Plant of the week
Primula 'Blue Zebra'
Why you should plant it
P. 'Blue Zebra' is an eye-popping early bloomer you won't find in big-box stores and may have to search around for. Its cobalt-blue stripes and golden/orange eye will make it stand out against the subtler colours of anything else in the garden right now. To think that a lowly cowslip has evolved into this wild and crazy plant makes you grateful to the hybridizers. It'll produce masses of blooms right now and might have another flush in autumn with fewer flowers.
Where to plant it
You'll want to see its brilliance, so give it pride of place; you can even keep it indoors since it blooms so early. A Zone 5 plant, it will tolerate the cold with incredible form, blooming really early (April and onward) until it gets too hot. Plant it outdoors in a moist, shady spot. It's food for insects, so don't remove any caterpillars if they happen to appear. And never let primula dry out.
What it offers
A splendid pop of colour in spring containers and gorgeous masses along a path. In terms of pairings, it looks absolutely right with the smaller narcissus and also some tulips (but not the red ones, in my opinion – too brash).
Source and cost
Get it for $3 a plant at John's Garden in Uxbridge, Ont. (www.johnsgarden.ca) as well as other boutique nurseries.
For more plant and garden information, visit www.marjorieharris.com.