Cowslips!  They started appearing in the orchard lawn at Genus HQ about five years ago and with judicious mowing have continued to thrive.  What was once half a dozen plants has now turned into several sizeable swathes.

They’re an interesting plant with numerous vernacular names that include Herb Peter, Key Flower, and Fairy cups.  Its scientific name Primula veris translates as Spring Primroses.  The beauty of these flowers of meadows and roadside verges didn’t go unnoticed by Shakespeare who refers to them in A Midsummer Nights Dream: “In their gold cups you see, those be rubies, fairy favours. I must go seek some dewdrops here, and hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.”  Country children used to collect the flowers and make up a ball using wool and a dozen flower heads.  Tied to a stick they would be waved around while the child chanted ‘tisty-tosty tell me true, who shall I be married to?”

The flower heads, botanically described as umbels, generally contain around five to twenty five flowers, though in 1913 a keen eyed botanist in Henley-on-Thames spotted one with 87 flowers in its head - a record to this day.  We have managed to find a specimen with 31 flowers in the Genus garden this year.

Easily purchased as plants or seed we’d recommend every lawn or orchard contains at least a dozen of these early flowering perennials.  Not only are they attractive to the eye but they offer a good source of early nectar for insects and bees that are tempted out on sunny days.