Narcissus ‘Countess of Annesley’
An Irish cultivar presumed extinct – alive and well
Narcissus ‘Countess of Annesley’, a late nineteenth century, large early-flowered daffodil that originated at Castlewellan in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, and long presumed extinct, has recently been found alive and well in a number of Irish gardens. The discovery was made by Alwyn Sinnamon, Foreman Gardener at Castlewellan Arboretum and Annesley Garden, at Castlewellan, and it was possible to trace its identity using original descriptions and drawings of the cultivar.
Narcissus ‘Countess of Annesley’ is an extremely vigorous and distinctive daffodil with bright sulphur-yellow, twisted perianth segments and a rich full-yellow trumpet that’s reflexed at its apex.
The cultivar was first found by Thomas Ryan, Head Gardener to Hugh Annesley (1831-1908), the fifth Earl Annesley, and was named by William Frederick Burbidge, the former Veitchian plant hunter and Curator of the Trinity College Botanic Gardens in Dublin.
During the 1890s Narcissus ‘Countess of Annesley’ was grown as a cut flower in Ireland and the Isles of Scilly, and several tonnes of blooms were annually sold to the English and Scottish markets. It was planted en masse in front of Kew’s Great Palm House in the late 1890s, and it also became extremely popular in New Zealand.
During the twentieth century it was superseded by modern cultivars and was presumed extinct until plants were positively identified from stock at Castlewellan and nearby, at Rowallane Gardens. Further investigations have found a third population is thriving at Annesgrove House and Gardens in Co. Cork.
With thanks to Seamus O’Brien, National Botanic Gardens, Kilmacurragh, Co. Wicklow.
RHS Woody Plant Committee (corresponding member).