Anna Mayor Jim Cross recently signed a proclamation declaring the second Saturday of June as "Annabelle Day" in the Union County community. The proclamation focused attention on the Hydrangea arborescens, or "Annabelle" plant, which was discovered in Union County and was named after the “Belles” of Anna who discovered it.
Members of the Anna-Jo Garden Club have been working very hard on what they call the Annabelle initiative over the last couple of years. The club's efforts have included the sale and planting 200 Annabelle hydrangeas. They have planted Annabelles in the Anna-Jo Garden Club Park in Anna, at the Anna City Park and at the Lincoln Memorial Picnic Grounds in Jonesboro.
The garden club shares that according to the "Legend of the Annabelle," Harriet Kirkpatrick of the famous Anna pottery family and her daughter Amy were out horseback riding when they discovered the Annabelle in 1910. They returned later and dug them to put in their yard. As they multiplied they generously shared them with friends and neighbors.
About 50 years later, Bon Hartline of Anna became interested in the “Annabelle”. He invited his former University of Illinois professor, Dr. J.C. McDaniel, to visit Anna to study the plant. McDaniel classified and registered it as “Hydrangea arborescens” in 1960. It is said that he originally gave it the common name of “Ballerina” because of the flower’s very round shape. However, the name “Annabelle” was chosen for the two “belles” from Anna who discovered the beautiful plant over 100 years ago.
In recognition of the significance of this special plant, the Anna-Jo Garden Club is working to see that an Annabelle trail is established. Many of the wineries in the area are planting Annabelles. The club would like to see Annabelles at every business and home in the area. Future plans may include a welcome sign and banners downtown.
We agree with the garden club, which says that the Annabelle is "a beautiful part of our history and we look forward to it being a beautiful part of our future." We commend the garden club's members for the work they are doing to help to make the community aware of this special part of Union County's history.