From Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, ‘To a Primrose’
Thy smiles I note, sweet early Flower,
That peeping from thy rustic bower
The festive news to earth dost bring,
A fragrant messenger of Spring.
As Coleridge noted, the primrose (Primula vulgaris) is one of the first spring flowers, blooming as early as December when the weather is as mild as it has been so far this winter, and continuing on until May. The primrose was the favourite flower of British Prime Minster Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81) and so was used as the emblem for the Primrose League, an organisation founded a couple of years after Disraeli’s death and active until the 1990s, whose purpose was to promote the ideals of the Conservative Party throughout Britain.
In the language of flowers, the primrose has several somewhat conflicting meanings: it’s symbolic of timidity but also of fickleness, it can refer to young love but can also convey the message ‘I can’t live without you’. In Norse mythology, the primrose was sacred to Freya, the goddess of love, and in England there is a superstition that you must always bring 13 primrose flowers into the home – any more or any less means bad luck.