a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Primula problem


Front house 10.3.14

Shortly after we set up home here I bought a packet of primula seeds.  There were hardly any flowers in the garden and I wanted some colour.  I was pleased with the  quantity of seedlings that resulted and which prospered and multiplied.  This suited me very well as there were plenty of places to put in new plants when the older ones were split.  However, as the years passed I began to run out of places and because you can’t eat primulas the neighbours were not interested in them either.

Front border 10.3.14

In addition, as I accumulated more flowers I found that the primulas could cover the smaller spring flowers like the crocus and snowdrops.  The red one with the yellow centre was particularly vigorous and I decided that definitely this year, enough was enough.  They could have their last flowering and then it would be the compost heap.

Anthophora plumipes on Primula

That was until this morning.

Anthophora plumipes 10.3.14

I’d seen him roaring through the broad beans yesterday afternoon, he was either chasing off another male or trying to catch a female as he didn’t stop.  The Anthophora plumipes bees were back.  They are one of my favourites.  Who couldn’t not love a bee with a name like the Hairy-footed flower bee?  (Please note his hairy feet.)

Anthophora plumipes on Primula

I never knew they liked Primula and Narcissi.  I should have because BWARS gives a long list of the flowers they visit.

Anthophora plumipes on red Primula

So this is how a bee saved some Primulas from the compost heap.

I couldn’t get rid of them now, could I?

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

27 thoughts on “Primula problem

  1. I do like the flowers . . . if they grew here, I would not mind them taking over the yard.


  2. Nope, you’re stuck with them now. I love your hairy footed bees. What do they do with all those hairs on their legs? Is that for carrying pollen?


    • It’s only the males that have the long hairs on their middle legs. The females have hairs on their rear legs that are used to collect pollen. I like the long fronds on the males legs, perhaps the female bees are impressed too! 🙂 Amelia


  3. Wow, I’m surprised. I dislike the look of primulas but I’ll put up them if the bees like them.


  4. I’m all for any plant that helps bees and / or butterflies. We should all plant more of them.


  5. No, you can’t just get rid of a flower that attracts your favorite bee. You could thin them. After all, it’s clear that a big part of your gardening strategy is to provide sustained blooming, to keep the bees happy all season (indeed, all year, if possible). So, thin the primulas, but, as much as they may require some occasional reining-in, they are part of the bee program and have a firm foothold in your garden and in the hearts of your bees.


    • Quite right, even the red and yellow can be but in a less favourable part of the garden as it is so vigorous. They accept being chopped and replanted very well. I really prefer the more natural yellow colours but anything can be accepted if it helps the bees. Amelia


  6. Definitely not! Anyway, I find the primulas charming – so bright and colourful, and I have had to change my view too – my garden grows what IT wants, not what I want! Perhaps you could ease your conscience by just pulling up the new seedlings before they flower next year….


  7. Bees find so many flowers attractive especially at this time of year when there is less choice for them. I like the bright cheerful faces of the primulars.


  8. Definitely the primulas have to stay but I agree with avwalters; thinning the primulas would be a good idea. They get too leafy otherwise. I must do something about mine.


    • I have to thin them every year but last year I started to get a bit tired digging them up, cutting them in pieces and finding homes for them all. This year I am going to put them down under the trees at the back and they can sink or swim but I’ll give them a good chance. Amelia


  9. Of course not. 🙂 I could never get a primula problef, or, maybe I have, some pale yellow ones..


  10. Hello A,
    Glad to see that you’re enjoying some great weather as well. It’s interesting that you’ve not noticed bees on your Primulas before (and I love the pics and shall have to look out for this stout fellow up here). But 2 days ago in similar weather, I spotted 3 or 4 insect/flower interactions which I’ve never seen before in several years of looking, and I’m still trying to figure out why this might be. (I’m inclined to agree that the Primulas should stay, though such a strong red would probably have been rooted out by me at first flowering – much to Fiona’s annoyance!) Fascinated by your ‘wild bee’ colony piece as well BTW. BW, Julian


    • I think it depends on the weather which effects which flowers are present in the area when the insects are there. There is definitely a “pecking order”, so it depends on what is on offer and what is abundant at any given time.


  11. They seem happy and healthy. Maybe relocation to an other spot.


  12. WelI find them a bit over the top, I would rather have primroses and cowslips.


  13. I have primroses and cowslips in my garden but no primulas. They do look very jolly and if the bees love them, maybe I need to find room for a few.


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