Magic Evening Primroses: Now Blooming

A "Tina James Magic Primrose" with bloom and trumpets waiting to bloom.
The Tina James Magic Primrose

Each evening, one of nature’s botanical wonders, the Tina James Magic Primrose is putting on quite a show at dusk in the Vegetable Garden and behind the Painting Studio.

In today’s age, folks congregate to watch movies, or concerts, or lectures, but not usually a plant. It’s strange and fantastic to see small groups of Folk School folks gather and wait patiently around a plant box in the garden, to see the primroses bloom. Before the show starts, attendees pensively walk around the plants to see if they can guess which bloom will lead be the leading note of the overture. Excitement and anticipation is high as we all circle around the plant and wait.

A crowd gather to watch the blooming in the Folk School Garden while the Rapper Word Team practices in Open House (behind). Note Charlie's fiddle (left). There is a theory around the Folk School that the primroses like old-time music!
A crowd gathers to watch the blooming in the Folk School Garden while the Rapper Sword Team practices in Open House (behind). Note Charlie’s fiddle (left). There is a theory around the Folk School that the primroses like old-time music!
Primrose Party! A Tina James tradition.
Primrose Party! A Tina James tradition.

Look! Look! There it goes!

A woman has spotted a blossom slightly quivering, the signal that is is about to bloom. Everyone leans in to watch. The sepals (the green outside of the flower) peel down the flower and the tightly wound yellow trumpet begins to relax and open. Within seconds, before your very eyes, the blossom opens fully and settles into a large bright yellow flower with a delicate, sweet smell. It’s is like watching time-elapsed photography in real time; it’s just incredible.

The show continues as blooms start to move and open all over the plant. It is not uncommon to hear many “ooooohs” and “aaaaaahhhhhs” and “This one! This one!” A little girl was standing next to me. I heard her say to her mom, “Primroses are nature’s fireworks!

Once the show is over and darkness has fallen, night-flying hummingbird moths come out to pollinate the flowers. Each bloom only lasts through the night until mid-morning of the next day.

Don’t miss this impressive floral show at the Folk School, now blooming (until supplies last: about 3-4 more weeks), every evening around 9 p.m. in two of the box beds in the center of the garden, across from the bench below the herb garden gazebo, and in the back of the Painting Studio.

Closed blooms at sunset / Open blooms at dusk
Closed blooms and old blooms at sunset (L) / Open blooms at dusk (R)

Evening Scented Primrose Tina James Magic

Produces large fragrant blooms. At dusk, they suddenly burst open displaying crisp, yellow, showy four-petalled flowers. The flowers circle a spire of reddish, swollen buds. Blooms are 2/3 open within 10 seconds or less, and fully open within 1 to 2 minutes! Blooming lasts five to six weeks or more. Produces a flat rosette of leaves the first year, followed by 3 to 4′ yellow spires the second year. Very hardy. During the evening the flowers are pollinated by night-flying moths as large as hummingbirds. This variety was discovered by garden writer Tina James who hosts “primrose parties” every year.
[Introduced 1987 by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.]

A real-time video of a Primrose in the gardens here at the Folk School blooming:

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