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"Belarinas – not your grocery store primrose," by the Whistling Gardener

There is no doubt in my mind that spring has sprung. This indisputable fact lies in the discovery this week of the first white blooms on a wild plum tree that lives down the street from the nursery. On that same road, I caught a glance of the swelling buds of several Bradford pears.
Belarina Primrose. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

There is no doubt in my mind that spring has sprung. This indisputable fact lies in the discovery this week of the first white blooms on a wild plum tree that lives down the street from the nursery. On that same road, I caught a glance of the swelling buds of several Bradford flowering pears that line the parking strip.

It is only a matter of days now before the Thundercloud plums, with their cotton candyish clouds of pink flowers, will shroud the boulevards of many a northwest street. The proverbial dam of winter has been breached and I, for one, am more than ready to start basking in the glow of spring floral color.

There is an amazing array of plants that bloom for us late winter through early spring - going all the way back to November when the fragrant pink flowers of Viburnum “Dawn” emerged and will continue on into March.

While some Camellias are done for the season, the japonica varieties will be very blooming soon, along with early blooming bulbs - like snow drops, crocus and winter aconites. I know I have said this many times over the years, but it is worth repeating: there is no excuse for not having something in bloom in the garden 365 days a year. All it takes is a trip to the garden center once or twice a month, every month of the year and you will have year around color in your garden.

All of this rambling about flowers brings me to my point.… For me, the signature flower that represents the end of winter and the beginning of spring (other than the above-mentioned wild plum) is the common English primrose.

Over the years I have grown and sold literally thousands of these colorful little guys. Customers usually come in to buy a dozen or two at a time and end up planting them in containers by their front doors to add a little bit of cheer during the dark and rainy days of February. At under three bucks each they are a great pick-me-up, that I am inclined to think most gardeners treat as disposable - partially due to their low cost, but also because if planted in the garden, they rarely come back looking like much the following year.

For anyone looking for a truly hardy perennial primrose, you have got to try the new Belarina primroses. They will establish well, bloom from early spring to summer, have a sweet fragrance and double blooms that are so full they look like carnations. Once planted in the garden they will grow and grow, eventually doubling their size, to give you year after year of viewing pleasure.

Developed in Europe, Belarinas are now available throughout the states in a wide range of colors- from the dark red of “Valentine,” the golden yellow edged with coral “Nectarin,” the dark blue of “Cobalt Blue” and other shades of purple, pink, and white. They all have beautiful, fluffy flowers with a sweet fragrance that will grace your gardens for years to come and become your harbingers of spring.

Pick up a few now for sprucing up your containers and then move them into a cool moist part of the garden in April or May when you are ready to do your summer planting. Like so many seasonal items in a garden center, don’t wait to buy some or you will miss out on these delightful new perennials.

Sunnyside will be hosting two free classes next weekend – “Conifer Kingdom” on Saturday, February 29, 2020, at 10:00 am; and “New & Exciting for 2020” on Sunday, March 1st, at 11:00 am. For more information, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and you can send your gardening questions to him at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

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