Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  Living Treasure from the Past
September 2017
Sep
28
2017

Two Great Tulips Overcome Deer, March Planting

Two Great Tulips Overcome Deer, March Planting – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Heirloom bulbs are survivors, but even we were surprised by these two reports:

Here’s what our good customer Marianne Schmidt of zone-5b Stuyvesant, NY, had to say about one of our most fragrant tulips – although please note that we can’t guarantee it will work for you:

“Last spring the deer devoured all of my tulips EXCEPT ‘Generaal de Wet’. I don't know if it was the fragrance or color that turned them off, but this year I'm pinning all of my tulip hopes and expectations on this beautiful tulip!”

And though we’d never recommend planting tulips THIS late, we were happy to get this news about one of our oldest tulips from our long-time customer Tara Fitzpatrick of zone-6a South Hadley, MA:

“Testimony for your ‘Couleur Cardinal’ – I forgot a bag I had intended to force inside in the basement fridge all winter. I found and planted them in the garden in March during a thaw, and they bloomed perfectly in May!”

Sep
20
2017

Century-Old Sequoia Moved in Boise

How do you move a tree that’s 98 feet-tall and weighs 800,000 pounds?

Very carefully.

That’s exactly what happened in Boise this past summer when Idaho’s largest and most historic giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron gigantean) – a gift from naturalist John Muir in 1912 – was moved a couple of blocks to make way for a hospital expansion.

Giant sequoias are the world’s largest trees, growing up to 300 feet tall with trunks over 25 feet in diameter, and they can live a very long time. The oldest one documented by ring count was 3500 years old, so the 115-year-old Boise tree, as one of the moving crew pointed out, is “still a young tree.”

Century-Old Sequoia Moved in Boise – www.oldhousegardens.com

Unfortunately Boise’s summer was brutally hot and dry this year, and giant sequoias are native to very humid regions where, according to Wikipedia, they “supplement water from the soil with fog taken up through air roots, at heights to where the root water cannot be pulled.”

Nevertheless, the Texas firm that moved the tree gives it a 95% chance for survival, and Boise’s City Forester Brian Jorgenson (who I had the pleasure of meeting this past summer at my sister’s wedding) says he’s “cautiously hopeful.” Jorgenson checks on the tree daily, monitoring four soil-moisture testing stations and a hose running up its trunk that sprays water on the upper branches to humidify them.

Almost three years ago, the same Texas firm moved a 250-year-old oak tree here in Ann Arbor (see “Save the Oak!” and “One Year After”) and it’s still alive and well. Here’s hoping the Boise sequoia will thrive as well – and outlive us all.

Learn more and watch at idahostatesman.com/news/local/article158181954.html and idahostatesman.com/news/local/article164970812.html.

Sep
14
2017

Peonies and “Pumpkin Spice Latte Gardening”

Pumpkin Spice Latte has returned, and coffee drinkers everywhere are rejoicing.

Peonies and “Pumpkin Spice Latte Gardening” – www.oldhousegardens.com

So why isn’t this wildly popular drink offered year-round, asks Joseph Tychonievich in the current issue of Michigan Gardening. Because then, he says, “we’d drink it, grow tired of it, move on, and forget about it. The fact that this special drink only comes around once a year makes it special.”

And we gardeners can learn from this, Joseph says. “Often in the garden we gravitate to things that bloom or look good for as long as possible,” but “gardens aren’t some math problem. . . . The really important harvest is not flowers or even food, but joy. So maybe it is time to step back a little from all of the long-blooming, forever-performing plants and embrace flowers that . . . instead inspire us with wild joy, anticipation, and glee.”

His top suggestion, we’re happy to say, is peonies – and we’re offering more than ever this fall! Although they don’t bloom forever, “for a few glorious weeks in late May or early June, they’ll positively cover themselves with huge, extravagant, powerfully fragrant flowers.”

“You'll look forward to that . . . all year long. As the buds swell, you'll check them each day. When they finally open, you'll sit next to them drinking in the rich scent. You'll cut armloads of them. . . . You may even throw a party in their honor.”

Of course “it doesn’t have to be peonies,” Joseph adds. “Find a plant that you truly love, that really thrives and performs in your garden, ignore the fact that it only blooms for a couple weeks in a year, and then plant them by the dozens and revel deeply in the sheer magic of their performance.

“Don't let anyone tell you they aren't practical. Gardening is about passion, not practicality. . . . Remember the lesson of the Pumpkin Spice Latte and keep some magic and anticipation in your garden.”

Brand’s Magnificent, 1918
James R. Mann, 1920
home-grown peony magic
Sep
6
2017

Henry’s Lily Stars in Historic English Gardens

Underappreciated Henry’s lily is one of my favorite lilies, so I was happy to see it featured not once but twice in the September 2017 issue of The English Garden.

Henry’s Lily Stars in Historic English Gardens – www.OldHouseGardens.com

In the gardens at Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire, “history and heritage meet modern planting techniques” inspired by Piet Oudolf. There “the soft orange flowers of Lilium henryi are used abundantly throughout the herbaceous borders,” combined with great swaths of hollyhocks, agapanthus, and American natives Joe Pye weed and Rudbeckia.

Henry’s lily also plays a major role at West Dean Gardens, a “formidable horticultural powerhouse” in West Sussex. This glorious two-page photograph of the historic walled garden there shows it blooming exuberantly (center and right) in the Hot Border which “smolders across the length of the kitchen garden’s greenery.”

Henry’s Lily Stars in Historic English Gardens – www.OldHouseGardens.com
Henry’s lily with ‘David Howard’ dahlia

Henry’s lily “grows like stink and is a real good do-er,” says gardens supervisor Sarah Wain. It’s one of the “stalwarts” of the border, along with “heleniums ‘Butterpat’ and ‘Moerheim Beauty’, daylilies, Solidago [goldenrod], Sedum, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, Potentilla ‘Gibson Scarlet’, and Rudbeckia fulgida.”

California poppies, nasturtiums, and ‘David Howard’ dahlia also figure prominently in the Hot Border, along with Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ As luck would have it, I planted a clump of ‘Lucifer’ next to the Henry’s lilies in my backyard this summer, and though it may not have been West Dean’s Hot Border, they did look great together.

To give this wildflowery, easy-growing lily a try in your garden, order a few now for spring planting!

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