Vitaliana primuliflora: The
by Kristl Walek
A great plant gives us pleasure, thrives in our garden,
reliably returns each year and does not ask more of us than we can
give. When that plant is also beautiful; when one is hard pressed,
in fact, to find any fault with it whatsoever, it becomes a perfect
Vitaliana is a one-species genus in the primula family
native to the Alps and Pyrenees and named after the Italian botanist,
Vonati Vitaliano (1717-1762). The species name, primuliflora refers
to the kinship of its flowers to primula.
Throughout its long history in cultivation it has been assigned by
academics to various genera, including Androsace, Douglasia, Gregoria
and Primula. The prickly-appearing foliage is certainly reminiscent
of a Douglasia, although the flowers are primula-like. It was once
known as the “Golden Primrose.”
Lincoln Foster’s Rock Gardening (1968) the plant was still known
as Douglasia vitaliana and described as follows…”the
blossoms are buttercup-yellow and quite stemless, sitting solitarily
but thickly, close down on the bun of small linear leaves, gray with
Foster forgot to mention the lovely fragrance and the
fact that the low, spreading mats are beautiful all season long. When
he states that the flowers “sit… thickly”, he intends
to say that the plant is smothered in bloom for weeks in early spring.
Vitaliana primuliflora prefers full sun and
a well-drained spot. It apparently avoids limestone in the wild, although
one would not need to know this in cultivation. Bloom begins very,
very early, just after the most precocious of the Draba and Saxifrages
This perfect plant is choice, but not temperamental.
It looks difficult, but is easy to establish and please. It does not
need to be coaxed to bloom and survives both –45°C winters
and humid, smoldering summers.
And if one is really hard pressed to find fault with
the plant it would be its reticence to set seed in cultivation. This
can however be easily overcome by taking cuttings early in the spring,
before flowering. These will be ready to set out by mid summer.