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August 11, 2016

“A piece of sky and a chunk of earth lie lodged in the heart of every human being.”

– Thomas Moore, Irish poet, songwriter, and singer, 1779-1852

25 More Treasures Added

Sad News: Ryan Gainey Dies in Fire

“Breath-Taking” ‘Thalia’ at Chanticleer

‘Black Beauty’ is “Top Draw for Butterflies”

Hot, Dry Summer – Bad for Bulbs, or Good?

New at Our Blog: Glads

Thrillist Ranks Michigan #1

Finally! We turned it in Monday, and it’s a beauty. If all goes well, it will be printed and in the mail within two weeks. But since bulk-mail can take as much as two weeks, it probably won’t reach you until early September, so . . . .

1. For a quick list of everything that’s NEW (or back from a break), go to .

2. To start with our FALL-planted bulbs, go to .

3. To search by color, zone, fragrance, animal-resistance, bloom-time, or ten other criteria, go to .

Since last month’s newsletter, we’ve added 25 more amazing bulbs for fall and spring shipping. Many are at, but here are a few highlights to tempt you:

5 daffodils, including lively little ‘Bantam’, snowdrop-like ‘Xit’, and our Rare Poets Society sampler,

4 tulips, including rosy ‘Le Mogol’ and underworld-dark ‘Archeron’,

11 dahlias, including the sure-to-sell-out ‘Jane Cowl’ and first-timers ‘Fashion Monger’, ‘Little Robert’, and ‘Roxy’,

3 daylilies, including cantaloupe-colored ‘Melonee’ and rarely offered ‘Luteola’ from 1900,

2 glads, including the newest bulb we’ve ever offered, ‘Priscilla’ from 1977,

luxuriously fragrant ‘Pink Perfection’ lily, ‘White Pearl’ hyacinth, and ‘Flower Record’ crocus.

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The garden world lost a shining star and Old House Gardens lost a loyal friend July 29 when acclaimed garden designer Ryan Gainey died in a fire at his home in Georgia while trying to rescue his three beloved Jack Russell terriers.

Ryan had been ordering from us since 2005, and every now and then he’d call with a question, tip, or to chat about some interesting old bulb he’d found. He was a big fan of gladiolus and couldn’t care less that they were long out of fashion. As an artist he had his own highly personal and creative vision, and – happily for us – glads were a part of it, along with Roman hyacinths and many other heirlooms. (For a glimpse of Ryan’s garden style, see the 1993 book The Well-Placed Weed.)

At his website, Ryan is described as “internationally-known, madly passionate, stimulating, thought-provoking, exuberant, creative, romantic, whimsical, and embracing” –but just as importantly, I’d say, he was curious, generous and gentle. And I wasn’t at all surprised that he died trying to save his pups, Jelly Bean, Leo, and Baby Ruth.

May he rest in peace, and garden forever.

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Chanticleer horticulturist Emma Seniuk had high praise for the graceful white ‘Thalia’ daffodil in the June 2016 issue of Fine Gardening

“This classic daffodil is so beautiful that upon first sight of the flower, I swore I would name my first-born daughter Thalia. Pure, nearly translucent white blossoms are held in sweetly nodding clusters with reflexed petals. There is a slight fragrance to the blooms, too.

“It is one of the latest blooming daffodils, with thin, grass-like foliage. This feature makes the deterioration of ‘Thalia’ a graceful event compared to other daffodils whose fat, heavy foliage collapses into a heap looking like a pile of discarded linguini.

“Stunning in combination with Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), ‘Thalia’ is reliably elegant and breath-taking year after year.” (And you can order it now for planting this fall!)

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In a recent post at her award-winning blog The Garden Diaries, Clair Jones writes that the “top draw for butterflies” in her Maryland garden is the gorgeous, easy-to-grow ‘Black Beauty’ lily. She even includes a short video of a half-dozen tiger swallowtails blissfully sipping nectar from the lily’s deep raspberry-colored flowers.

Clair’s post also introduced me to “butterflying,” which she defines as observing and photographing these beautiful pollinators. Along with helpful tips for attracting and taking digital photos of them, she offers some fascinating facts about butterflies. For example, did you know that butterflies taste things with their feet?

August is a great month for butterflying, with many of the 765 species in North American active then. To enjoy more of them in your garden, read Clair’s tips – and maybe plant a few ‘Black Beauty’ lilies this fall.

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It’s been a hot, dry summer in much of the US. In fact, it’s been so bad in Maine that we had to drop a whole page of rare glads from our catalog because our grower there is worried he won’t have any corms to share with us!

But how will it affect your bulbs? First some good news:

Bulbs are one of Nature’s clever survival strategies. They’re essentially underground bunkers where the plant can stay cool and store moisture. And once the weather improves, bulbs often bounce back better than most plants.

Some bulbs even prefer dry summers. Tulips and hyacinths, for example, evolved in parts of the world with little to no summer rainfall. That means yours may bloom better next spring than they usually do – at least if you’re in the eastern half of the country where normal summers are rainier.

And some bulbs like it hot. As long as you’ve kept them well watered, your tuberoses, rain lilies, crinums, and cannas are probably thriving this summer, and we hope you’re enjoying them!

On the other hand, dahlias often struggle or fail in hot summers. That’s because they’re native to the highlands of Mexico where days can be hot but nights are much cooler. When nights in your garden stay warm, growth will slow or stop and they may even die. If you water them too much when growth has stalled, they may rot underground.

Don’t despair, though! If you can just keep your dahlias limping along until temperatures cool, they’ll kick back into gear and bloom gloriously until frost. And for dahlias that can handle warm nights better, look for “heat-tolerant” in our descriptions – although even these have their limits.

Glads in hot summers can be attacked by tiny, almost invisible sucking insects called thrips. Thrips proliferate when it’s hot and can leave glad leaves and blossoms mottled, or even prevent buds from opening. For tips on control, see

Glads may also develop kinked stems in hot weather, as they sag a bit during the day and then grow upright at night when evaporation slows. To minimize the kinks, keep your glads well-watered and avoid damaging their shallow, wide-spreading roots.

High heat also affects flower colors. Deep-colored lilies such as ‘African Queen’ may be paler, bicolor dahlias such as ‘Deuil du Roi Albert‘ may bloom temporarily as solids, and the rosy tones of ‘Kaiser Wilhelm‘ and others won’t develop fully until the weather cools.

This fall is expected to be warmer and drier than usual, too. Since most spring-blooming bulbs start growing new roots in late summer or early fall, keep their soil reasonably moist then, and be sure to keep the bulbs you plant this fall especially well-watered.

And try not to worry. Bulbs have been dealing with challenging weather for millennia. And there’s always next year – which, as every gardener knows, is one of the great things about gardening.

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Every week when we post one of our most recent newsletter articles to our blog, we also add a few of the best articles from our archives – including these we added recently, inspired by the gorgeous gladiolus bouquets that Vanessa has been picking for our office:

How Winter-Hardy Are Your Glads? Our Readers Report (Aug. 2010)

No Need to Buy a Monet, Just Garden like Him! (Jan. 2009)

Glads for Free: Growing Cormlets into Big Fat Corms (May 2013)

‘Boone’ Rocks Amy’s Garden – and Fine Gardening (August 2012)

Sickly Glads? The Culprit May be Thrips (Aug. 2013)

Or see ALL of our glad posts here.

Thrillist, the popular website that describes itself as “obsessed with helping guys live fun lives,” recently posted a “Definitive and Final Ranking of All 50 States” – and we’re proud to say that Michigan topped the list!

According to Thrillist, “Far too much of the Michigan narrative centers on Detroit and its many issues. The Motor City’s become a scrappily rising underdog you can’t help but root for, but Michigan’s greatest strengths lie in the state as a whole.

“Did you know Michigan has more coastline than any state other than Alaska? Did you know it has such an embarrassment of beer riches that you can easily hit Bell’s and Founders in the same afternoon? Did you know the UP is so remote and uniquely beautiful that it almost feels like a secret 51st state where they inexplicably love British meat pies?”

There’s more, but you get the gist. To see where your state ranked and enjoy more of the authors’ goofy commentary, go to .

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July’s articles included America’s first peony, UK designer’s favorite heirloom bulbs, blogger rethinks (and raves about) glads, perennializing vs. naturalizing bulbs, 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 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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