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Auriculas are without doubt the most succesful florists' flower and the societies that encourage their culture continue to attract increasing numbers of enthusiastic members.

Few people are unaffected by the auricula's simple beauty, the bright clear colours, the distinct symmetric patterns and unique yet elegant and well proportioned combinations of tissue type and texture. An especially good auricula variety can be preserved and increased by separating the small plantlets (or offsets) that usually grow around a mature plant and new improved varieties can with luck and perseverance be produced from seed - two essential requirements for a florists' flower. Conventionally distinct varieties that have proved their quality on the show bench may be named by the raiser. There are many hundreds of named varieties that fulfil the collecting instinct. Soon the discerning grower will with some reluctance limit their collection to just the very best varieties. Some growers, however, gain complete enjoyment from just collecting different varieties.

Most varieties are easy to grow, most types are easy to flower and the plants are small enough to keep an interesting collection in a relatively compact space. All auriculas are frost hardy and enjoy plenty of fresh air, additionally the exhibition types need protection from the hottest summer sun, winter wet and disfiguring spring rain. If you enjoy a challenge a few potentially excellent varieties can be extremely difficult to grow to show standard, or you could try to produce a new variety that little bit nearer to perfection.

The climax of the auricula grower's year is the show season. No image Click for Picture can fully capture the spectacle of the very best varieties superbly grown in close combat, the camaraderie of the competitors and the anticipation of how their best endeavours will be judged on the day. Shows are vital to the continuing improvement and success of auriculas.

Come and enjoy the shows if you possibly can. Try your hand at growing, competing and hybridising when you are ready and you will soon be enjoying the hobby to the full.

The Types of Auricula

People new to the fancy are often confused by the sheer abundance of different forms and colour combinations demonstrated by this man made primula hybrid. How the numerous types are judged also needs some explanation.

The recognised types of Auricula are Show, Alpine, Double and Border. When shown all types should be fresh, clean and healthy with well balanced foliage and strong stem(s) and pedicles to display the florets to best advantage. The florets or pips should be fully open, fresh and as identical with the other pips on the truss as possible.

Show and Alpine Auriculas
The shared characteristics of the main two types of auricula grown to florists' standards are that the individual flowers or pips should be flat and thrum eyed, with the outlines of the zones of the flower (tube, eye and pip) circular, well defined and in proportion.
Show schedules insist that just one truss, which may be staked, is judged and the plant is usually grown single crowned, that is a single rosette of leaves. Pin eyed plants are disqualified.
Show Auriculas
The eye of plants in this section is called the paste because it resembles unglazed porcelain and must be pure white, dense and unblemished. The paste is formed by a waxy substance, farina.
The best contrasting tube colour is a rich golden yellow.
The types of Show Auricula are Edged, Self, Striped and Fancy.
Outside the paste the corolla consists of two parts, first the ground and then the leaf-like edge. These are finely feathered one into the other. The edge must not reach the paste nor the ground flash to the pip boundary.
There are three types, green - no farina present on the leaf-like edge, white - farina so dense that no leaf green shows through and grey - an intermediate form where some leaf colour can be seen.
At one time all ground colours were acceptable, although some combinations of edge and ground colour were considered more desirable. Later the fashion changed to allow only black grounds. Recently the Midland & West and Northern Sections of The National Auricula and Primula Society have changed the standards to allow any bright clear ground colour. The Southern Section still accepts only black.
In this context nobody considers yellow to be a ground colour.
The form of the black ground edged auriculas is currently much better than those with other coloured grounds, so in practice there is little real difference. We can nonetheless look forward to the time when the show benches are even brighter and more colourful places.
As the name suggests the part or the pip outside the paste has to be one uniform colour.
This time all colours are allowed including yellow. No-one ever said that florists' standards have to be logical!! Usually at auricula shows there are separate classes for red, blue, yellow and dark selfs with an additional class for any other coloured selfs.
Striping may be of any kind but should be evenly distributed and extend from the paste to the pip boundary.
Unfortuately where the striping reaches the boundary a nibbled effect results, which is anything but circular. Although better stripes are appearing in the show bench each year minimising this fault, complete elimination may not be possible. When the striping is incomplete and falls short of the pip boundary, the petal rim can be entire. But in this case the plant is not a complete stripe. This presents real challenge for the florists who have already worked wonders in returning this lost type back into cultivation.
Show fancies are by definition (show auriculas not conforming to any of the other types) a catch all group. Many florists have no time for them. They do however ensure that interesting forms can be shown without interfering with the purity of the other classes. While striped auriculas were being rediscovered and no striped classes were scheduled at least they could be shown in the fancy classes.
To succeed as a fancy a plant needs to be distincly different from the other types and have most of the qualities of a good show auricula - flat pips, thrum eyed, circular well defined and proportioned zones, dense unblemished paste ...etc...
All conceivable edge configurations are valid when showing in classes for fancy auriculas at shows organised by the Northern and Midland & West Sections. At Southern Section shows fancies can only be edged types with grounds other than black (including yellow).
Alpine Auriculas
The tube and the eye, collectively called the centre, should be of one colour. Alpine auriculas are principally classified by the colour of the centre. This may be white to pale cream (light centred) or a rich golden yellow (gold centred). Intermediate colours are deemed inferior.
No farina at all should be visible on the flowers.
  Light Centred
A white or pale cream centre is required. The corolla outside the centre should be gradually shaded from dark near the centre to light towards the rim.
  Gold Centred
The centre should be a rich golden yellow. Again the corolla outside the centre should be gradually shaded from dark near the centre to light towards the pip boundary.
The corolla outside the centre (which may be gold or light and not intermediate) should have narrow even lacing at the rim of each petal with a contrasting unshaded ground.
This recently defined type is only scheduled at some Midland and West Section shows.
This recently introduced class is only recognised at some Midland and West Section shows and is certainly not for the purist.
To succeed a flower should conform to many of the standards of the classic alpine auricula (e.g. farina free, flat, thrum eyed, with circular and well proportioned zones). However some latitude is allowed to the patterning of the corolla and the colour of the centre.
The purpose of the class is to create a place on the show bench for new types in developement (such as alpine selfs and stripes) and to introduce colour breaks dependent on intermediate centres.
Other Auriculas
The other types of auricula are easier to grow and are more suitable to the rigours of outside unprotected culture than the florist types. Some of the more desirable double varieties however would never be risked in the garden.
The double auricula is another type virtually lost to cultivation that has been recently rediscovered and in the hands of dedicated florists grown in availabilty, popularity and refinement.
They are shown single crowned and the single truss being judged may be staked. The minimum doubling needed is a row of petals (two in Northern Section shows) and enough additional petals to fully cover the centre. Open centred plants are disqualified.
All types of auricula that possess the required doubling are acceptable. Petals can have any patterning but should be smooth and unnotched and colours should be bright.
The true garden auricula, being strong, sturdy and well able to withstand weather. Borders are best shown multi-trussed and are not staked. The rigorous standards of florist auriculas do not apply to borders which are judged for effect. Even frilly petalled pin eyed flowers are allowed. Bright clear colours are desirable. They are sometimes classified into those like the show auriculas that have meal (farina) and those resembling the alpines that are devoid of meal on flowers and leaves.

The number of pips needed on a truss for Show, Alpine and Double auriculas can vary from show to show and should always be checked with the actual show schedule in use before benching. In general the minimum number allowed is five except for classes for one edged or one self show auricula when three pips will suffice, but always confirm with the schedule.
For photographs of auriculas go to   Auricula Gallery        

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