Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  Living Treasure from the Past
Jun
20
2018

Irises and Art: Two Cedric Morris Exhibits
and Skyrocketing Prices

Appreciation continues to grow for artist and iris breeder Cedric Morris whose peachy-pink ‘Edward of Windsor’ sold out early for us this past spring.

In London, two exhibits of Morris’s work are drawing crowds. His landscape paintings are featured at the Philip Mould Gallery in “Cedric Morris: Beyond the Garden Wall,” while his flower paintings are showcased at the Garden Museum in “Cedric Morris: Artist Plantsman.” Celebrating Morris’s creativity as an iris breeder, The Garden Museum exhibit was accompanied in season by a display of his iris organized by the celebrated garden designer Dan Pearson.

‘Edward of Windsor’

Prices for Morris’s paintings are skyrocketing – up 1,500% since 2014 according to a recent article in the London Telegraph. Last fall a couple of his landscapes from David Bowie’s personal art collection sold for over $65,000 each, but that’s small change compared to the prices being fetched by his flower paintings “which have raced ahead, like tulip mania.” The record was set last August by July Flowers and Wood Warblers (pictured above) which a London gallery bought for $223,000 – and which is now being offered for just under $400,000.

Although Morris’s paintings may be beyond the reach of most of us, his ‘Edward of Windsor’ iris is much more affordable. For an email alert when it’s for sale again July 1 (along with the rest of our spring-planted bulbs), simply click the link now in our description of it online.

Read June’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Jun
15
2018

Which Lily to Choose?
Swiss Expert Recommends 8 of Ours

It’s lily season! The martagons are blooming here in our Ann Arbor gardens, along with the last of our iris and masses of peonies. Coral lilies will be next, and then regal lilies, Madonna lilies, and on and on well into August.

To help you decide which of these dramatic flowers to add to your garden, here’s what Swiss lily expert and nurseryman Pontus Wallsten had to say about eight of ours in the January 2018 issue of Gardens Illustrated.

In order of bloom-time:

Golden Splendor’, 1957

‘Golden Splendor’ – “A vigorous, fragrant trumpet hybrid. The yellow flowers have a darker, purple reverse, and are held on strong stems. Bulbs will eventually reach the size of a small melon. RHS AGM.”

Coral lily – “This little gem has a spicy fragrance.” (Spring-shipped.)

Regal lily – “By the wall of my house is a small clump of bulbs that have flowered faithfully for the past nine years, filling the summer air with the sweet scent of jasmine, and requiring no particular effort on my part. RHS AGM.”

‘African Queen’ – “Fragrant, vivid-orange flowers. Very vigorous and long-lived, it is happy in any well-drained, humus-rich spot in full sun or afternoon shade. RHS AGM.”

‘Pink Perfection’ – “A superb trumpet hybrid that produces big, highly fragrant flowers in July. It is very disease-resistant and will thrive in any well-drained spot in full sun or afternoon shade with very little care. RHS AGM”

Pink Perfection’, 1950

Henry’s lily – “A vigorous and long-lived species, producing 40 flowers or more, July to August. Best in part shade as color can fade in full sun. Stems can arch towards light, so may need staking. RHS AGM” (Spring-shipped.)

Gold-band lily – “Produces some of the largest, most fragrant flowers of any lily.” (Best in acid soils.)

‘Black Beauty’ (pictured at top) – “An almost indestructible hybrid with sturdy, bamboo-like stems that can hold more than 50 dark-purple flowers with a green-and-black center. Each peduncle usually produces a secondary bud that opens once the first has finished so flowering lasts for almost two months.”

We hope this helps. Order now for delivery at planting time – and next summer you’ll be raving about them yourself!

Read June’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

May
30
2018

Preserving Plants at Home – Together

Elizabeth Lawrence in her garden

“I belong to that great fraternity whose members garden for love,” the eminent Southern garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence wrote in 1981. “They are called Brothers of the Spade” – a term first used in the 1700s by the great British plant collector Peter Collinson.

“Some own estates, some are directors of botanic gardens, and some have only small back yards,” Lawrence continued, but all are “amateurs in the true sense of the word – they garden for love.” (The Latin root of amateur is amare, to love.)

Together these garden lovers “keep in cultivation many a valuable plant that would otherwise be lost. Among them they preserve a reservoir of plants that could never be collected in any one place, even an institution, for the preservation of plants depends upon individual efforts, and it is only in private gardens, in lonely farm yards, and around deserted houses that certain plants no longer in the trade are found.”

Are you gardening for love? Are you nurturing plants in your garden that have all but disappeared everywhere else? If so, you’re one of us, and we’re proud to be gardening alongside you in the immortal Fellowship of the Spade!

May
23
2018

Art from the Garden: Manet’s Peonies

As the buds on our peonies here in Ann Arbor swell with promise, I’ve been thinking about the great French artist Edouard Manet, whose ground-breaking works helped to launch Impressionism and changed art as we know it forever.

In 1864-65, just after he exhibited his best-known work, the scandalous Luncheon on the Grass, Manet made several paintings of peonies, including Peonies in a Vase on a Stand, pictured here. According to a 1983 exhibition catalog published by the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais in Paris, these works “painted at the peak of his artistic vitality are allegories of vanity . . . [and] the transience of beauty,” as were many of the magnificent Dutch flower paintings of the 1600s.

“Van Gogh was much struck by this painting,” the catalog continues, “and mentions it at a time when he was himself working on a flower series: ‘Do you remember that one day we saw a very extraordinary Manet at the Hôtel Drouot, some huge pink peonies with their green leaves against a light background? As free in the open air and as much a flower as anything could be, and yet painted in a perfectly solid impasto.’”

Unfortunately, although Van Gogh described the peonies as pink, they look white today because the pigments Manet used have deteriorated over time – a problem which has also afflicted several of Van Gogh’s works including Vase with Pink Roses, now at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.

At the time Manet painted this image, peonies were held “in high esteem, recently introduced into Europe and still considered an item of luxury,” which would have made the painting especially appealing to Manet’s “elegant clientele.” More importantly, though, “Manet simply liked peonies. He grew them in his garden at Gennevilliers, and their exuberance . . . was in perfect harmony with his generous and sensuous brushwork.”

See more of Manet’s peony paintings at Google Images – and then garden like the master himself by ordering your own peonies now for delivery this fall!

May
17
2018

Perennial Companions for Tulips – and ‘Thalia’

Although “tulips on their own can look spectacular,” writes UK garden designer Kristy Ramage in the April 2017 Gardens Illustrated, “I prefer to grow them more sparsely in combination with perennials, where the emerging leaves and a few early flowers are a foil for the shapely heads of the tulips.”

Kristy especially likes growing tulips “through mounds of soft foliage” such as that of columbines, meadow-rue (Thalictrum), Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium), hardy geraniums, and Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’, “a variety of wild chervil whose “ferny, copper-colored foliage . . . tones with the dark tulips and sets off the light tulips beautifully.” (Sadly for us here in zone-6a Ann Arbor, ‘Ravenswing’ is hardy to zone 7 and warmer only.)

She also highly recommends three of our favorite heirlooms for planting with perennials:

‘Apricot Beauty’ tulip – “Named in 1953, this lightly scented, softest salmon-rose tulip is vintage in more ways than one – imagine silk lingerie from the 1920s and you have this Single Early tulip to a tee.”

‘Columbine’ tulip – “Exquisite and rare, a ‘broken’ tulip of the type that was prized by the English florists’ societies of the early 19th century. It opens to a wide cup, displaying black anthers inside.”

‘Thalia’ daffodil – “I wouldn’t be without ‘Thalia’ somewhere in a garden. The form and color of this daffodil is so good it’s impossible not to be charmed. Introduced in 1916, it has been deservedly popular ever since for inter-planting with other bulbs or planting in drifts in a woodland.”

This spring, before your perennials reach their full-size, why not mark a few spots where a handful of tulips or ‘Thalia’ would look fabulous next spring– and then order now to make sure you’ll get them!


‘Apricot Beauty’
‘Columbine’
‘Thalia’
May
14
2018

Native Dutchman’s Breeches is
Dicentra Expert’s Favorite

In his UK National Collection of Dicentra, Roger Brook grows 30-40 different kinds of bleeding hearts from all over the world. Although we offer just one – Dicentra cucullaria, Dutchman’s breeches – we were happy to read in the May 2018 issue of The English Garden that it’s Roger’s “current favorite.”

Dutchman’s breeches is “a diminutive, early flowering species from mountainous areas of northeastern United States and Canada,” writes author Val Bourne. “It has been grown in Britain since the early 18th century and was thought to have been sent by the Quaker botanist John Bartram (1699-1777) to Philip Miller at the Chelsea Physic Garden.”

“The exaggerated, heart-shaped flowers led the Menominee Indian tribe of Wisconsin to use this plant as a love charm,” Bourne adds. Another common name for it is “stagger weed, alluding to this plant’s toxic effect on livestock and presumably people” – which is good news for gardeners because it means that it’s deer-and squirrel-proof.

Although in his Yorkshire garden Brook says that “wet winters and slugs” make it “difficult to keep in the ground,” in colder gardens here in the US it’s usually easy to grow. In fact, I once dumped out what I thought was a pot of empty soil in a shady spot in my Ann Arbor garden and every spring since then a little colony of Dutchman’s breeches has been blooming and spreading happily there.

To see what a treat this native gem can be in your garden, order it now for fall delivery.

May
8
2018

When is a Tuber Not a Tuber?

pink sprout growing from crown

Although virtually everybody calls them tubers, we recently learned that dahlia tubers aren’t really tubers. In a letter to American Gardener magazine, University of Nebraska horticulture professor Paul Reid explains:

“Once again I write to chide your authors and editorial staff for misapplication of the word ‘tuber.’ It should never be used for referring to the fleshy underground structures of dahlias, sweet potatoes, and probably not for daylilies. . . . They are not tubers!

“Tubers are underground stems, with nodes, internodes, and buds – the ‘eye’ of the potato tuber, for example. Tuberous roots are simply roots that are modified for food storage, but are decidedly not stem tissue.”

He’s right. Dahlia eyes sprout from the crown which connects the stem to the swollen storage roots. If a root breaks off without a piece of the crown, it can never sprout because it has no eyes.

Don’t worry, though. Even the American Dahlia Society calls them tubers, so it’s okay for you do the same. Informal language is often different from scientific language, and if you start calling your dahlias “tuberous roots” you’ll just annoy your friends.

But facts matter, and now you know.

May
2
2018

Laughing in the Garden with Arlo and Janis

Like many of us, my favorite comic-strip couple got back into the garden for the first time recently.

If you like to laugh, I think you’ll enjoy their six-day adventure – and if you’re not as young as you once were, I think you’ll enjoy it even more.

Check out the first day at www.gocomics.com/arloandjanis/2018/04/16, and then click on the right arrow under the strip to continue the fun.

Apr
27
2018

When Fort Meyers was
the Gladiolus Capital of the World

gitl

Once upon a time, sunny Fort Myers, Florida, was not just a popular vacation destination, it was also the gladiolus-growing capital of the world, with local farms shipping some 500 million stems a year to florists throughout the US and overseas.

It all started in 1935 when two successive winter freezes in central Florida drove gladiolus growers further south to the Iona area just outside of Fort Myers. Within a decade, 30 growers were cultivating some 2500 acres of glads there.

Gladiolus at the time were hugely popular. Not only were they showy and easy to grow but their long vase life made them the perfect cut-flower. Every year gladiolus societies across the country displayed thousands of spikes in shows that drew tens of thousands of visitors. (See a 1921 glad show here.)

‘Dauntless’, 1940

Harvesting the Fort Myers glads started in November and continued into June. According to one grower’s son, “The glads were cut before they bloomed, so a visit to the gladiolus farm was a view of acres and acres of green stalks with workers walking through the fields and cutting stalks with buds soon to bloom. The goal was for the stalks to bloom in the hands of the florist.”

‘Fidelio’, 1959

Bundled and packed in hampers, the glads were shipped by air and then delivered by a patchwork of local truckers, all in an era before UPS and FedEx. Sometimes they traveled in the climate-controlled trucks of Purolater Courier whose main business was delivering celluloid film reels – which could burst into flames if they got too warm – to movie theaters.

Even in the Fort Myers area, growers sometimes needed to protect their crops from frost. At first they burned old tires to create heat and a protective blanket of smoke. (Don’t try that at home!) Later they turned to oil-fired heaters along with crop dusters to circulate the air over the fields.

Nothing lasts forever, though, and by the 1970s most glads sold in the US were being flown in from overseas where both land and labor were cheaper. One by one the Fort Myers growers sold their fields to developers, and by 1980 the area’s reign as the gladiolus capital of the world was just a memory.

To learn more, read the recent article in the Fort Myers News-Press.

To make your yard the gladiolus capital of your neighborhood, order now for spring-planting!

Apr
18
2018

Gardening at the Sink
with Peony-Scented Dish Soap

Have you ever been excited about dish soap? As head dish-washer at our house, that’s exactly how I felt when I saw peony-scented dish soap at the supermarket recently.

With a vintage vibe and environmentally-friendly ingredients, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day household products have a gained a national following. The company’s founder named the company for her mother, saying she was inspired to make cleaning products that “smell nice, like my mom’s garden.”

Scents include basil, lavender, and honeysuckle, along with more unusual “limited edition” fragrances such as rhubarb, sunflower, and – the one I plan to try next – radish.

So does the peony-scented soap really smell like peonies? Not to my nose, but it does smell wonderfully flowery and fresh, and I like it a lot. See their full line-up – from air freshener to hand lotion – and find a source near you at MrsMeyers.com.

Apr
11
2018

Searching for the
Lost Daffodils of Reverend Engleheart

You may not know it, but if you love ‘Beersheba’, ‘Lucifer’, or ‘White Lady’, you’re a fan of the Reverend George Engleheart.

One of the greatest daffodil breeders of all time, Engleheart introduced some 700 named varieties starting in 1889. Although most of these have been lost over the years, a brand new National Collection in England is hoping to find and preserve as many as they can.

Engleheart was the vicar of a small country church when he first started breeding daffodils in the 1880s. Once a minor garden flower, daffodils at the time were on the rise, championed as perennial, graceful, and old-fashioned – heirloom, that is! – in contrast to the new, brightly colored exotics that filled Victorian carpet beds.

Engleheart was so devoted to his daffodils that it’s said parishioners would sometimes find a note tacked to the church door reading, “No service today, working with daffodils.” His place in daffodil history was assured in 1898 when he sold three bulbs of his vividly orange-cupped ‘Will Scarlett’ for the equivalent today of over $12,000.

‘Will Scarlett’, 1898

The new National Collection holds just 34 of Engleheart’s 700 daffodils, with another four located but not yet in their hands. To help them find more, the Collection’s Anne Tweddle asked us to spread the word about their project, so that’s what we’re doing.

Of the 34 they grow, we’re offering six for delivery this fall – ‘Bath’s Flame’, ‘Beersheba’, ‘Cassandra’, ‘Firebrand’, ‘Lucifer’, and ‘White Lady’ – and in the past we’ve offered six others that we’ll offer again once our stocks increase – ‘Albatross’, ‘Argent’, ‘Brilliancy’, ‘Horace’, ‘Seagull’, and ‘Will Scarlett’.

For more about Engleheart and the Collection, including a full list of their cultivars and photos of most, go to suffolkplants.org.uk/national-collections/narcissus. For a complete list of his 700 introductions, enter Engleheart in the Hybridizer box at daffseek.org. And if you know where the Collection can find any they don’t already have, Anne would be very happy to hear from you at anne@tweddle1.co.uk.


‘Beersheba’, 1923
‘Firebrand’, 1897
‘White Lady’, 1897
Loading