Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  So Much More Than New
Feb
22
2017

News from 1902: The First Collarette Dahlias

News from 1902: The First Collarette Dahlias – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘President Viger’

While researching our ‘Fashion Monger’ dahlia – a Garden Gate “must have” plant for 2017 – we discovered this tidbit in the Oct. 2, 1902, Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener, and Home Farmer:

“A new type of dahlia has come into existence. It has been named the collaret form and first was brought to notice by Messrs. H. Cannell and Sons [of] Swanley, Kent. . . .

News from 1902: The First Collarette Dahlias – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘Fashion Monger’

“This new class possesses . . . a series of stalked appendices of a collaret form producing a great ornamental effect. The engraving gives a good idea of its nature. The colors are somewhat limited at present but in the course of another season or so the variation of tints will be very much increased . . . .

News from 1902: The First Collarette Dahlias – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘Clair de Lune’

“The original plants have already been awarded Gold Medals and Certificates at various important exhibitions. ‘President Viger’ is the best-known. . . . As there may be a future for this race, it is probable that many growers will obtain plants to form a beginning with them.”

There was indeed “a future for this race,” and scores of collarets– or collarettes, as they’re usually spelled in the US – are available today. ‘President Viger’ is extinct, alas, but we offer two of the oldest – ‘Clair de Lune’ (1946) and ‘Fashion Monger’ (from 1955) – and you can order them now for April delivery!

Read February’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Feb
15
2017

Save 66% on Thousands of Garden Books

Save 66% on Thousands of Garden Books – www.OldHouseGardens.com

After 40 years of selling used and rare books, our friend Heiko Miles of Calendula Horticultural Books is closing up shop to devote more time to other pursuits. As he explained to me recently, “Life is just so full.”

That’s good news for garden book lovers because everything at CalendulaBooks.com is now marked down 66%.

Although some of the rarest are still pricey – a 1625 Italian florilegium will set you back $1,048– most are less than $5, and many are just a dollar or two. For example, one of the boxful I just bought is A.E. Speer’s 1911 Annual and Biennial Garden Plants “with historical notes and very many variety descriptions” for just $1.03.

Heiko’s website is bare-bones, but it’s filled with treasures, and in all the years I’ve been ordering from him, he has always served me well.

Thank you, Heiko, and may your next chapters all be happy ones!

Read February’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Feb
9
2017

Garden Tips for February:
Stored Bulbs, Forced Bulbs, and Getting Ready

Garden Tips for February: Stored Bulbs, Forced Bulbs, and Getting Ready – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Even if your garden is buried in snow, here are some helpful tips for now or soon:

Check on Stored Bulbs – If you stored any tender bulbs last fall, it’s important to check on them periodically. Problems discovered early can often be remedied, but if you ignore them until planting time, everything may be dead. Learn more at “Check Stored Bulbs Now.”

Don’t Skimp on Chilling – If your forced bulbs try to bloom before the stem has lengthened, it’s most likely they haven’t had enough chill-time at 48 degrees or less. Returning them to cold storage now could help. Learn more at our Forcing Bulbs page.

Loosen Matted Leaves – Small, early bulbs often emerge much earlier than seems possible, especially in warm micro-climates. Matted leaves and winter mulch can hamper their growth, so get out there early and gently loosen or remove it.

Fertilize Before They Emerge – Although it’s always best to be guided by a soil test, if you haven’t fertilized in a while, you may want to do so this spring. It’s easier and safer if you scratch it into the surface before bulb foliage emerges. Learn more at “Fertilize Early.”

Get Tools and Supplies Ready – Check your garden tools and supplies now, before the mad rush of spring. Buy more fertilizer, twine, stakes, potting soil, animal repellant, gloves – and what else will you need? Be sure you know where all of your tools are, and maybe even treat yourself to a new one.

Order More Bulbs – Of course! See all of our spring-planted treasures at OldHouseGardens.com/Spring.

Read February’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Feb
7
2017

“Supremely Beautiful” ‘Ophir’ Daylily

Ten years ago in a pioneering article for Horticulture magazine, Betty Gatewood sang the praises of heirloom daylilies.

“These plants, once treasured by gardeners for their elegance of form, are mostly unknown today,” she wrote. “But they are distinguished by one great quality: they retain the classic lily shape that has largely been bred out of modern daylilies. They are supremely beautiful. For this alone they are worth seeking out.”

Betty’s number one example was the lovely ‘Ophir’. One of the very first American-bred daylilies, ‘Ophir’ has “trumpet-shaped flowers (rather like a golden Easter lily) of unmatchable shape,” she wrote. “It is also a robust grower, tall (about four feet), slightly fragrant, and very floriferous. Blooming . . . for almost a month, it is far too fine a plant to be forgotten.”

We completely agree – and though this “supremely beautiful” daylily is sure to sell out soon, you can still order it now for April delivery. If you listen carefully you can probably hear Betty saying, “You won’t regret it.”

Read February’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Feb
2
2017

Paradise Lost:
Winston-Salem’s Municipal Iris Garden

Paradise Lost: Winston-Salem’s Municipal Iris Garden – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Does your city have a municipal iris garden? Does any city?

That’s why I was so surprised when this postcard arrived in the mail recently.

It’s a modern reproduction of a 1949 postcard showing the “Municipal Iris Gardens, Winston-Salem, NC.” On the back it reads: “The Municipal Iris Garden contains 20,000 plants, of 525 varieties. The blossoms range from pure white to deep purple, gold, and dark red, and are at their best during May. Weeping willows and rustic bridges add to the beauty of the rolling parkway.”

20,000 plants – of 525 varieties! I had to know more, so I contacted the folks who sent the card – which announces the 2017 Conference on Restoring Southern Landscapes and Gardens– and here’s what I learned.

“The development of the gardens to their present state of beauty is a typical Cinderella story,” the Twin City Sentinel reported in 1938, “with many local iris growers acting as fairy godmothers.”

It all started in the early 1920s when a new neighborhood was laid out which included a four-acre “gully-way” that was left untouched “since there seemed no other purpose it could serve.”

Although today we’d probably consider it a valuable natural area, times were different then and in 1931 a doctor who lived nearby urged the city to beautify it with iris donated from his own extensive gardens. Iris were enormously popular at that time, and before long other neighbors joined the campaign and the Municipal Iris Garden was born.

The city parks department cleared the land, planted weeping willow trees, built stone and rustic-work bridges over the stream, and laid out gracefully curving beds. By 1938 the Twin City Sentinel reported that “Winston-Salem’s iris attract visitors from all parts of the state. From an unattractive gully the city parks department has transformed Runnymede Parkway into one of the most popular parks in the city.”

But that was then. By the early 1950s the iris had been replaced with lower-maintenance azaleas, and today even those are gone. The stone bridges still stand, though, bearing silent witness to the park’s glory days – and who knows what the next chapter might be for this Cinderella gully-way?

For additional images, visit digitalforsyth.org/photos/browse/places-gardens-runnymede-iris-gardens.

For your own little iris paradise, see the 17 heirloom iris we’re shipping this spring.

And many thanks to Camilla Wilcox, Kay Bergey, and Martha Hartley for sharing this remarkable story with me!

Read February’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Jan
25
2017

What Good is a Historic Daylily?

And why should we have historic daylily gardens?

In an excellent article for the American Hemerocallis Society, Linda Sue Barnes offers several answers to those two questions, most of which also apply to the even bigger questions: What good is any historic flower? And why should we grow them today?

What Good is a Historic Daylily? – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘Poinsettia’, 1953

1. “Many historic daylilies have beautiful flowers. Many ... are stars or trumpets, and ... the simplicity of those flowers can provide a break from all the ruffles, fancy edges, and patterns of the modern daylily.”

2. “Many historic daylilies have spectacular garden habit,” such as ‘Autumn Minaret’ (1951) which “can easily reach 6 feet with as many as 80 blooms on a scape.”

3. “Logically enough, most of the early cultivars that are still in gardens today multiply well and are very hardy.”

4. “Historic daylilies ... extend the garden season.” In her North Carolina garden, Linda Sue has historic varieties blooming from early April – “a month before more modern cultivars begin” – well into September.

5. “Historic daylilies ... win flower shows.” Linda Sue says four 1950s classics have “won Best in Show in our region in the last few years” and “many more have won Best in Section.”

lemon lily, 1570

6. “Historic daylilies .... can, even today, be good parents.” Breeders such as Brian Mahieu are using them to create new daylilies with “vigor, clear colors, a lot of unusual forms, and fragrance.”

For photos of 16 historic daylilies and Linda Sue’s reasons for having historic daylily gardens, see the entire article at our website. There you’ll also find a link to the AHS website where 20 historic daylily gardens, each with 50-100 historic varieties, are listed by region.

To see just how good historic daylilies can be, why not grow a few yourself? We’re offering 14 for April delivery including fragrant lemon lily, spring-blooming ‘Gold Dust’, and 4-6 foot tall ‘Challenger’ – all of which Linda Sue would tell you are great garden plants.

Jan
19
2017

Colette’s Gardenia:
“I Bow Down Before the Tuberose”

Although little known today, Colette (1873-1954) was the highly regarded French author of some 50 novels, many of them considered scandalously sensual at the time.

Colette’s Gardenia: “I Bow Down Before the Tuberose” – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Her 1948 book For an Herbarium focused on the sensual delights of flowers. In the chapter titled “The Gardenia’s Monologue,” that famously fragrant flower scorns jasmine, nicotiana, magnolia, and other scented rivals before finally making this confession:

“I put up with all of these humbler bearers of nocturnal balms, certain that I have no rivals, save one, I confess . . . before whom at times I do worse than confess: I abdicate.

Colette’s Gardenia: “I Bow Down Before the Tuberose” – www.OldHouseGardens.com

“On certain meridional nights heavy with the promise of rain, certain afternoons rumbling with casual thunder, then my ineffable rival need only show herself, and for all the gardenia in me, I weaken, I bow down before the tuberose.”

To savor the sublime fragrance that inspired Colette, order your single or double tuberoses now for April delivery.

(And thanks to Toni Russo of Solon, Iowa, for sharing this wonderful essay with us!)

Jan
17
2017

Five Timeless Iris:
High Praise from the First President of the AIS

5 Timeless Iris: High Praise from the First President of the AIS – www.oldhousegardens.com
‘Queen of May’

The great horticulturist John Wister helped found the American Iris Society in 1920 and served as its first president for fourteen years.

At that time, iris were exceedingly popular and scores of exciting new varieties were being introduced every year. Yet in his small book The Iris published in 1930, Wister wrote that “the more of the new things I see, the more I am convinced of the worthiness of some of our oldest varieties” – such as these:

‘Pallida Dalmatica’ (1597) – “There is nothing . . . in the whole range of iris that is finer than the true ‘Pallida Dalmatica’,” Wister wrote, adding that planting it with lemon lily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) is “one of the most famous” garden combinations with iris.

Germanica (by 1500) – “The purple flag of our grandmothers’ garden . . . should never be omitted for . . . it makes a striking garden picture.”

‘Flavescens’ (1813) – Among pale yellow iris “there is nothing to surpass the variety ‘Flavescens’, well known in every old garden in this country.”

‘Queen of May’ (1859) – “On the pink side of the lavenders, the old ‘Queen of May’ is . . . still one of the best.” It is “lovely,” he added, “with white and pink lupines and pink Dianthus.”

‘Mrs. Horace Darwin’ (1888) – Although “rather dwarf,” this white iris is “wonderfully free blooming. It is unexcelled for massing and should be used in every garden in quantities.”

Of course you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy these timeless treasures. Just order yours now for April delivery!

5 Timeless Iris: High Praise from the First President of the AIS – www.oldhousegardens.com
‘Flavescens’
5 Timeless Iris: High Praise from the First President of the AIS – www.oldhousegardens.com
‘Mrs. Horace Darwin’
5 Timeless Iris: High Praise from the First President of the AIS – www.oldhousegardens.com
‘Pallida Dalmatica’
Jan
12
2017

Garden Gate Names ‘Fashion Monger’
a “Best New Plant” for 2017

<i>Garden Gate</i> Names ‘Fashion Monger’ a “Best New Plant” – www.oldhousegardens.com

Old can be new, as our friends at Garden Gate understand, which is why they’ve named our ‘Fashion Monger’ dahlia one of their “Must Haves for 2017.”

“‘Fashion Monger’ may not be brand-new,” writes associate editor Sherri Ribbey, “but it’s been away so long it seems like it is. Originally introduced in 1955, this collarette dahlia was gradually replaced by newer cultivars. Fortunately, it was preserved and heirloom-bulb grower Old House Gardens is offering it for sale again.”

“‘Fashion Monger’ is a favorite of bees,” Sherri adds, “and it makes a great cut flower, too.”

Our supply this first year is limited, so if you want this old-but-new beauty, order soon!

Dec
14
2016

600 Years of Flowers:
Bunny Mellon’s Art at the NYBG

If you’re lucky enough to be anywhere near New York City this winter, treat yourself to the New York Botanical Garden’s small but impressive exhibit of botanical art from the vast collection of the late Bunny Mellon.

Some 80 works from the 16,000 Mellon collected are on display, ranging from a hand-painted book illustration from 1350 to a lively 1958 lithograph by Picasso.

As you may remember from previous posts here, Mellon redesigned the White House Rose Garden for President Kennedy, filling it in spring with masses of tulips. The Dutch Tulipomania in the 1630s was a special interest of hers, and several works in the NYBG exhibit feature tulips, including one that could very well be ‘Zomerschoon’.

“Redoute to Warhol: The Botanical Art of Bunny Mellon” runs through February 12, and even if you can’t get there in person you can enjoy several of its highlights online.

Dec
7
2016

New Garden Books for Giving and Getting

Although the cold, short days of winter aren’t the best for gardening, they’re perfect for garden reading – and books make great holiday gifts. Here are five new ones I’m hoping to enjoy before spring returns.

New Garden Books for Giving and Getting – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Rescuing Eden: Preserving America’s Historic Gardens, by Curtice Taylor and Caroline Seebohm: “Most gardens do not survive their creators, being sold off, dug out, or, if not utterly destroyed, then so drastically changed as to be sadly unrecognizable. The 28 remarkable properties in this book” – ranging from Middleton Place plantation to the gardens of Alcatraz – “are happy exceptions to that rule. . . . Some are still in the process of renovation, and others will never be fully restored, but all offer rare glimpses into this country's horticultural history.” (reviewed by Adam Levine in Country Gardens)

New Garden Books for Giving and Getting – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants in Your Garden, by Noel Kingsbury: “This must be the most beautiful book of the publishing season, with an oversize format rich in botanical art and historic and contemporary photos. Every page is stunning, a revelation in art and text of flora’s long and curious history. Kingsbury’s writing is a lively backstory to what we grow in our gardens” – including most of the bulbs we offer – and “it’s also right up to the minute with insight on current plant breeding and a poignant look at the plants we’ve lost.” (reviewed by Val Easton in the Seattle Times)

Garden Books for Giving and Getting – www.OldHouseGardens.com

The Botanical Treasury, by Christopher Mills: “The excitement of discovering a new plant is almost tangible in this lavish collection of plant histories. A delightful compendium of 40 plants from around the world, The Botanical Treasury tells the story of each one through a fascinating mix of botanical illustrations, letters sent to Kew from plant hunters, and reprinted extracts from botanical periodicals. . . . The book also includes forty reproduced prints of featured plants which can be framed – the icing on the cake of this tremendous and fascinating collection.” (reviewed in The English Garden)

New Garden Books for Giving and Getting – www.OldHouseGardens.com

A Garden for the President: A History of the White House Grounds, by Jonathan Pliska: “The White House grounds are the oldest continually maintained ornamental landscape in the United States. Handsomely illustrated with historical images and newly commissioned photography, A Garden for the President explores not only the relationship between the White House and its landscape but also the evolution of its design; the public and private uses . . . ; and the cultivation of the grounds with a focus on the specimen trees, vegetable and ornamental gardens, and conservatories. (reviewed by the White House Historical Association)

Garden Books for Giving and Getting – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Bliss Irises: Family and Flowers, The Journey to a National Collection, by Anne Milner: “Anne Milner blends personal history with gardening in this beautifully illustrated book. Her story starts with the discovery that her grandfather's cousin was . . . Arthur J. Bliss, who introduced 'Dominion', a ground-breaking purple iris that made him world famous. . . . The book’s second half focuses on the [more than 175 iris Bliss introduced], with detailed information about the plants, accompanied by photographs, watercolors, and line drawings.” (reviewed in Plant Heritage)

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