I am fascinated by the way many aspects of the horticultural world are so arcane and specialised, marked by an obsessive attention to detail. National Collections and Plant Societies are just a couple of ways this manifests itself. I stumbled upon a reminder in the glasshouses at Temple Newsam in Leeds last week. Even the method of display reflects the emphasis on order and classification beloved of a certain type of gardener. Apparently this particular type is called an Auricula Theatre – there is indeed drama in it, a striking sense of mise en scène.
Lines To An Auricula, Belonging To –
Thou rear’st thy beauteous head, sweet flow’r
Gemm’d by the soft and vernal show’r;
Its drops still round thee shine:
The florist views thee with delight;
And, if so precious in his sight,
Oh! what art thou in mine?
For she, who nurs’d thy drooping form
When Winter pour’d her snowy storm,
Has oft consol’d me too;
For me a fost’ring tear has shed, –
She has reviv’d my drooping head,
And bade me bloom anew.
When adverse Fortune bade us part,
And grief depress’d my aching heart,
Like yon reviving ray,
She from behind the cloud would move,
And with a stolen look of love
Would melt my cares away.
Sweet flow’r! supremely dear to me,
Thy lovely mistress blooms in thee,
For, tho’ the garden’s pride,
In beauty’s grace and tint array’d,
Thou seem’st to court the secret shade,
Thy modest form to hide.
Oh! crown’d with many a roseate year,
Bless’d may she be who plac’d thee here,
Until the tear of love
Shall tremble in the eye to find
Her spirit, spotless and refin’d,
Borne to the realms above!
And oft for thee, sweet child of spring!
The Muse shall touch her tend’rest string;
And, as thou rear’st thine head,
She shall invoke the softest air,
Or ask the chilling storm to spare,
And bless thy humble bed.
Sir John Carr (1772–1832)
From the early years of the 17th Century there have been shows for florist flowers – including Auriculas. The early shows were held in public houses…
The National Auricula Society was founded in 1872-73. With the support of the Manchester Botanical Council the first revived exhibition of the National Auricula Society was held on Tuesday the 29th of April 1873. The prizes at the first show were of cash and appear to have been extremely generous. Class A for six dissimilar show varieties, one at least in each of the classes Green, Grey, White Edged and Self, had a first prize of 60s (£3.00). In the single plant classes the premium prize was 10s (50p) and first prize was 8s (40p) – these prizes would be more than most people could earn in a week.
The fact that only subscribers of over 10s could enter the multi-pot classes tells us that the early members must have been comparatively wealthy. In fact they were often manufacturers and professional gentlemen. Ladies were still absent.
In 1890 it was resolved that supports, i.e. staking, would be allowed in all classes but packing in the truss was not to be allowed… In 1912 three cups were purchased: one each for Show Auriculas, Alpine Auriculas and Gold Laced Polyanthus, together with three medals and a die. The total cost was £18-8s-3d…
The word Primula was added to the society title in 1948 and so became The National Auricula and Primula Society (Northern Section).
(extract from the Society’s website)