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April 21, 2015

— Charles Dudley Warner, 1829-1900, American writer and editor, from My Summer in a Garden, 1870

Bulbs on Sale

Last Week for Iris and Daylilies

Dahlia Award-Winners and Survivors

Do Heirlooms Have to Be 50 Years Old?

Making Glads Face You

Our Global OHG Village

English vs. Spanish Bluebells

A Wedding in the Family

Time is running out! 31 varieties are already sold out, and we hope to wrap up spring shipping on Monday, May 4 – so even if you wait until June to plant, NOW is the time to order our easy, gorgeous iris, daylilies, dahlias, glads, tuberoses, rain lilies, crocosmia, and crinums for a summer full of beauty and excitement.

Like saving money? See our Bulbs on Sale page for 24 frugal jewels now at savings of 10-25%.

Can’t decide? Try our fabulous Intro to Heirlooms ($35 worth of great bulbs for just $30), Dreamy Dahlias, Pint-Sized Glads, or other easy samplers.

Just make sure to order SOON or you’ll miss out on all the fun!

Spring is in a rush here, and our iris and daylilies will soon be too far along to transplant safely, so this FRIDAY is the last day to order them. Seven are now on sale at savings of 10-25%, including lavender-pink ‘Susan Bliss’ (now just $6.40) and peachy-pink ‘Evelyn Claar’ ($7.20). You’ll get extra value in our Classic Daylilies sampler, too – a fifth daylily for free!

See what you’ll get here. We dig all of our iris and many of our daylilies the day we ship them from our Ann Arbor micro-farms. Plant them immediately and they’ll start multiplying happily and reward you forever – but only if you order by midnight this Friday!

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Of the more than 75,000 plants available to gardeners today, less than 10% have been honored by the Royal Horticultural Society with its prestigious Award of Garden Merit. These exceptional plants have proven their worth as “the best for all-around garden value.”

The RHS regularly updates the award list, and since availability is one criteria, varieties that have become hard to find are often dropped from it – making it all the more impressive that five of our heirloom dahlias are current AGM-winners: ‘Clair de Lune’, ‘David Howard’, ‘Glorie van Heemstede’, ‘Kidd’s Climax’, and already sold-out ‘Bishop of Llandaff’.

Another impressive accolade comes from our good customer Judith Mitchell of Waldoboro, Maine. “I got my first dahlias from you while it was still pretty chilly here in zone 5b,” she writes, “so I very carefully put my tubers aside to wait for warmer weather. Well, you can probably guess what happened – that’s right, I couldn’t find them. In fact, it was well into July when I almost literally stumbled upon them out in the shed.

“Ay-yi-yi, I thought. I immediately planted them with many apologies to the little guys, thinking, of course, that all was lost, I’d get nothing, and it was my own damned fault.

“BUT!!! Lo and behold, they soon sprouted, leaves unfurled, and – much to my rapturous delight – buds appeared! I heaped praise and encouragement on them, and at this late writing [Oct. 17], all have bloomed except for ‘Atropurpurea’, which does have two little buds although they probably won’t mature before frost. ‘Union Jack’ is lovely, and ‘Little Beeswings’ is sheer delight – the most adorable, perfect, and floriferous little dahlia in my dahlia-rich garden. Many thanks for all your marvelous flowers!”

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Absolutely not. Although some people may tell you that’s a requirement, they’re just confused or oversimplifying. Trust me, there’s no International Registrar for Heirloom Plants that’s charged with officially defining the term – and age is relative, in any case.

Some plants like peonies and apples will live for a very long time, even in a totally abandoned garden, while other plants like dahlias and tomatoes will disappear most places unless someone saves, stores, and replants them every year. This means that 50-year-old peonies are relative youngsters compared to the many that survive from 100 or even 150 years ago, while 50-year-old dahlias are already hard to find, making them, in effect, much older.

It’s sort of like the way it is with dogs. It doesn’t make sense to define an “old” dog as one that’s at least eight years old because Irish wolfhounds rarely live that long while Chihuahuas can live to be twice that age.

That’s why I believe that insisting on a specific cut-off date for heirloom plants is misguided, and that rarity or endangeredness has to be as much a part of the definition as age itself. Heirlooms have been handed down because they’re wonderful plants, and the older they are the more they allow us to experience the incredible diversity of the past. (Hence our OHG tagline, “So Much More than New.”) But if we don’t grow and care for heirlooms, even the toughest of them will eventually be lost, and the ones that are most in need of our care are the ones that are the rarest and closest to extinction – even if they’re not yet 50 years old.

(You might also enjoy reading my earlier newsletter article, “Heirloom Myth-Busting #1: Are They Heirloom, Heritage, Antique, Vintage, or Historic Plants?”)

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We love the way glads add vertical exclamation points of color to the summer garden. To enjoy them the most, though, it pays to site them carefully, as explained in the NAGC’s journal Glad World:

“Glads, like daffodils, tend to face the direction from which they receive the longest period of direct sunlight. While you might expect this to be south, early morning or late afternoon shade from nearby trees or buildings might cause those glads so shaded to face due east or west, or southeast or southwest, depending upon how the shade pattern moves with the sun during the day. . . . Facing is an important consideration since you would like to view the front of the spike from whatever vantage point you usually view the bed, border, or pot.”

Keep that in mind when deciding where to plant your glads, but don’t worry – you can get your glads to bloom facing any direction you want if you (a) plant them in a pot (say, in your vegetable garden) and then (b) when the first florets open, move the pot into your flower garden or onto your front steps and turn it any way you like. To try this trick yourself, why not order a few glads – such as the graceful, fragrant Abyssinian glad or our customers’ favorite ‘Atom’ – for spring-planting?

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The whole world loves heirloom bulbs. Or at least gardeners in 51 different countries are reading our newsletter. How cool is that?

In addition to 22,983 subscribers here in the US, we also have 87 readers in garden-loving Japan, 61 in nearby Canada, 55 in France (Quelle surprise!), 42 in Great Britain, 35 in the Netherlands, 18 in Mexico, 16 in India, and 11 in Germany – even though we virtually never ship bulbs outside the US.

And that’s just the beginning. We also have 8 readers in Grenada (where the total population is barely over 100,000), 7 in Argentina and Costa Rica, 6 in Italy and Saint Lucia (which is halfway between Puerto Rico and Venezuela, in case you can’t quite place it), 5 in Australia, New Zealand, and Belize, 4 in Switzerland and Turkey, and 3 in Israel, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.

Last but not least, we also have at least one savvy reader in Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, Guatemala, Guinea, Hungary, Jamaica, Kenya, Myanmar, Norway, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Russia, Tanzania, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Wherever YOU are reading this today, we’re glad you’re here!

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Spanish bluebells are great. Also known as squill in the South, they’re tough enough to bloom and naturalize just about anywhere. But if it’s English bluebells you’re looking for – the iconic wildflower of British woodlands – you’ll need to know how to tell them apart, because counterfeits are ubiquitous.

As head gardener Quentin Stark explains in the May 2015 issue of The English Garden, English bluebells are “a wonderful rich blue. The flowers are tubular and grow on just one side of the stem, and they have an amazing scent. Spanish bluebells are taller, with paler blue, more open flowers, have no scent, and the flowers grow all the way around the stem, making the plant more upright.” To see what he means, check out this excellent close-up photo.

Our true English bluebells are the real deal. They come to us from a small nursery in Wales where they’re native, and you can order yours now for fall planting at last fall’s prices.

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Happy news! Our younger son David Kunst and his long-time sweetheart Emily Selleck of St. Petersburg are getting married in May. Adding to the excitement, the wedding is in St. John, Virgin Islands, and I can’t wait to explore the plants and gardens there. Then in June the newlyweds are moving from Chicago to San Francisco. Although they’ll be a lot farther away from us there, my wife Jane and I keep reminding ourselves how much fun we’ll have visiting them.

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It’s spring! And we’re showing you lots of pretty flowers on our Facebook page. Our cozy community of fans there numbered 10,485 this morning. Please come take a look at, and to make sure Facebook continues showing you all of our posts, show that you’re interested in us by either (a) checking “Follow” in the drop-down menu under “Liked” near the top of the page, or (b) liking, commenting on, or sharing one of our posts every now and then. Thanks, and happy spring!

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Early April’s articles included 14,000 antique catalogs online, dahlia society centennial, 1954 companions for daylilies, is Facebook limiting the posts you see from us, and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at

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