produced in their own natural climate.”

Martin was singing the praises of the plants themselves and this is a point that’s often overlooked when we’re urged to set up little wildflower meadows in the garden. It’s been suggested that native plants will be more beneficial for pollinators and in this discussion the plants themselves can sometimes be overlooked.

Yet studies suggest that most pollinators are simply after a flower’s nectar and pollen and don’t mind about the plants’ origin.


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A few invertebrates do rely on specific native plants. The caterpillars of the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary feed exclusively on violets. But these specialists are quite rare and are unlikely visitors to your gardens anyway.

From a practical point of view we can do more to help protect and preserve native plants by growing them. They rely on habitat, location and the type of soil. Many modern farming methods and the growth of towns are constantly encroaching on places that suit many of our native species. And the effects of climate change - floods, fires and other extreme weather patterns - can wipe out a local population.

By creating suitable conditions in our gardens we can make more sites available across Scotland. The larger the number of such habitats, the safer individual species will be.

And back to primroses. Their seed is mostly spread by ants and ants can’t walk very far. It also needs a period of cold before it can germinate so this can only happen when it’s relatively undisturbed over winter. Why don’t we give space in our gardens to increase the abundance of primroses and other native plant species. Enjoy the flowers as well as the invertebrates.

Plant of the week

Pulsatilla vulgaris, Pasque flower, is a very garden worthy plant with bell-shaped silky-hairy flowers that are violet blue in colour. It still grows wild on calcium rich soils in parts of England and mainland Europe from Sweden to central France and east to Ukraine.

Known as Pasque flower because it often flowers at Easter, this year’s cold spring weather combined with an early Easter means my pot grown plants are struggling to make it on time.