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September 1, 2016

“Bulbs need so little and give back so much. They start off homely, even ugly, and return transformed.”

– Lauren Springer Ogden, American garden writer and designer

It’s Scott’s Last Year!

Favorite Bulbs of Top Designers

‘Mrs. Langtry’ is NOT ‘Mrs. Langtry’

Tiger Lilies for Frank Lloyd Wright

Confessions of a Bulbaholic

We mailed them Aug. 23, and if you ordered bulbs from us any time since fall 2014 (two catalogs ago) or you paid $2 for it anytime since last November, it should arrive soon – and hopefully it already has.

Bulk mail can take up to two weeks, though, and sometimes a catalog gets lost. If you don’t have yours by next Wednesday, Sept. 7, simply call or email us at help@oldhousegardens.com and we’ll rush you another one by first-class mail. We don't want you to miss it!

It’s almost “game time” for us, and we’re eager to begin.

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

Famed garden writer Mary Keen recommends fragrant ‘General de Wet’ tulip, “hard to find” Tulipa clusiana, and ‘Trevithian’ daffodil which is “scented and good for picking,” and “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 – pictured here – 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.”

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

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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.

Taliesin’s Cultural Landscape Coordinator, Jessica Tripalin, 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. 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 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 which we recently posted at our blog.

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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.”

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Stay in touch, see what’s blooming here, and share the joy of gardening with us at Facebook.com/HeirloomBulbs and OldHouseGardens.com/Blog.

August’s articles included the death of garden artist Ryan Gainey, bulb care tips for a hot, dry summer, ‘Thalia’ shines at Chanticleer, a favorite lily for butterflies, Thrillist’s #1 state (you’ll be surprised), and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or topic, at oldhousegardens.com/NewsletterArchives – 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!

Simply credit www.oldhousegardens.com.


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