Those who grow and those who see Primula ‘Dark Rosaleen’ are unfailingly cheered by the sight. The dark purple flowers with their yellow stripes match beautifully with the bronze foliage making it a delightful plant.

It was raised by Joe Kennedy, the famed primula breeder in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, though he unfailingly points out that he is a native of Co Carlow. Joe is now more widely known since the release of The Kennedy Irish Primulas from Fitzgerald Nurseries, a wonderful series mainly featuring bright flowers against dark foliage – an aim of Joe’s breeding for many years.

However, this primula was not what Joe was aiming for at the time and he passed to a lady in Limavady; she in turn, as is so often the way with good garden plants, passed a piece to Gordon Toner who showed it at the Belfast Spring Show on a number of occasions under the name P. ‘Joe Kennedy Hybrid’, winning first in its class.

When Joe visited Gordon’s garden he was delighted to see how well it was growing and agreed that it deserved to be named; this he did calling it ‘Dark Rosaleen’ for Gordon’s wife, Rosaleen! Of course, the name will also always recall James Clarence Mangan’s poem, Dark Rosaleen, A Róisín Dubh.

In the garden it is the most obliging and easy of plants to grow and the only care it requires is a moist position and regular dividing. A plant to give to friends!

(As appeared in Newsletter 148, April 2020. Text and photos courtesy of Paddy Tobin)