Looking out a window in Michigan, at the mounds in the snow, it was hard to imagine what I know from previous trips was lying dormant, waiting for the thaw.
It’s a metaphor for what Scott Kunst has in store for my garden — bulbs fashion-dormant for a couple of generations or more, ready to spice my contemporary garden.
I’ve known Scott, a longtime lover of bulbs and owner of a rare and heirloom bulb mail-order company, since our days of writing about historic landscaping for Old House Journal magazine. He has visited my garden, and Zoe and I visited his a couple of summers ago while on a jaunt to Canada.
But here it is, winter way up North, and we’re chatting about what makes gardeners tick. On top of the many new gardeners who trust his eye for great “survivor” plants, he also deals with the most hard-core, including quirky growers of odd plants. Scott had noticed me sniffing a pot of Roman hyacinth, and made me go back for a second deep snuffle to catch the cinnamon scent I had missed on the first pass. Little things like this separate real gardeners from dabblers.
The drifts of snow out the window are merely winter blankets, protecting a treasure trove of sensory delights. Scott’s garden has stuff to see, smell, touch, taste and hear.
His small business, run out of an office carved out of his home and a garage stacked with boxes of bulbs from dedicated growers, is a collection of unique or endangered cannas, dahlias, gladiolus (including the very hardy, early-blooming magenta one once so common in the South), lilies, hyacinths, daffodils, crocus, amaryllis, rain lilies, tuberoses, crinums (“milk and wine” lilies), various elephant ears, bluebells and so much more.
All are hardy in our gardens. And they were incredibly popular generations ago, before moustaches of mass-produced shrubbery and wall-to-wall lawns replaced real gardening. Now, with an increased interest in garden flowers on the upswing, people are looking for true plants that perform with little care.
Check out Scott’s web site oldhousegardens.com and see for yourself.