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Kennedy Irish Primrose Collection

Announcing the Kennedy Irish Primrose collection
by Pat FitzGerald
January 16, 2011

I am proud to present to you a link to information on our most recent and exciting introduction for 2011 which will be available in USA through our friends at Herronswood and Burpee and in Europe directly from FitzGerald Nurseries.

This month we introduce the first of the Kennedy Irish Primrose collection.

It is especially poignant to be introducing to the world this work of amateur breeder Joseph Kennedy in the month of the 50th Anniversary of the inauguration of John F Kennedy as President of the USA.

A unique collection of Primroses bred over 35 years from old Irish varieties.

I am pleased to reveal the hard work and dedication one of Ireland’s leading amateur primrose breeders, Joe Kennedy, has been acknowledged with the help of FitzGerald Nurseries. We will release several new varieties of “Kennedy Irish Primroses” over the coming three years starting in Spring 2011. In the meantime Joe continues to work on future exciting lines to add to this uniquely Irish range of varieties.

Our ancestors believed that the primrose deterred evil fairies and a scatter of primroses outside the door would keep witches away. My own first contact with primroses came as a child seeing drifts of them growing in the 2000 year old Rath (Celtic Ringfort) on our farm here in County Kilkenny.

Since then I have had a soft spot for Primroses and now another reason for this is the wonderful work of Joe Kennedy, who hails from Carlow but now lives near Ballycastle, County Antrim. A modest man with exceptional ability as an amateur breeder, his professional training as a dentist has given him a precision and attention-to-detail perfectly suited to the finer points of breeding.

I first met Joe in 2006 having contacted him after reading an article he wrote in an Irish Garden Plant Society (IGPS) Newsletter. We got in touch over the phone and he was soon educating me on the history and breeding of this beautiful plant in Ireland going back to the late 1800's. From that moment on I was hooked on bringing these wonderful plants to the world. Since then I have selected some of Joes best work and we have developed micropropagation protocols so that we can produce sufficient numbers to launch to gardeners in USA and Euope.

A new creation from good stock

With this launch, I hope we can do Joes work some justice by bringing to a much wider audience these wonderful old-style “Kennedy Irish Primroses”. After 35 dedicated years of breeding, we hope it’s a proud moment for Joe also as it certainly is for us.

The first plant launch to start the program coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the inauguration of John F Kennedy as President of USA in January 1961. New additional varieties in this first series will be released through to the 50th Anniversary of his visit to Ireland and death in 1963. This collaboration between a Fitzgerald and a Kennedy to bring old Irish Primroses, all the way from County Wexford, near the old Kennedy homestead, is a typically Irish coincidence. All of the plants are being produced in Co Wexford. We are currently working on 36 more selections. Plants of the first two selections will be available this Spring. Inisfree is a vivid red with yellow eye on dark foliage and Drumcliffe another dark foliage variety but this time with larger lilac coloured flowers. More will follow with yellow, white, peach and pink flowers all on the most intensely dark purple foliage ever seen on Primroses.

All this development will secure local employment in Co Wexford and Co Kilkenny only a stonesthrow from another Irish Kennedy story.

In addition to unique foliage characteristics we are working on other exciting traits all bred by Joe from the old Irish varieties dating back to the late 19th century. I hope gardeners will agree a new direction in the beauty of the Primrose has been born out of these old robust perrenial Irish selections. Many of the later varieties will introduce some of the old “Hose-in-Hose”, “Jack-in-the-Greens” and various matt-forming stoloniferous types. Unique characteristics , just like Joe himself.

For release in 2012

The Lake Isle of Innisfree. By William Butler Yeats.

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

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