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Pannill known for daffodils
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Above, William G. “Bill” Pannill is shown in a field of daffodils. The picture is from his website, Pannill may have been known primarily as a textile leader, but his passion was daffodils. Pannill had registered about 210 varieties with the Royal Horticultural Society.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

William G. “Bill” Pannill’s career was in textiles, but he was known by many people for his daffodils.

Pannill had grown, shown and hybridized daffodils (narcissus) for more than 60 years, according to his website, DaffyBill’s Daffodils ( The site showcases 210 varieties that have been registered with The Royal Horticultural Society.

A photograph on that site shows Pannill standing in a massive field of blooms with arms spread.

Pannill, 87, died Tuesday in Roaring Gap, N.C. He also lived in Palm Beach, Fla. He was president of Pannill Knitting Inc. in Martinsville from 1966 to 1988.

Pannill’s niece, Lucy Wilson of Martinsville, said her relationship with him was centered around the flowers. She told how when she initially joined the Martinsville Garden Club, her interest was in arrangements.

“He (Pannill) said, ‘Lucy, if you would listen to me, I could really get you going and winning awards in horticulture in a couple of years,’” she recalled Tuesday. “He would give me any blooms I needed for a show.”

“Then he started giving me just bulbs here and there. I didn’t care what the names were; I just wanted them for arrangements,” she said.

But eventually Wilson came to realize that she had blooms at home that could rival those she saw at shows, she said.

Pannill attended many garden shows and was an honorary member of the Martinsville Garden Club and the Garden Club of Virginia.

His interest was reflected in the Pannill Award of The American Daffodil Society, which first was awarded in 1997. Bill Pannill won the award in 1998 for “Homestead,” in 2003 for “River Queen” and in 2006 for “New Penny.” He bred all three award-winners, according to the society’s website.

The last show he entered with Wilson and her sisters, Coates Clark of Vesta and Janie Vaughan of Lynchburg, and others was in Lynchburg about five years ago, Wilson said. There, he said he was going to retire from judging and entering shows, she said.

“‘I’ve won everything I could win and I’m just ready to stop now,’” he said, according to Wilson.

But Pannill’s legacy continued. He gave the women his last five daffodil beds in Martinsville.

“‘You’re going to have to dig it in the heat of the summer, divide the bulbs, soak them in a solution that prevents any bacteria, dry them for months until October. Then you can plant them in your homes,’” he told them.

“It was like being given children,” Wilson said. “These were really special.”

The women divided the daffodils, and Vaughan now is working to have one of them named and registered. It has butterscotch-colored petals and an orange cup.

The name? Scuffle Hill, the Martinsville street where Pannill and his nieces grew up.

“It’s just very sentimental,” Wilson said. Pannill, who was ill at the time, said the news “really perked him up,” she added.


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