Where to  VisitGuy Wilson

Co. Derry

Although the genus Narcissus is not native to Ireland, few countries can lay greater claim to the daffodil. Irish breeders have led the world in the number and quality of cultivars raised. This daffodil garden in the grounds of the University of Ulster is a tribute to Irish hybridists and is dedicated to the memory of Guy L. Wilson from Broughshane (1885-1962) who did most to develop daffodil breeding in Ireland over the past fifty years.

The collection occupies the site of an old quarry on the south side of the campus at Fortview, close to the Portstewart Road. The setting is attractive with its south-facing lawns, informal paths, irregular-shaped island beds of shrubs interplanted with daffodils and a large drift providing a magnificent splash of colour in the centre of the layout. The first planting of bulbs took place in 1971 and amounted to 165 cultivars, embedded in clumps of twenty or more. In 1974 the garden was opened to the public and in the years following, the collection was expanded enormously under the guidance of Dr David Willis, then the University grounds superintendent. Donations of bulbs from as far afield as New Zealand, Irish GardensHolland, the US as well as Britain have enlarged the collection to its present number of around l,500 old and modern cultivars.

A major proportion of the cultivars in the collection are the creation of Irish breeders, notably J Lionel Richardson, W J Dunlop and Tom Bloomer. The Guy Wilson cultivars are principally represented by white daffodils with which he achieved his greatest fame and success. Wilson's name is especially associated with white trumpet daffodils, and visitors to the garden can seek out such early award-winning jewels as 'White Dame', 'Driven Snow' and 'Everest' and his later triumphs: 'Kanchenjunga', 'Cantatrice', 'Empress of Ireland' and 'Rasheen'. He also achieved fame for his large-cupped whites, notably 'Slemish' and 'Ava', once described as one of the most perfect flowers in cultivation, while the small-cupped 'Chinese White' is perhaps one of the most successful daffodils ever produced.

Daffodils Wilson was interested in reverse bicolours and played a major role in developing the revolutionary 'Spellbinder' cultivar with its unusual colour combinations of yellow perianth and white trumpet. He also tried to develop pink varieties, but it was his great contemporary Lionel Richardson of Waterford who had the most success with pinks, producing such world beaters as 'Rose Caprice', 'Infatuation', 'Salome' and 'Romance'. Richardson experimented with double flowered daffodils and in later years produced many commendable yellow trumpet varieties, including 'Kingscourt' and 'King's Ransom'. Contemporary Irish daffodil breeders are represented in the collection as well; here we are offered glimpses of Kate Reade's pink 'Foundling' and Brian Duncan's superb double 'Pink Pagent'.

Visitors should note that there are many other daffodils on display around the campus, flowering in drifts on lawns and in the New Garden close to the main roundabout.

An excerpt from Irish Gardens.

 Ireland's Eye

Located 1 mile north of Coleraine on the Portstewart Road (A2) at the University of Ulster, Coleraine.NGR: C 847339.Open from dawn to dusk, all year.Parking at the Marina.Dogs on lead.Admission free.Tel (01265) 44141.Best season: April.

From The Appletree Guide to Irish Gardens by Terence Reeves-Smyth.

Emo Court


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