Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, June 2016
   Primula vulgaris 'Maisie Michael'  - by Joan McCaughey


This is an account which involves  two first-class plantspersons from County Antrim. Primula vulgaris 'Maisie Michael' is one of the many beautiful primulas raised by Joe Kennedy, in his garden in Ballycastle, and is named after a great plantswoman and late member of the Ulster Group, Maisie Michael, from Ballymoney.

Its story is related by Liam Byrne in an article on Kennedy Primroses which he wrote in the Dublin Group newsletter in Summer 2012 :-

"I met Joe at the Ulster Group AGS Show this year and he told me how  ‘Maisie Michael’ got its name. Henry and Margaret Taylor visited his  garden almost thirty years ago and were given some seedling primroses by Joe. About a year later Henry was so taken by a yellow flowered seedling that he phoned Joe and urged him to name it. Maisie Michael, a great plantswoman and a very popular member of the Ulster Group had just died and Joe decided the plant should bear Maisie’s name."
Shortly after we joined the Ulster Group AGS around 1987 I remember we had a summer visit to Maisie's garden. I have a vague memory of raised beds filled with alpines and I was very keen to have a plant named after her.

Alas my first attempt at growing Primula 'Maisie' was a disaster - I think it succumbed to vine weevil and the soil was too dry.

However I was tempted to buy another plant from Aberconwy Nursery a few years ago and this time guarded it against weevils and slugs,


It is planted in a north facing slope where it had some shade and  well drained moisture. It must have been happy in this position as it flowered beautifully. I shall have to find a similar spot in the garden as I think all primulas like to be divided and planted in fresh pastures. With its dark foliage setting off the pale creamy yellow flowers it is well worth persevering with this plant.

(The top photograph was taken by Billy Moore, at the Dublin Show; the detail was photographed in the garden)