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April 6, 2016

– Sir Francis Bacon, 1561-1626, English philosopher, statesman, scientist, and gardener

Our New Blog

Bumper Crop Savings

The Gardens of Alcatraz

Dahlias for Drought

Istanbul Tulip Festival

“Leftover” Survives and Wins

Our New Blog

The weather here in Ann Arbor has been unusually erratic this spring, which has disrupted the start of spring shipping. To protect our tender bulbs on their way to you, we avoid shipping when night-time lows drop below freezing, and this week’s lows have been as low as 18!

We ship to customers in the warmest zones first (although we reserve bulbs for you on a first-come first-served basis), and you’ll get an email alert when your order is shipped. So hang in there, and thanks for your patience!

Can’t decide? Try our easy samplers such as Intro to Heirlooms – $35 worth of summer beauty (at least!) for just $30.

Or save 10-20% on 24 Bumper Crop beauties at our Bulbs on Sale page.

Or check out ALL of our freshly-dug iris and daylilies, hardy lilies, dahlias for bouquets, unusual glads, fragrant tuberoses, pixie rain lilies, amber crocosmia, and milk-and-wine crinum.

April 1 was the deadline for adding to existing orders, but Kathy and Rita are standing by to help you with new orders and anything else at 734-995-1486, and our easy website is always open.

How can you resist? Order your own box-load of summer excitement now!

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Like most people, I had no idea that flowers ever grew at The Rock – until 2009 when an order for some of our dahlias and glads arrived here from that infamous island in San Francisco Bay.

Alcatraz, I soon learned, has a long, complex history, and gardens have been a part of most of it. Some were public plantings tended by prisoners while others were the home gardens of the warden and guards who lived there with their families.

Last month I spent an afternoon walking Alcatraz with Dick Miner, a long-time volunteer who’s been helping to bring its gardens back to life after 40 years of abandonment. Dick talked about the herculean effort to clear decades of weeds and overgrowth and the excitement of rediscovering paths, retaining walls, and a surprising array of garden plants that survived amid the ruins.

“Bulbs were a favorite garden plant of the island’s residents,” Alcatraz’s director of gardens Shelagh Fritz wrote recently in Horticulture magazine. “Many bulbs originate from other Mediterranean regions and therefore find great success here – a happy coincidence since soldiers and guards simply brought their favorite garden plants with them to Alcatraz” including daffodils, freesia, Spanish bluebell, snowflake, and grape hyacinth. “When we cleared the overgrowth from the gardens, these bulbs came back to life after lying dormant for decades.”

Dahlias and glads appear in historic photos of Alcatraz, and Shelagh has ordered many of ours to replant there including ‘Clair de Lune’, ‘Old Gold’, and ‘Thomas Edison’ dahlias and Abyssinian, ‘Bibi’, ‘Dauntless’, ‘Fidelio’, ‘Spic and Span’, and ‘Starface’ glads.

For a look at these fascinating gardens, see Shelagh’s article, “A Hardened Garden.” To learn even more, go to And if you’re one of the 1.5 million people who will visit Alcatraz this year, don’t miss the docent-led tours of the gardens!

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Although the West Coast drought has eased a bit, we thought you’d be interested in this success story from our good customer Pat of zone-9bWC San Jose. We can’t guarantee it will work for you, but . . . .

“I grew some of your ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlias last year and found them great for our arid climate. I planted them very deep, maybe a foot down, which is low enough for our clay soil to remain moist with almost no watering, if you can believe it. Maybe once a week.

“I followed the directions at your website and put the tubers at the bottom of the hole and then filled in soil little by little as the leaves emerged, which they did very quickly.

“My tiny garden on the west side of our garage gets a good five to six hours of blazing, direct sun and then light shade later in the afternoon. Since we’re in a valley and not near the ocean, nights are generally cool and dry. [OHG: This is exactly what dahlias love!] The plants wilted on the hottest days but they perked up afterward, as you’d see with tomatoes or potatoes.

“Thank you for letting me ramble on. No one in my family is interested. My neighbors like all the free flowers, though! I give quite a few away.”

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The spectacular bulb plantings at Holland’s Keukenhof Gardens are internationally famous, but have you ever heard of the Instanbul Tulip Festival – where four times as many bulbs will burst into bloom this month?

“Istanbul sparkles in April,” wrote Frazer Henderson in a recent newsletter of the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society. “Brilliant splashes of color decorate public parks, streets, road verges, and traffic islands . . . as millions of tulips exuberantly announce the arrival of spring. Started in 2005, the city’s Tulip Festival seeks to revive the flower’s popularity and celebrate its contribution to Turkish culture. This year over 30 million bulbs – all propagated in Turkey – were planted.

One highlight of last year’s Festival was the world’s largest floral carpet blooming in front of Hagia Sophia, the spectacular Ottoman cathedral built in 543. “Over 500,000 bulbs in . . . deep purple, red, bright yellow, and burnt orange were planted in a highly geometric design covering 1262 square meters. . . . A babel of exaltations . . . confirmed the carpet’s awesomeness.”

If you can’t get to the Festival in person this spring, treat yourself to a virtual visit at Click any of the tiny photos at the bottom of the article for a slideshow of many, many more. Enjoy!

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“Bulbs want to grow.” That’s what we say here at Old House Gardens whenever we hear a story like this one sent to us recently by our good customer Anita Bischoff of Kings Park, NY:

“In January, I found one ‘Marie’ hyacinth bulb lying in my garage. I must have dropped it when I planted the other 24 last fall. I put it in a glass forcing vase and then into my wine fridge. When green sprouted from the top, I put it on a windowsill. It looked beautiful as it was growing and it bloomed just in time to win a FIRST prize at the Smithtown Garden Club meeting last week – so all was not lost for the leftover. Happy Easter!”

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That’s for you to decide. The content is the same, but . . .

If you’d rather read just one article per week,

If you’d rather see more photos displayed right in the article, and

If you’d rather that past articles were easy to search – then our blog’s for you! Please give it a look at

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March’s articles included our heirlooms in the Wall Street Journal, the post office’s new antique flower stamps, seasonal bulb garden tips, blogger Margaret Roach reports “virtually 100% success” with our winter aconites, and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at – and we’re gradually adding the best of them to our new blog!

Please help us “Save the Bulbs!” by forwarding our newsletter to a kindred spirit, garden, museum, or group. Or if a friend sent you this issue, SUBSCRIBE here!

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