Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  So Much More Than New
May 2011
May
26
2011

Try This at Home:
Fresh Peonies Months from Now

Try This at Home: Fresh Peonies Months from Now – www.OldHouseGardens.com

In the early 1900s, peonies reigned as one of the country’s leading cut-flowers, in part because they can be stored in bud for months. Yes, months! And it’s surprisingly easy.

Here’s how you can do it yourself, in an article adapted from The American Cottage Gardener magazine by our good friend Nancy McDonald.

“Choose perfect buds of semi-double to double varieties (the heaviest ‘bomb’ types and singles don’t work as well). In the cool of early morning or late evening, cut buds on six-inch stems, just as the petals begin to loosen but are not yet open.

“Place in gallon-size, zip-lock freezer bags. I put ten to twelve buds per bag, with half the heads facing one way and half the other. Wet a small, new, cellulose sponge or clean dishcloth, wring it out so it’s just barely damp, and put it in the bag. Gently work as much air as possible out of the bag and seal it.

Try This at Home: Fresh Peonies Months from Now – www.OldHouseGardens.com

“Store flat in your refrigerator. You may wish to put the bag in a plastic storage box, so the buds don't get bruised by people rummaging for that last chicken leg. Make sure everyone in the house knows that they are not to be eaten.

“After the peonies outdoors are just a fragrant memory, start enjoying your stored ones. Cut an inch of stem (underwater is best) and put the peony in water all the way up to the bud. Within half an hour it will begin to open. Arrange in a vase or float in a bowl of water (a charming way to display peonies anytime). Floating ones seem to last the longest.

“Trim stems an inch shorter each day, if needed. Using this simple technique, I have stored buds for as long as three months, and dazzled everyone with bouquets in early September.”

And you can, too!

May
26
2011

Bill & Greg’s New Heirloom Gardening in the South

Bill and Greg’s New <i>Heirloom Gardening in the South</i> – www.OldHouseGardens.com

North, south, east, west – no matter where you garden, if you like heirloom flowers, you’ll want Heirloom Gardening in the South.

Our friends Bill Welch and Greg Grant have been growing and championing heirloom plants for decades. Their 1995 The Southern Heirloom Garden became an instant classic, and although this new book is based on that landmark publication, it’s different enough to warrant the new title. Chapters on the garden influences of various ethnic groups – Native Americans, Africans, Germans, etc. – have been completely rewritten, and many new chapters have been added, including ones on naturalizing bulbs, traditional ways to multiply plants, heirloom fruits, and “Natives, Invasives, Cemeteries, and Rustling.”

It’s a hefty book at 537 pages, and nearly 350 of those are devoted to an encyclopedia of heirloom plants for the South. Some entries are pretty much identical to what originally appeared in The Southern Heirloom Garden, but others – such as the five pages on lilies – are completely new. Following the final entry (Zizyphus jujuba, with a recipe for jujube butter) comes one of the book’s best parts, “How Our Gardens Grew,” in which Bill and Greg tell the very personal stories of their own gardens. Don’t miss it.

The book is list-priced at $29.95, but Amazon is offering it for just $19.77 – less than I paid last weekend for two flats of annuals that will be dead by Thanksgiving. No matter how you do the math, this extraordinary book belongs on your bookshelf.

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