One of the plants that caught everyone’s attention on the Plant of The Year exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show this year was a brand new form of Primula vialii, the red hot poker primula.
In its wild Chinese form this is one of the most popular of primulas, the red unopened buds opening to lilac flowers, creating an unusual-looking spike. 'Alison Holland' is the first white-flowered form to be seen since P. vialii was introduced to Britain from China by George Forrest in 1906.
In this new form the unopened buds at the top of the spike are creamy green and the flowers pure white; there is no red pigment in the plant at all. The overall look is cool and clean. It was shortlisted for this year’s Chelsea Plant of The Year award.
‘Alison Holland’ was found in the Northumberland garden of John Holland in 2011 and is named for his daughter-in-law. As with so many primulas, individual plants of ‘Alison Holland’ are self-sterile so do not set seed. However, they are amenable to propagation by tissue culture and numbers have built up well.
Some gardeners find the original P. vialii hard to grow, especially in warm dry areas, but Gary McDermott of Harperley Hall Farm Nurseries, who launched the plant at the show, told me: “There is no problem growing it, in fact if anything it’s more vigorous and flowers for longer than the usual type.”
Primula vialii 'Alison Holland' is available from Harperley Hall Farm Nurseries.
*Please note the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author which are not necessarily those of the RHS