Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  So Much More Than New
Mar
22
2017

Try This at Home:
Multiplying Glads by Dividing the Corm

Try This at Home: Multiplying Glads by Dividing – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Even if your glad planting season is still months away, here’s a tip from expert Cliff Hartline that you can use whenever that happy time arrives.

Cliff writes my favorite section of the NAGC journal Glad World. It’s a Q & A column titled “Talk Radio,” and a while ago a reader asked, “I heard you can cut corms in two to multiply them. How do you do that?”

First of all, Cliff replied, it’s important to “make sure there are eyes and root nodes on both halves. The eyes go across the corm in only one direction. They are not like potatoes that have eyes everywhere. Peel the husk off before cutting, so you can identify the line of eyes.” Look for small, individual flaps of shiny husk that protect the eyes, or the emerging tips of the eyes themselves.

Don’t do this too early, though. “Without the husk, the corm will dry out quicker, so you need to do this close to the time of planting.”

“After cutting it, put powdered sulfur [available at garden centers or online] on the open wound. This helps seal the scar and protect the corm when it is planted.”

Before going on to cut another corm, sterilize your knife with alcohol.

If you’re feeling lucky, “you can even cut the corm into three or four pieces,” Cliff says, although “this increases the chance that it may not survive.” Even if you only cut it in half, there’s some risk involved, so we recommend you try it with inexpensive glads first (although not Abyssinian glads).

Good luck, have fun, and please let us know how it goes!

Read March’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Mar
15
2017

Limber Up for Gardening with a Few Easy Exercises

Limber Up for Gardening with a Few Easy Exercises – www.OldHouseGardens.com

We’ve all been there. It’s the first beautiful Saturday of spring, you’ve spent hours blissfully working in the garden – and the next morning you’re sore all over and hoping you haven’t seriously injured yourself.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you’re heading out to the garden after a long winter off or just a long week at work, you can protect your body from pain and worse by doing a few easy exercises ahead of time.

Our friend Doug Oster recently posted some simple tips and a short video at his excellent Everybody Gardens blog. We hope you’ll give them a look and do your muscles, back, and joints a favor!

Read March’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Mar
8
2017

43 Daffodil Shows
Begin Now – Including Michigan’s First!

From heirlooms to varieties so new they don’t even have names, tens of thousands of daffodils will soon be on public display in 43 ADS daffodil shows all across the country.

The season kicks off this weekend with shows in California, Louisiana, and Dallas; the spectacular National Show is March 10-12 in Sacramento; and it all ends May 7 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Michigan will have its own show this year, April 26-27, at Fernwood Botanical Garden in Niles. For an added treat, the fields of breeder John Reed will also be open to the public. Organizers are hoping the events will help spur the founding of a Michigan Daffodil Society. (Sign us up!)

If you’ve never been to one, you’re missing something special. For a complete list, visit the outstanding ADS website at daffodilusa.org/events-show-calendar/calendar-of-events/.

Read March’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Mar
2
2017

‘Jersey’s Beauty’ and
the Millionaire Gardeners of Sewickley

‘Jersey’s Beauty’ and the Millionaire Gardeners of Sewickley – www.OldHouseGardens.com

(Here’s a fascinating story by our good customer Letitia Savage. Thank you, Letty, for sharing it with us!)

By the 1920s Pittsburgh’s industrial millionaires had flocked to Sewickley, Pennsylvania, to summer in country houses along the bluffs of the Ohio River. While the estates had ranks of professional gardeners, the owners were often actively involved, particularly when it came to competitive gardening.

Mrs. B. F. Jones, Jr. was typical of these serious amateur gardeners. The wife of a steel industry magnate, she lived at Fairacres, a 100-room Louis XVI mansion surrounded by acres of gardens. There, with the help of her gardener R. M. Fletcher, she grew thousands of dahlias.

In Sewickley the gardening year culminated in September with the annual Dahlia Show. As the Sewickley Herald reported in 1926, “There is hardly another flower which makes such a glorious showing when exhibited in mass.... Those who have never seen a dahlia show have indeed a thrill yet to live for.”

The three-day event included almost 50 competitive classes for dahlias – including many for vases of 12 to 25 blooms of a variety. Photos of the show in the society pages of the Pittsburgh press are still breathtaking. Dahlias in vases tower over the heads of the small girls admiring them, and some arrangements are even taller than their mothers.

In 1926, the star of the show was ‘Jersey’s Beauty’. The Herald featured it in a full color photo on the front page of it’s September 25 edition and noted, “If you are familiar with dahlias, you will be interested in ‘Jersey Beauty,’ in some ways the finest dahlia developed in recent years.” Introduced just three years earlier, it originally sold for $25 a tuber – a trifle for Mrs. Jones but the equivalant, according to the ADS’s Martin Kral, of “fifty gallons of milk, or a man’s new suit, or one of those modern home appliances, a vacuum cleaner.”

‘Jersey’s Beauty’ and the Millionaire Gardeners of Sewickley – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Although it’s not 100% clear whether it was Mrs. Jones’s ‘Jersey’s Beauty’ that stole the show in 1926, local reports say the Herald’s cover-girl dahlia was raised at Fairacres, and an oil painting of that flower once hung in splendor there, perhaps alongside her Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington.

Twenty years after her death in 1941, Mrs. Jones’ opulent summer home was razed. Her painting of ‘Jersey’s Beauty’ survives, though, preserved by the Sewickley Valley Historical Society, along with a stack of small cards tied with a faded blue ribbon. Although they don’t include dates or variety names, each card documents one of the many flower-show awards that Mrs. Jones won, poignant souvenirs of her prize-winning roses, chrysanthemums, and, above all, her glorious dahlias.

(‘Jersey’s Beauty’ went on to become one of the most popular dahlias of the 20th century. Although it’s almost sold out, if you order it now you can enjoy it just as Mrs. Jones once did – and it won’t cost you anywhere near as much as a vacuum cleaner!)

‘Jersey’s Beauty’ and the Millionaire Gardeners of Sewickley – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘Jersey’s Beauty’ and the Millionaire Gardeners of Sewickley – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Read March’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Feb
22
2017

News from 1902: The First Collarette Dahlias

News from 1902: The First Collarette Dahlias – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘President Viger’

While researching our ‘Fashion Monger’ dahlia – a Garden Gate “must have” plant for 2017 – we discovered this tidbit in the Oct. 2, 1902, Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener, and Home Farmer:

“A new type of dahlia has come into existence. It has been named the collaret form and first was brought to notice by Messrs. H. Cannell and Sons [of] Swanley, Kent. . . .

News from 1902: The First Collarette Dahlias – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘Fashion Monger’

“This new class possesses . . . a series of stalked appendices of a collaret form producing a great ornamental effect. The engraving gives a good idea of its nature. The colors are somewhat limited at present but in the course of another season or so the variation of tints will be very much increased . . . .

News from 1902: The First Collarette Dahlias – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘Clair de Lune’

“The original plants have already been awarded Gold Medals and Certificates at various important exhibitions. ‘President Viger’ is the best-known. . . . As there may be a future for this race, it is probable that many growers will obtain plants to form a beginning with them.”

There was indeed “a future for this race,” and scores of collarets– or collarettes, as they’re usually spelled in the US – are available today. ‘President Viger’ is extinct, alas, but we offer two of the oldest – ‘Clair de Lune’ (1946) and ‘Fashion Monger’ (from 1955) – and you can order them now for April delivery!

Feb
15
2017

Save 66% on Thousands of Garden Books

Save 66% on Thousands of Garden Books – www.OldHouseGardens.com

After 40 years of selling used and rare books, our friend Heiko Miles of Calendula Horticultural Books is closing up shop to devote more time to other pursuits. As he explained to me recently, “Life is just so full.”

That’s good news for garden book lovers because everything at CalendulaBooks.com is now marked down 66%.

Although some of the rarest are still pricey – a 1625 Italian florilegium will set you back $1,048– most are less than $5, and many are just a dollar or two. For example, one of the boxful I just bought is A.E. Speer’s 1911 Annual and Biennial Garden Plants “with historical notes and very many variety descriptions” for just $1.03.

Heiko’s website is bare-bones, but it’s filled with treasures, and in all the years I’ve been ordering from him, he has always served me well.

Thank you, Heiko, and may your next chapters all be happy ones!

Feb
9
2017

Garden Tips for February:
Stored Bulbs, Forced Bulbs, and Getting Ready

Garden Tips for February: Stored Bulbs, Forced Bulbs, and Getting Ready – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Even if your garden is buried in snow, here are some helpful tips for now or soon:

Check on Stored Bulbs – If you stored any tender bulbs last fall, it’s important to check on them periodically. Problems discovered early can often be remedied, but if you ignore them until planting time, everything may be dead. Learn more at “Check Stored Bulbs Now.”

Don’t Skimp on Chilling – If your forced bulbs try to bloom before the stem has lengthened, it’s most likely they haven’t had enough chill-time at 48 degrees or less. Returning them to cold storage now could help. Learn more at our Forcing Bulbs page.

Loosen Matted Leaves – Small, early bulbs often emerge much earlier than seems possible, especially in warm micro-climates. Matted leaves and winter mulch can hamper their growth, so get out there early and gently loosen or remove it.

Fertilize Before They Emerge – Although it’s always best to be guided by a soil test, if you haven’t fertilized in a while, you may want to do so this spring. It’s easier and safer if you scratch it into the surface before bulb foliage emerges. Learn more at “Fertilize Early.”

Get Tools and Supplies Ready – Check your garden tools and supplies now, before the mad rush of spring. Buy more fertilizer, twine, stakes, potting soil, animal repellant, gloves – and what else will you need? Be sure you know where all of your tools are, and maybe even treat yourself to a new one.

Order More Bulbs – Of course! See all of our spring-planted treasures at OldHouseGardens.com/Spring.

Feb
7
2017

“Supremely Beautiful” ‘Ophir’ Daylily

Ten years ago in a pioneering article for Horticulture magazine, Betty Gatewood sang the praises of heirloom daylilies.

“These plants, once treasured by gardeners for their elegance of form, are mostly unknown today,” she wrote. “But they are distinguished by one great quality: they retain the classic lily shape that has largely been bred out of modern daylilies. They are supremely beautiful. For this alone they are worth seeking out.”

Betty’s number one example was the lovely ‘Ophir’. One of the very first American-bred daylilies, ‘Ophir’ has “trumpet-shaped flowers (rather like a golden Easter lily) of unmatchable shape,” she wrote. “It is also a robust grower, tall (about four feet), slightly fragrant, and very floriferous. Blooming . . . for almost a month, it is far too fine a plant to be forgotten.”

We completely agree – and though this “supremely beautiful” daylily is sure to sell out soon, you can still order it now for April delivery. If you listen carefully you can probably hear Betty saying, “You won’t regret it.”

Feb
2
2017

Paradise Lost:
Winston-Salem’s Municipal Iris Garden

Paradise Lost: Winston-Salem’s Municipal Iris Garden – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Does your city have a municipal iris garden? Does any city?

That’s why I was so surprised when this postcard arrived in the mail recently.

It’s a modern reproduction of a 1949 postcard showing the “Municipal Iris Gardens, Winston-Salem, NC.” On the back it reads: “The Municipal Iris Garden contains 20,000 plants, of 525 varieties. The blossoms range from pure white to deep purple, gold, and dark red, and are at their best during May. Weeping willows and rustic bridges add to the beauty of the rolling parkway.”

20,000 plants – of 525 varieties! I had to know more, so I contacted the folks who sent the card – which announces the 2017 Conference on Restoring Southern Landscapes and Gardens– and here’s what I learned.

“The development of the gardens to their present state of beauty is a typical Cinderella story,” the Twin City Sentinel reported in 1938, “with many local iris growers acting as fairy godmothers.”

It all started in the early 1920s when a new neighborhood was laid out which included a four-acre “gully-way” that was left untouched “since there seemed no other purpose it could serve.”

Although today we’d probably consider it a valuable natural area, times were different then and in 1931 a doctor who lived nearby urged the city to beautify it with iris donated from his own extensive gardens. Iris were enormously popular at that time, and before long other neighbors joined the campaign and the Municipal Iris Garden was born.

The city parks department cleared the land, planted weeping willow trees, built stone and rustic-work bridges over the stream, and laid out gracefully curving beds. By 1938 the Twin City Sentinel reported that “Winston-Salem’s iris attract visitors from all parts of the state. From an unattractive gully the city parks department has transformed Runnymede Parkway into one of the most popular parks in the city.”

But that was then. By the early 1950s the iris had been replaced with lower-maintenance azaleas, and today even those are gone. The stone bridges still stand, though, bearing silent witness to the park’s glory days – and who knows what the next chapter might be for this Cinderella gully-way?

For additional images, visit digitalforsyth.org/photos/browse/places-gardens-runnymede-iris-gardens.

For your own little iris paradise, see the 17 heirloom iris we’re shipping this spring.

And many thanks to Camilla Wilcox, Kay Bergey, and Martha Hartley for sharing this remarkable story with me!

Jan
25
2017

What Good is a Historic Daylily?

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?

What Good is a Historic Daylily? – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘Poinsettia’, 1953

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.”

lemon lily, 1570

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 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.

Jan
19
2017

Colette’s Gardenia:
“I Bow Down Before the Tuberose”

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.

Colette’s Gardenia: “I Bow Down Before the Tuberose” – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Her 1948 book For an Herbarium focused on the sensual delights of flowers. In the chapter titled “The Gardenia’s Monologue,” that famously fragrant flower scorns jasmine, nicotiana, magnolia, 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.

Colette’s Gardenia: “I Bow Down Before the Tuberose” – www.OldHouseGardens.com

“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 wonderful essay with us!)

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