Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  So Much More Than New
May 2016
May
25
2016

Making Your Peonies in Bouquets Last Longer

Tips for Making Your Peonies in Bouquets Last Longer – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Lush and romantic, peonies are fabulous in bouquets. To get the most out of yours, here are some tips from Dr. Patricia Holloway of the University of Alaska, as quoted by Debra Prinzing in her 2013 Slow Flowers:

“‘Cut peonies during the coolest part of the day. Cut once you see the true color of the flower with one or two petals separating at the top [the “soft marshmallow” stage] – or any time after that. Then the flower will continue to open in your arrangement.’ If you cut prior to this stage the buds either will not open or they will be stunted. Fully-opened blooms can also be harvested, but their vase life is shorter. . . .

“Dr. Holloway also offers this commercial growers’ tip; ‘Once cut, your flowers should be chilled in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours and up to one week before putting them into a vase. That chilling very definitely extends vase life.’ Wrap the peonies in paper towels and lay them flat in the crisper drawer, away from the refrigerator’s other contents.”

We’ll also remind you that for future growth and bloom it’s best to leave as much foliage as possible on the plant. This is especially important during the first two years after planting, and in fact many experts recommend that you cut NO flowers the first year. We know how hard that can be, but your patience will be rewarded.

May
16
2016

There’s No Debate:
All the Presidents’ Gardens is a Winner

There’s No Debate: <i>All the Presidents’ Gardens</i> is a Winner – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Just in time for election season, Marta McDowell’s fascinating new book All the Presidents’ Gardens is now on bookstore shelves and online.

As Marta writes in the preface, “whether gardeners lean right or left, blue or red, we are united by a love of green growing things and the land in which they grow,” and that’s what this book is all about. From George Washington – who “like most serious gardeners was a bit plant-crazy” – to Michelle Obama and her iconic vegetable garden, All the Presidents’ Gardens tells the story of the White House landscape and the people who’ve shaped it for the past 200 years. Even better, Marta sets this special place’s history into the much larger story of American gardening and shows us how new plants and technology along with deep-seated cultural changes and the whims of fashion have all played a role in its constant evolution.

I remember Marta telling me way back in 2002 when she first ordered bulbs from us that she was working on a book about Emily Dickinson – and did I know that Dickinson loved hyacinths? Since then she’s published Emily Dickinson’s Gardens as well as Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, but as much as I like those earlier books, I think All the Presidents’ Gardens is her best yet. There’s a rich depth and breadth to it and yet it reads almost like a novel, brightened by Marta’s personal voice and engaging sense of humor.

See what I’m talking about – and enjoy some of the book’s 215 color and black-and-white images – at the Timber Press website where a “book preview” of the first 73 pages is available for your browsing pleasure. Then, if you’re like me, I bet you’ll want to get your own copy of this All-American winner.

May
11
2016

A Finder’s Guide to Peonies in Bloom Near You

A Finder's Guide to Peonies in Bloom Near You – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Just in time for peony season, the website of the American Peony Society has added a finder’s guide to 77 peony-rich public gardens in 30 states from Maine to California.

The gardens range from well-known sites to fascinating smaller gardens such as Sisson’s Peony Gardens in Wisconsin and the Shacksboro Schoolhouse Museum in New York with its collection of nearly 200 heritage varieties. Some sites make it surprisingly hard to find information about their peonies, but if a search for “peony” or “paeonia” returns no results, you can always call the garden and talk to a human being.

The guide also lists 28 peony gardens in other countries, including many in China where peonies have been revered for centuries. Altogether there’s a total of 105 gardens waiting for you to explore at americanpeonysociety.org/links/peony-gardens.

(And if you’re really in the mood for peonies, check out the four you can order now for fall planting at oldhousegardens.com/Peonies.)

May
4
2016

Fish Tank Gravel for a Better Spring Garden

Fish Tank Gravel and a Cell Phone: Improving Your Spring Garden NOW – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Have you ever looked at your spring garden and thought, “That spot needs a pop of color” or “I should plant more daffodils right there” – but then later everything has grown and changed so much that you can’t remember what you were thinking? Here’s a tip that will both help you find those perfect spots again at planting time and help you avoid disturbing any other bulbs that are growing nearby.

Right now, before spring is over and everything has changed, walk your garden with your smart phone or camera and a bag of fish-tank gravel. Snap photos of the areas where you want to add more flowers, and use the gravel – which comes in a variety of water-proof colors, from hot pink to subtle shades like green and brown – to outline the exact planting spots.

Later when you’re ready to order or plant bulbs, look at your photos to remember the places you had in mind and to see what your garden looked like in the spring. Then find the gravel outlines, plant your bulbs with confidence, and simply mix the gravel into the soil where it will virtually disappear.

The only hard part is you have to do it NOW, before spring has gone and faded from your memory – so get out there, and while you’re at it, enjoy your beautiful spring garden!

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