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Rebel gardeners put primroses back on Primrose Hill

Green-fingered guerrillas go planting behind Royal Parks' back

08 February, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Local historian Martin Sheppard with a pink primrose. The ones planted were the traditional yellow

GUERRILLA gardeners have completed a secret mission to put the primrose back into Primrose Hill – by planting 350 of the spring-blossoming, three-inch-high flowers.

Primrose Hill residents Martin Sheppard, Miranda Glossop and Jonathan Rogers donned welly boots and armed themselves with spades to spend Saturday morning covering the western-facing slope with the plants – without the permission of the Royal Parks.

Mr Sheppard said: “It was a rather peaceful activity. No one interfered with us and I hope some may be out this year. “We haven’t revealed the exact location, so we hope they are safe from being dug up again. I’d been thinking about doing this for some time and I had a real feeling of righteousness as we planted them.”

Mr Sheppard, who has written books on the history of the area, added: “Where are the primroses on Primrose Hill? This reasonable, indeed obvious, question has been left unanswered for too long. We decided it was time to take action to remedy the absence of primroses and hope that this will result in a profusion next year.” He said that there was evidence the hill got its name from a spectacular display of the flowers each spring. “There certainly used to be primroses on Primrose Hill,” he added. “According to AD Webster, writing in 1911: ‘I had a letter from a lady, 80 years old, who remembers filling a basket with primroses, gathered between Primrose Hill and the adjoining Zoo boundary, prior to 1838. ‘From this it may be inferred that up to about 60 years ago primroses were abundant on the hill’.” The primroses disappeared as hedgerows, which used to divide the land into fields, were cut down in the 1840s.

Park manager Nick Biddle said he did not expect the plants to survive. He said: “People do ask about planting primroses on Primrose Hill, but unfortunately the hill isn’t the ideal habitat for these plants.  Primroses were once common, but the hedges and banks where they once flourished have disappeared and attempts to reintroduce them have been unsuccessful.”

He added: “When planting we’re careful to minimise the risks of importing pests or diseases and any wildflowers should always be of local provenance. “No matter how well-meaning, we urge people not to have a go at gardening themselves in the Royal Parks. We ask that people enjoy the parks responsibly – and leave nothing and take nothing.”

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