Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  Living Treasures from the Past
Aug
15
2018

Our Madonna Lilies Bloom
at the Washington National Cathedral

in the Bishop’s Garden

It’s always good to hear from our customers, and we love seeing photos of our bulbs in your gardens – such as the one here from our good customer Adrienne Schopf of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

“I just wanted to send you guys a few pictures of the Madonna lilies that we planted last fall,” Adrienne wrote. “They’re doing well in our Bishop’s Garden. They’re planted in an area we call the Hortulus where we have different herbs that were planted at monasteries in the 9th century, so these lilies fit in perfectly.

in our garden

“We’d been having a hard time finding them and were very excited that you offered them. We’ve ordered more from you guys for this fall. Thank you for providing such great plants and keeping the older varieties around!”

You’re welcome, Adrienne, and thanks for sharing these deeply historic lilies with your many visitors!

To enjoy this fragrant beauty in your own 21st-century garden, order now for October delivery.

Read August’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Aug
10
2018

Our New, Fall-Only Catalog is Coming Soon!

2018 Fall Front Catalog Cover
2018 Fall Back Catalog Cover

We’re taking our new catalog to the printer today, which means you should have it in your hands by the end of the month. Woo-hoo!

One big change this year is that we’re sending TWO catalogs – one now that’s just for fall-planted bulbs and a separate catalog of spring-planted bulbs in January. By doing it this way our spring-planted catalog will be based on the actual results of the entire growing season rather than hopeful predictions made in mid-summer.

As always, we hope you’ll enjoy our cover images. The bouquet on the front is from the 1902 catalog of San Francisco’s Trumbull and Beebe, and the gold band lilies (and bumblebee!) on the back are from the 1905 catalog of Milwaukee’s Currie Brothers.

P.S. If you’ve moved since last fall, please call or email us with your new address right away so you don’t miss this one!

Read August’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Jul
26
2018

‘Nonette’ is “So Unique You’ll Stop and Stare”

Garden writer Stephanie Cohen – who’s been called “one of the most influential women in horticulture” – gives our ‘Nonette’ a shout-out in the August 2018 issue of Fine Gardening.

Calling it “A Dahlia to Die For,” Stephanie writes that ‘Nonette’ has “bright apricot flowers that are speckled with burgundy,” and “even those who consider themselves dahlia connoisseurs find this particular blossom so unique they will stop and stare.”

“As with many bicolor dahlias,” she continues, “the red stippling is highly irregular: one flower may have a lot of mottling, while another may appear to be just solid apricot. But the surprise is half the fun!” ‘Nonette’ also produces lots of flowers, “giving you plenty for the garden and the vase.”

Although it sells out every year, ‘Nonette’ is available now for delivery next spring. For plenty of flowers that will make you stop and stare, order now!

Jul
24
2018

Too Hot? Too Dry? This May Help

If you’re enjoying a cool rainy summer, lucky for you!

Unfortunately much of the country is once again suffering through high heat and low rainfall. (When even the weeds are wilting, as in the photo here from my neighbor’s yard, you know it’s bad!)

It’s a topic we’ve addressed frequently in recent years, so rather than write a whole new article about it, here are some links to our Weather and Hardiness archives that we hope you’ll find useful – and maybe even a little bit “cooling.”

“Hot, Dry Summer: Is it Bad for Bulbs or Good?” (Aug. 2016),

“Learning from California: Gardening with 28% Less Water” (Oct. 2015),

“Hot Summer = Dahlia Hell” (Aug. 2012),

“Got Drought? Bulbs Are Built for It” (Aug. 2011),

“High Heat Stresses Your Bulbs, Too” (Aug. 2010).

Jul
18
2018

“Easy, Inexpensive, and Intoxicating” Regal Lily

“There are few plants as rewarding and foolproof” as bulbs, Dan Cooper wrote recently at his Frustrated Gardener blog. Most are “bold, colorful, long-flowering, and best of all inexpensive, giving gardeners plenty of bang for their buck. In short, they are one of the plant world’s best investments.”

Regal lilies are one of Dan’s favorite summer-flowering bulbs.

“Here’s a bulb with class, elegance and history,” he writes. “No wonder it was named Lilium regale, the regal lily. It was introduced to England from China in 1903 by Ernest Henry Wilson and quickly became a favorite of Gertrude Jekyll, who used it prolifically in her garden designs at a time when it would have been quite a novelty.

“Jekyll would frequently plant large clumps of Lilium regale in strategic spots, creating height and drama at pivotal points in her schemes. In addition to stature, the lilies also contributed intoxicating scent and blushing white flowers that stood out well against dark foliage. . . .”

“There is no flower so exquisite as Lilium regale at dusk on a warm June evening, glowing in the gloaming and sharing its intoxicating perfume,” Dan writes in closing. “Plant plenty, and then plant some more.

We couldn’t agree with him more! To enjoy these intoxicating beauties in your own garden, order now for delivery at planting time this fall.

Jul
13
2018

Our Immigrant Gardens

from Asia

With the national debate on immigration raging, and Independence Day just past, we’ve been thinking a lot lately about the plants in our gardens that have come from other countries.

From tulips and peonies to dahlias and iris, our gardens are filled with immigrants. And although it’s possible to have a garden of only native plants, and some immigrant plants have turned out to be thugs, I think gardeners of all persuasions would agree that our lives have been enriched by 99% of the once-foreign flowers that have made themselves at home here.

So here’s a list of where most of the bulbs we offer came from originally. As you may notice, some are listed in more than one area because, to Nature, it’s all one world.

from Mexico

Mexico and South America – dahlias, tuberoses, rain lilies, oxblood lily.

Africa – gladiolus, freesia, crocosmia.

China, Japan, and Korea – most peonies and daylilies, tiger lily, Formosa lily, gold-band lily, red spider lily, pink surprise lily.

Asia from Turkey and Syria to Afghanistan and Mongolia – tulips, hyacinths, crocus, bearded iris, regal lily, Madonna lily, Byzantine glads, Elwes snowdrop, Turkish glory-of-the-snow, Allium sphaerocephalum, sowbread cyclamen, sternbergia, Siberian squill (which, despite its name, is not from Siberia).

from Europe

Europe – daffodils, bearded iris, crocus, martagon lilies, Madonna lily, Byzantine glads, lemon daylily, traditional snowdrops, snowflakes (Leucojum), Spanish bluebells, winter aconite, snake’s-head fritillary, Grecian windflower, Allium sphaerocephalum, sowbread cyclamen, sternbergia.

North America –trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, Dutchman’s breeches, Lilium superbum.

Jul
3
2018

Propagating Hyacinths in 1896 and Today

Daffodils, tulips, and most other bulbs multiply naturally underground by producing offsets or daughter bulbs. Roman hyacinths do, too, but – after centuries of breeding – traditional garden hyacinths multiply so slowly on their own that bulb growers long ago developed ways to speed up the process.

The techniques described below by Liberty Hyde Bailey in his 1896 Nursery Manual would have been familiar to bulb-growers a century earlier and are still standard practice in the Netherlands today.

Bailey starts by explaining that “bulbels are often produced by an injury to the bulb. Growth of stem and leaves is more or less checked and the energy is directed to the formation of minute bulbs.” It’s the bulb’s natural reaction to injury that growers take advantage of in multiplying hyacinths.

“The favorite method is to make two or three deep transverse cuts into the base of the bulb [image 1]. The strongest bulbs should be chosen, and the operation is performed in spring or early summer, when the bulb is taken up.”

In another method, “the bulbs are hollowed out from the underside for half or more of their depth [image 2]. This operation is sometimes performed later in the season than the other, and precaution should be exercised that the bulbs do not become too moist, else they will rot. . . .

“The mutilated bulbs are stored during summer, and are planted in fall or spring. The wounded bulbs produce very little foliage, but at the end of the first season the bulbels will have formed. The bulbels are then separated and planted by themselves in prepared beds.

“Several years are required for the bulbels to mature into flowering bulbs. Some of the strongest ones may produce flowering bulbs in three years, but some of them, especially those obtained from the hollowed bulbs, will not mature short of six years.”

Could you do this at home? Of course – and now’s the time for it. If you do, please share your story (and photos) with us. Good luck, and have fun!

Jun
28
2018

“We Believe Most of the World’s Ills
Can be Solved in a Garden”

How’s that for an ambitious statement? Or should I say an inspiring statement?

Our friends at the Pacific Horticulture Society recently adopted a new motto – “People Connecting with the Power of Gardens” – which encourages us to see gardening as more than pretty flowers and endless weeding. As they explain it, “We believe most of the world’s ills can be solved in a garden, if we nurture landscape literacy and cultivate relationships. It is the whole ecosystem that counts, and people are very much a part of that ecosystem.”

Indeed we are! Thanks, PHS, for reminding us all that what we learn in our gardens and the joy we find there can make the world a better place – if we share it over the garden fence with our neighbors near and far.

Jun
26
2018

Wildflowery Tulips
Charm Famous Southern Gardeners

Two of the most unusual tulips we offer are the peppermint-striped T. clusiana, and stiletto-petalled T. acuminata – both of which have been grown and loved by a couple of unusually creative Southern gardeners.

T. acuminata

In his 1993 classic The Well-Placed Weed, the celebrated Atlanta-area garden designer Ryan Gainey featured a masterfully harmonious combination: T. acuminata planted alongside American columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) in an informal cottage garden display where the red-and-yellow colors and wispy shapes of the two flowers echo one another perfectly.

T. clusiana

A half-century earlier, the great Southern author Eudora Welty wrote to a friend from her home in Jackson, Mississippi (as quoted in One Writer’s Garden), “Species tulips are hard to get now, but I love them best. You know, the little wild tulips that still have lightness and grace and perfume and the clear delicate colors that I guess all original flowers had. One is clusiana, that you know, the white and red striped tulip with violet blotch.... They are all small and sort of bow in the wind and flare up.”

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.

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!

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