Primula bulleyana was discovered in China in 1906 by Scottish plant hunter George Forrest (1873-1932). It was named in honor of Mr. A. K. Bulley of Ness, Neston, Cheshire, (county in NW England) for whom [Forrest] collected.¹ He described his first sighting as follows: “Where marshy openings occurred, the turf was gaudy with the blooms of a multitude of herbaceous plants, [and] I saw miles, really, of Primula Bulleyana [sic] …”²
The UW Botanic Gardens has much smaller groupings displayed at the Pacific Connections Garden (in the China Entry Garden), but they still make a stunning impact. They are also peppered alongside the small, shaded creek in the Woodland Garden amongst Darmera and Skunk Cabbage.
Primula bulleyana is prized as a garden ornamental and has won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. This primrose performs best in damp soils alongside streams or ponds and can take sun or shade. The grouping in the China Entry Garden is in soil with average moisture and full sun and they look particularly healthy, so it seems to be an plant that can adapt to various garden situations. The florets are also fairly tolerant of cold winter temperatures.
Botanic Name: Primula bulleyana
Common Name: Candelabra Primrose, Bulley’s Primrose
Location: Woodland Garden, Pacific Connections Garden/China Entry Garden 110-08*A
Origin: Northwestern Yunnan and Southern Sichuan regions of China
Height and Spread: 20-24” tall, up to 12” wide at base. These primroses can spread easily from their seeds.
Bloom Time: Spring
Description: semi-evergreen, herbaceous plant, bearing 5-7 whorls of florets along the stem and lanceolate leaves with a lovely reddish petiole and mid-rib.
¹ Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh 4(19): 231–232, pl. 39A, 42. 1908.