Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  So Much More Than New
September 2016
Sep
29
2016

Forcing Crocus on Pebbles like Paperwhites

Forcing Crocus on Pebbles like Paperwhites – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Here’s a cool idea I stumbled upon recently in a 1957 book called Bulb Growing for Everyone.

I’d seen images like this one in catalogs from the late 1800s and early 1900s, but since all sorts of implausible things are pictured in catalogs old and new, I never gave it much thought. But the well-known Dutch bulb-grower Johan Frederik Christiaan Dix explains how it’s done:

“The receptacles in which we place [crocus] must not be so deep as those required for other bulbs, and they require far more attention insofar that a more gradual transition from a dark, cool place to a light, heated room is necessary.

“They should not be taken out into the light until the noses are fully two inches long and . . . they must on no account be brought into a hot temperature, otherwise the bulbs will shrivel up. So keep them cool until the buds rise from among the leaves. This is the moment to bring them into the room or onto a warm windowsill.

Forcing Crocus on Pebbles like Paperwhites – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘Vanguard’ crocus

“Most crocuses cannot be expected to flower before the end of January. . . . There is one exception, however, the crocus ‘Vanguard’ which begins to flower as early as New Year’s Day, and even at Christmas.”

We plan to give it a try – with ‘Vanguard’, of course. We’ll start the bulbs as soon as possible because they need months to root and grow, and we’ll store them in the refrigerator to make sure they stay below 48° but above freezing. If you try it, too, please let us know how it goes!

If you’d rather force something easier – from fragrant hyacinths to snake’s-head fritillaries – see our complete how-to at OldHouseGardens.com/ForcingBulbs.

Sep
27
2016

“Finest” Antique Flower Pot Sells for $63,250

Antique Flower Pot Sells for $63,250 – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Here’s a flower pot I’d definitely like to have sitting on my favorite plant stand. Arguably “the finest American ceramic flowerpot known,” it was recently sold at auction for $63,250.

It’s a salt-glazed stoneware pot just over seven inches tall that was made in Baltimore in the 1820s. What makes it so special is its age (most flower pots from the early 1800s were broken and lost long ago), its excellent condition (even its saucer has survived), and its unusually elaborate decoration – “an incised and cobalt-highlighted design of birds perched on the stems of a flowering plant” – which raises it to the level of folk art.

As a gardener, I immediately tried to identify the flowers depicted on the pot. They may be purely imaginary, but I think the ones described as daisies may actually be auricula primroses which were much more fashionable in the 1820s. The other, splayed-petal flowers have delicately fringed tips and so may represent pinks, while I’d say the “hanging cluster-shaped blossoms” are simply buds.

Hopefully the pot will end up on display in a museum – and if it’s ever reproduced, I’ll be first in line to buy one. See additional photos and learn more here.

Sep
22
2016

Save 10-25% Now in Our
“Oops, I Guess It’s Not Our Last Year” Sale!

‘Roseus’ crocus

When I first ordered bulbs for this fall, I thought this was going to be the last year for Old House Gardens – so I ordered more than usual. A LOT more.

Then my staff decided to keep OHG going – which is awesome! – but it also means that the deluge of “last chance” orders I expected never materialized, so now we have too many bulbs. WAY too many.

Can you help? To make it easier for you to enjoy these amazing beauties, we’ve slashed the prices on 58 of them in our “Oops, I Guess It’s Not Our Last Year” Sale.

SAVE 10-25% now on:

23 DAFFODILS, including apricot ‘Louise de Coligny’, tiny white ‘Xit’, and lively little ‘Bantam’;

16 TULIPS, including fragrant ‘Generaal de Wet’, lavender-flamed ‘Columbine’, and coffee-brown ‘James Wild’;

8 HYACINTHS, including double ‘Chestnut Flower’ and all 3 of our Roman hyacinths;

8 DIVERSE, including fall-blooming cyclamen and wildflowery Grecian windflower;

2 CROCUS, including pink ‘Roseus’;

and 1 awesome LILY, ‘White Henryi’.

So what are you waiting for? Save money AND treat yourself to a big boxful of spring beauty by ordering NOW!

‘Xit’ daffodil
‘Chestnut Flower’ hyacinth
‘Generaal de Wet’ tulip
Sep
22
2016

Our True (and Hardy) Byzantine Glads
vs. the “Weeny Ones”

One of the bulbs I’m most proud of helping to preserve and share with gardeners across the country is our true, American-grown, zone-6 hardy Byzantine gladiolus. It’s both spectacular and very hard to find, as our good customer Sharon Beasley of Newcastle, Oklahoma, pointed out recently on Facebook:

“My most exciting purchase is your Byzantine glads. I saw them in a garden years ago and bought some back then [from another source] that turned out to be the weeny ones. They are cute, but once you have seen the real thing, they don’t seem wonderful at all. I finally ordered some from you last fall and got the real beauties. They bloomed this spring and I am so happy I ordered them.

“I don’t think I’ve seen another catalog that carries the big ones. I think the price gives away whether they are the weeny ones or the real thing. Thank you!”

Since Byzantines are FALL-planted only, now is the time to order yours and make yourself happy like Sharon!

Sep
21
2016

Bulb Love:
Confessions of an Unreformed Bulbaholic

Bulb Love: Confessions of an Unreformed Bulbaholic – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Lauren Springer Ogden, the award-winning author of Plant-Driven Design, The Undaunted Garden, and other fine books, calls herself “an unreformed bulbaholic.” She explores the roots of her obsession in this excerpt from “Bulb Love,” an essay she wrote for Horticulture magazine many years ago that we hope will resonate with you as well:

“For those who are not yet hopelessly in love with bulbs, let me attempt to describe the allure. Bulbous plants are the toughest of the tough. Most thrive in mineral-rich, humus-poor soils and tolerate periods of extreme drought. They’ve evolved to hide and wait for the return of better conditions, and then to send up, in many cases, the most extraordinary, otherworldly effort of beauty. . . .

“Bulbs need so little and give back so much. They start off homely, even ugly, and return transformed. We help them just a bit – we dig a hole in the dirt for them. Then we forget about them until, time and time again, they make their brief, joyful appearance, following the rhythms of the natural world, marking rains and seasons in floral time. . . .

“I plant them by the hundreds. There’s always room for more; the garden’s soil is my fruitcake and the bulbs are the raisins. It’s the safest addiction I know.”

Sep
20
2016

Our Tiger Lilies “Look Amazing” at
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home

Our Tiger Lilies “Look Amazing” at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Tiger lilies were Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite flower, and he grew masses of them in the gardens of Taliesin, his spectacular Wisconsin home and studio.

Jessica Tripalin, Cultural Landscape Coordinator at Taliesin, emailed us earlier this summer saying, “The 50 tiger lilies you sent us last fall look amazing in the gardens here.”

“The preservation crew is aiming to restore the entire estate to the year Mr. Wright passed,” she continued. “Our goal is to attain the look and feel of 1959. I am so happy with the results in the gardens this year. Thank you so much for your beautiful plants!”

Jessica also sent us this photo of a few of our tiger lilies blooming in front of one of Taliesin’s massive stone chimneys and the intricate iron-pipe trelliswork that Wright designed for the gardens.

Tiger lilies are native to Japan and were frequently depicted in Japanese art. It’s easy to see how their simplicity, grace, and drama appealed to Wright, and no doubt they also reminded him of the months he lived in Tokyo while overseeing the construction of his early masterpiece, the Imperial Hotel.

To learn more about Wright’s gardens, read our review of Derek Fell’s The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Sep
14
2016

Will the Real Mrs. Langtry Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Mrs. Langtry Please Stand Up? – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Unfortunately we recently discovered that the daffodil we’ve sold for many years as ‘Mrs. Langtry’ is actually some other as-yet-unidentified daffodil.

Our NOT ‘Mrs. Langtry’ (photo on right) came to us from one of Holland’s leading experts on historic bulbs, and as you can see it looks a lot like the TRUE ‘Mrs. Langtry’ (photo on left). It’s definitely a very old daffodil, probably from the late 1800s.

However, the cup of the true ‘Mrs. Langtry’ opens a pale, creamy yellow and then matures to what the official RHS/ADS description calls “yellowish white, with canary yellow at rim.” The cup of the NOT ‘Mrs. Langtry’, on the other hand, starts out a richer yellow and never quite gets to “yellowish white.”

We’ve already contacted everyone who ordered ‘Mrs. Langtry’ and offered a refund. We’ve also posted an EXPANDED version of this article at our website so you can learn more. Please share it and help us spread the word about this mix-up.

And here’s some happier news: Breeder William Backhouse apparently named ‘Mrs. Langtry’ not for Lillie Langtry, the scandalous Victorian actress, but for the wife of one of his gardeners who was also, more importantly, his family’s beloved housekeeper.

Sep
7
2016

Favorite Bulbs of Top UK Garden Designers

Along with an excellent article about the Hortus Bulborum, the October issue of Gardens Illustrated (#226) includes bulb recommendations from UK garden celebrities in an article titled “Designers’ Favorite Bulbs.”

silver bells, Ornithogalum nutans

Famed garden writer Mary Keen recommends fragrant ‘General de Wet’ tulip, “hard to find” Tulipa clusiana, and ‘Trevithian’ daffodil which is not only “scented and good for picking” but also “lasts longer than most in the garden.”

Rosemary Alexander of the English Gardening School recommends “showy, long-lived” winter aconite, “timeless and elegant” ‘Thalia’ daffodil, and — at the top of her list — silver bells (Ornithogalum nutans). “With silvery, gray-green, bluebell-like flowers,” she writes, “it is subtle and beloved by flower arrangers as it lasts well when picked. Best in well-drained, light shade. Great among ferns.”

And Tom Stuart-Smith, whose current projects include “restoring an Islamic garden in Marrakech,” recommends “subtle” ‘Vanguard’ crocus – “for sheer impact it is superb,” he says – and pricey ‘S. Arnott’ snowdrop. “I am not a collector,” he writes, “and for the most part I am completely happy with . . . humble Galanthus nivalis . . . but I have bought about 20 ‘S. Arnott’ every year for the past ten years and am beginning to think it’s really worth it. So much substance combined with grace.”

‘General de Wet’ tulip
‘ Vanguard’ crocus
‘S. Arnott’ snowdrop
Sep
1
2016

Passing the Torch: It’s My Last Year!

Passing the Torch: It’s My Last Year! &www.OldHouseGardens.com

I was 30 years old when I started lecturing on landscape history, and 40 when I mailed my first tiny catalog of heirloom bulbs. Now I’ve become an heirloom myself, and in May after we wrap up our 24th year of shipping, I’ll be retiring.

I hate to leave you – and my crew, our growers, and the bulbs themselves. But time rushes on and my wife, who has sacrificed a lot to help me pursue this dream, has been patiently waiting for me to join her in the joys of a hard-earned rest.

But it’s not the end of Old House Gardens. Recognizing that our “Save the Bulbs” mission is unique and important, and loving our customers like I do, my office staff asked if they could buy OHG and keep it going, and I happily agreed.

It won’t be easy, but Kathy, Rita, Vanessa, Mike, and Justin are enormously talented, our shipping and micro-farm crews are awesome, and I’ll be sticking around to help them a bit, so I’m optimistic that they can make it work.

Will there be changes? Yes, and I’m excited to see what they might be. What will never change, though, is OHG’s commitment to preserving the best of the past, to delivering bulbs of the highest quality, and to treating you like a friend.

Old House Gardens would never have made it this far without the support of thousands of gardeners like you. Season after season since 1993 you’ve “crowd-funded” our mission and showered us with kind words and encouragement. Please be as good to the new owners as you have been to me.

Finally, from the bottom of my heart, thank you – and let’s have a wonderful last year together!

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