Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  Living Treasure from the Past
March 2018
Mar
21
2018

Flower Pot Diversity in 1859

pot with feet,
Journal of Horticulture, 1868

The past is full of a rich diversity of plants – and flower pots.

In his 1859 Manual of Practical Gardening, George Glenny wrote that “there is nothing half so good as the old-fashioned pots.” These looked just like the clay pots we use today except their rims were narrow. They were offered in 23 different sizes, starting with two-inch “thumbs” and increasing inch-by-inch all the way up to pots 24 inches across – a range you’re unlikely to find today at even the biggest big-box store.

Glenny describes other more unusual pots, too.

“Some pots have been made with feet to stand in saucers to keep the bottom drain-hole out of the water that runs through. . . .

pot with hollow sides,
Gardener’s Magazine, 1843

“Others have been made with hollow sides to be filled with water, that the sun may not burn the young fibers [roots] next the side.

“Some are made with gutters all round the top rim, that a glass shade may cover the plant; and the edge being in this gutter filled with water [which] excludes the air, these are admirably adapted for fern-growing in dwelling-houses, each being, so far as the plants are concerned, a small Wardian case [terrarium].”

Maybe most unusual was the verbena pot. Verbenas, introduced from South America in the 1820s, were wildly popular, and British potteries responded by developing a special pot to display their sprawling growth.

verbena pot, Florist, Fruitist, and
Garden Miscellany, 1858

“The body of the [verbena] pot is like another,” Glenny wrote, “but the upper part, occupying one-third of the whole height, they turn outwards and form a broad dish, giving us a surface, twelve or fourteen inches in diameter, on which we can spread and peg down the plant to cover the whole. It has been usual to grow them in large pots, and have a round wire about two inches above the pot, and so tie the plant down upon it to cover it. These [verbena] pots will doubtless become popular for that purpose. They are light, compared with a fourteen-inch pot, and yet possess all the advantages of one that size; and we must admit that the appearance is greatly before [better than] a platform of wire-work.”

Mar
15
2018

Mary Keen’s “Subtle, Indispensable” Dahlias

dark-leaved ‘Roxy’

Renowned garden designer and author Mary Keen says dahlias – including some of our heirlooms – are “an indispensable feature” of her Gloucestershire garden.

In her long career, Keen has worked on many grand gardens, including those of the Rothschilds. At home, as she wrote in the July 2017 issue of Gardens Illustrated, she prefers the informal look of “a mingled matrix with a few spots of larger, brighter plants.” In this setting, “dahlias are a much better bet than roses.”

Along with the single red Dahlia coccinea, she favors “strong pinks and reds – ‘Grenadier’, ‘Pontiac’, ‘Fascination’, ‘Roxy’ – pale pink ‘Gerrie Hoek’, and pale-yellow ‘Glorie van Heemstede’.”

And here’s a tip: Mary says if you use too many “attention grabbers” such as tulips, peonies, delphiniums, and dahlias, “planting lacks depth and mystery.” But “you can scale down the impact by choosing more subtle forms” such as single, cactus. and waterlily dahlias which “lighten a planting better than a dinner-plate flower.”

‘Gerrie Hoek’,
water-lily dahlia
‘Glorie van Heemstede’
water-lily dahlia
‘Juanita’
cactus dahlia
Mar
10
2018

A Great Facebook Page for Historic Iris

If you’re a fan of heirloom iris, and you’re on Facebook, we think you’ll enjoy the Facebook page of the Historic Iris Preservation Society.

Along with antique images and lots of modern photos of old varieties, the page also includes helpful tips and occasional links to other online resources.

It already has over 3000 followers, including us, and you could be next! Check it out at facebook.com/HISTORICIRIS/.

And bravo, HIPS!

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