There’s a lot to learn and enjoy at the websites of these organizations devoted to heirloom plants, historic landscapes, and bulbs. We hope you’ll consider joining one or more of them, to learn more, meet fellow enthusiasts, and support their good work.
Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation, ahlp.org, mainly for professionals
American Daffodil Society, daffodilusa.org
American Dahlia Society, dahlia.org
American Hemerocallis Society, daylilies.org
American Peony Society, americanpeonysociety.org
California Garden and Landscape History Society, cglhs.org
The Cultural Landscape Foundation, tclf.org, national leader in preserving historic landscapes
Heritage Rose Foundation, heritagerosefoundation.org
Heritage Roses Group, theheritagerosesgroup.org
Historic Iris Preservation Society, historiciris.org
Plant Heritage nccpg.com, international leader, US membership £28 by Visa or MasterCard
North American Gladiolus Council, gladworld.org
North American Lily Society, lilies.org
Southern Garden History Society, southerngardenhistory.org, valuable no matter where you live
The search for authentic historic plants can be both fun and challenging. Modern hybrids are often very different from earlier varieties, many once-popular plants have all but disappeared, and counterfeits are common. Here are some tips to help you find real live antiques:
1. Start with what you have — including what seem to be weeds. Every site has old plants waiting to be re-discovered and re-appreciated.
2. Look over the fence — literally — and down the road. Ask neighbors, relatives, friends, and older gardeners. Heirlooms often persist in family gardens.
3. Collect seeds or plants from abandoned sites (with permission and sensitivity — never endangering the continued existence of that plant at its original site).
4. Consider species or wild forms of garden plants, which were usually the first in gardens.
5. Search to the cultivar level. Same genus and species is NOT the same plant. For example, Paeonia lactiflora ‘Humei’, introduced in 1810, is unlike any 20th-century P. lactiflora (and forms of P. officinalis, P. suffruticosa, and P. tenuifolia — as old as they may be — aren’t even close).
6. Join a group. See our list above for some of the best.
7. Order online. Though local nurseries definitely deserve our support, you’ll find a much greater diversity of heirloom plants offered by mail.
These are some of our favorite sources for historic flowers and edibles. Many are run by friends of ours, so please tell them we said hello!
GardenWatchdog.com — This popular catalog-rating website features customer reviews of thousands of sources. We’re proud to be the Watchdog’s #1-rated company for not only Heirloom Bulbs but ALL bulbs.
Antique Rose Emporium, antiqueroseemporium.com, 9300 Lueckemeyer Rd., Brenham, TX 77833, (800) 441-0002, expert and friendly, not just for the South, dates
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, rareseeds.com, 2278 Baker Creek Rd., Mansfield, MO 65704, (417) 924-8917, creative, ambitious, and deeply committed to heirlooms, mostly edibles, some dates
Forestfarm, forestfarm.com, 990 Tetherow Rd., Williams, OR 97544-9599, (541) 846-7269, vast list of over 5000 shrubs, trees, natives, etc.
Heirloom Seed Project, landisvalleymuseum.org/index.php/programs/heirloom-seed-project/, 2451 Kissel Hill Rd., Lancaster, PA 17601, (717) 569-0401, preserving Pennsylvania-Dutch heirlooms, a model for local efforts everywhere
Heritage Flower Farm, heritageflowerfarm.com, 33725 Hwy. L, Mukwonago, WI 53149, (262)662-0804, heirloom perennials, shrubs (including clove currant), wildflowers, etc., dates
J.L. Hudson, jlhudsonseeds.com, PO Box 337, La Honda, CA 94020-0337, seeds only, many species, oddities, and varieties you won’t find elsewhere
Old House Gardens — Heirloom Bulbs (that’s us!), oldhousegardens.com, 4175 Whitmore Lake Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48105, (734) 995-1486, world’s leading specialist in heirloom bulbs, dates
Perennial Pleasures, perennialpleasures.net, PO Box 147, East Hardwick, VT 05836, (802) 472-5104, great regional resource, mostly heirlooms and herbs, ships phlox only, dates by eras
Seed Savers Exchange, seedsavers.org, 3094 N. Winn Rd., Decorah, IA 52101, (563) 382-5990, vegetables and more, international leader, great publications
Select Seeds, selectseeds.com, 180 Stickney Hill Rd., Union, CT 06076, (800) 684-0395, heirloom and new flowers, some dates
Southmeadow Fruit Gardens, southmeadowfruitgardens.com, PO Box 211, Baroda, MI 49101, (269) 422-2411, many old and new, more than 200 apples, some dates
Superstition Iris Gardens, facebook.com/superstitionirisgardens, 2536 Old Highway, Cathey’s Valley, CA 95306, (209) 966-6277, mostly new iris but extensive list of historics, too, dates
Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants, monticello.org/chp, P.O. Box 316, Charlottesville, VA 22902, (434) 984-9822, much more than a seed and plant source, flowers and edibles, dates
William Tricker, tricker.com, 7125 Tanglewood Dr., Independence, OH 44131, (800) 524-3492, since 1892, waterlilies, many old, some dates