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January 11, 2017

“Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination. You are always living three, or indeed six, months hence. . . . To be content with the present, and not striving about the future, is fatal.”

– Alice Morse Earle, 1851-1911, American historian and author of Old Time Gardens, Newly Set Forth

“Best New Plant”: ‘Fashion Monger’

5 Great Iris: Praise from 1930

Camellia vs. Tuberose

Why Historic Daylilies?

Can You Help Us Find a New Home for OHG?

As always, we’re grateful for your friendship and support. Here’s to a year ahead – for all of us, everywhere – that’s full of the happiness and success that comes from working together.

Why curse the cold and gloom when you could be looking forward to a flower-filled summer instead? Reserve your spring-planted bulbs now for delivery in April: hardy and unusual daylilies and iris, lush dahlias for bouquets, graceful little glads, fragrant tuberoses, majestic lilies, starry crocosmias, cast-iron crinums, pixie rain lilies, and our 8 easy samplers.

And RETURNING customers, don’t forget that if you’ve EVER bought bulbs from us before you’ll get our 5% “thank you” discount if you order by January 31. We’re grateful for your support!

The final counts are in from our drought-plagued Maine grower and we’ve added six more rare glads to the four we put online last month: ‘Lilac and Chartreuse’ (pictured here), fragrant ‘Lucky Star’, dewy fresh ‘Spring Maid’, and VERY small quantities of Yoda-like ‘Kakaga’, lavender-pink ‘Contentment’, and tiny ‘Sunset Sky’.

And in other good news, our Louisiana grower has promised us 50 big fat bulbs of Crinum x powellii ‘Album’, the cold-hardiest crinum of all.

Shipping starts April 3 but these treasures will sell out long before that so . . . don’t delay!

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The waiting is over! This morning we put most of our fall-planted bulbs up for sale again. Order now for October delivery and you’ll (a) put yourself at the head of the line and (b) lock in last year’s prices. Since you can always ADD to your order later, why not reserve the bulbs you don’t want to miss out on NOW!

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Old can be new, as our friends at Garden Gate understand, which is why they’ve named our ‘Fashion Monger’ dahlia one of their “Must Haves for 2017.”

“‘Fashion Monger’ may not be brand-new,” writes associate editor Sherri Ribbey, “but it’s been away so long it seems like it is. Originally introduced in 1955, this collarette dahlia was gradually replaced by newer cultivars. Fortunately, it was preserved and heirloom-bulb grower Old House Gardens is offering it for sale again.”

“‘Fashion Monger’ is a favorite of bees,” Sherri adds, “and it makes a great cut flower, too.”

Our supply this first year is limited, so if you want this old-but-new beauty, order soon!

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The great horticulturist John Wister helped found the American Iris Society in 1920 and served as its first president for fourteen years.

At that time, iris were exceedingly popular and scores of exciting new varieties were being introduced every year. Yet in his small book The Iris published in 1930, Wister wrote that “the more of the new things I see, the more I am convinced of the worthiness of some of our oldest varieties” – such as these:

‘Pallida Dalmatica’ (1597) – “There is nothing . . . in the whole range of iris that is finer than the true ‘Pallida Dalmatica’,” Wister wrote, adding that planting it with lemon lily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) is “one of the most famous” garden combinations with iris.

Germanica (by 1500) – “The purple flag of our grandmothers’ garden . . . should never be omitted for . . . it makes a striking garden picture.”

‘Flavescens’ (1813) – Among pale yellow iris “there is nothing to surpass the variety ‘Flavescens’, well known in every old garden in this country.”

‘Queen of May’ (1859, pictured here) – “On the pink side of the lavenders, the old ‘Queen of May’ is . . . still one of the best.” It is “lovely,” he added, “with white and pink lupines and pink Dianthus.”

‘Mrs. Horace Darwin’ (1888) – Although “rather dwarf,” this white iris is “wonderfully free blooming. It is unexcelled for massing and should be used in every garden in quantities.”

Of course you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy these timeless treasures. Just order yours now for April delivery!

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Although little known today, Colette (1873-1954) was the highly regarded French author of some 50 novels, many of them considered scandalously sensual at the time.

Her 1948 book For an Herbarium celebrates the sensual delights of flowers. In the chapter titled “The Gardenia’s Monologue,” that famously fragrant flower scorns nicotiana, jasmine, and other scented rivals before finally making this confession:

“I put up with all of these humbler bearers of nocturnal balms, certain that I have no rivals, save one, I confess . . . before whom at times I do worse than confess: I abdicate.

“On certain meridional nights heavy with the promise of rain, certain afternoons rumbling with casual thunder, then my ineffable rival need only show herself, and for all the gardenia in me, I weaken, I bow down before the tuberose.”

To savor the sublime fragrance that inspired Colette, order your single or double tuberoses now for April delivery. (And thanks to Toni Russo of Solon, Iowa, for sharing this essay with us!)

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And why should we have historic daylily gardens?

In an excellent article for the American Hemerocallis Society, Linda Sue Barnes offers several answers to those two questions, most of which also apply to the even bigger questions: What good is any historic flower? And why should we grow them today?

1. “Many historic daylilies have beautiful flowers. Many . . . are stars or trumpets, and . . . the simplicity of those flowers can provide a break from all the ruffles, fancy edges, and patterns of the modern daylily.”

2. “Many historic daylilies have spectacular garden habit,” such as ‘Autumn Minaret’ (1951) which “can easily reach 6 feet with as many as 80 blooms on a scape.”

3. “Logically enough, most of the early cultivars that are still in gardens today multiply well and are very hardy.”

4. “Historic daylilies . . . extend the garden season.” In her North Carolina garden, Linda Sue has historic varieties blooming from early April – “a month before more modern cultivars begin” – well into September.

5. “Historic daylilies . . . win flower shows.” Linda Sue says four 1950s classics have “won Best in Show in our region in the last few years” and “many more have won Best in Section.”

6. “Historic daylilies . . . can, even today, be good parents.” Breeders such as Brian Mahieu are using them to create new daylilies with “vigor, clear colors, a lot of unusual forms, and fragrance.”

For photos of 16 historic daylilies (including ‘Poinsettia’, pictured here) and Linda Sue’s reasons for having historic daylily gardens, see the entire article at our website. There you’ll also find a link to the AHS website where 20 historic daylily gardens, each with 50-100 historic varieties, are listed by region.

To see just how good historic daylilies can be, why not grow a few yourself? We’re offering 14 for April delivery – including fragrant lemon lily, spring-blooming ‘Gold Dust’, and 4-6 foot tall ‘Challenger’ – all of which Linda Sue would tell you are great garden plants.

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After Scott retires in May, Old House Gardens is going to need a new place to call home. We’re looking to buy (a) a small house with (b) a couple of acres that’s (c) in Washtenaw County and (d) south or west of Ann Arbor, with ideally (e) 800 square feet or more of garage, pole barn, or barn for shipping.

If you know of something like this that might be for sale, please contact us at or 734-995-1486. Thanks!

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December’s articles included the return of four rare glads, five new garden books for winter reading, botanical art at the NYBG, Smithsonian garden internships, and more.

You can read all of our back-issues at – and we’re adding the best articles to our blog!

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