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Aug
12
2022

Historic Iris at the Chelsea Garden Show

Congratulations to the British Iris Society whose display celebrating their centenary with heirloom varieties won a gold medal at the 2022 Chelsea Garden show in May! We’re happy that two of our favorites were included: Mrs. Horace Darwin and Susan Bliss. For more photos and information, visit here.

Aug
12
2022

Helping Dahlias Through Hot Summers

Having originated in Mexican and Central American mountain plateaus, dahlias can suffer heat stress in late summer when daytime temperatures are over 90 degrees and nights stay warm. Here at OHG we cover our dahlia rows with weed mat and then straw to keep the ground cool and to help retain moisture. If you are seeing droopy leaves, this can be a sign of stress, not necessarily the need for water. Before we make the decision to water, we dig down 4" to see if the soil is dry. Often, it is still moist. Dahlias prefer deep watering less frequently as opposed to frequent watering which can lead to rot - even this late in the season. Overwatering is a much more common problem than having a dahlia fail due to being too dry. Some southern gardeners will mist foliage in extreme heat to cool the plants, and others find shade cloth that blocks 40% of sunlight to be helpful. And in a recent issue of the Bulletin of the American Dahlia Society, Tony Evangelista reports that spraying kaolin clay on dahlia foliage not only protected his plants from insect damage but decreased heat stress as well, since the white clay reflects some of the light before it can heat the leaves. (He notes that for exhibition varieties he stopped using it a month before showing them.) While we haven’t tried it ourselves, we’re intrigued, and we’d love to hear what has worked for you this year.

Aug
12
2022

Brand New at Our Website: A Trio of Terrific Hyacinths…

Vanessa is always on the lookout for historic hyacinths and has found Dutch farmers still growing three fragrant beauties from the decade that brought us E.T., Indiana Jones, the Walkman and the mix-tape. We’re excited to be able to offer them this fall!


‘Splendid Cornelia’ is an Alan Shipp favorite and “a lovely lilac” color.
‘Fondant’ is a sweet pure pink and returns well year after year.
‘Minos’ color varies, depending on conditions and age, from blue through lilac-blue.

‘La Riante’
‘Doctor Alex Fleming’
‘Katharine Hodgkins’

We trialed a number of classic daffodil varieties this year and fell in love with two in particular. both bred in the Netherlands before 1950 and both contrasting white perianths with orange or scarlet centers. ‘La Riante’ is somewhat shorter, has a small frilled cup, and blooms early-midseason, while taller ‘Doctor Alex Fleming’ has a large, exuberantly-ruffled cup and blooms mid-late season. Choose your favorite or plant both to enjoy an extended dance of bright orange and white throughout your spring garden!

After reading Sarah Raven’s new book A Year Full of Flowers, we knew we wanted the reticulated iris ‘Katharine Hodgkins’ to join our Diverse Fall-Planted offerings. Reticulated iris are native to western Asia (including Turkey and Lebanon), are usually under 6” tall and bloom very early in the spring. Their group’s name comes from the netted (reticulate) covering of their small dry bulbs, quite different from the thick rhizomes of bearded iris, and includes a number of different species. ‘Katharine’ is the vigorous hybrid of the pale-yellow flowered Iris winogradowii and pale-blue Iris histriodes and has flowers that are sky blue with a yellow splash overlaid with lines and dots of dark-blue. Ever since her introduction in 1955, this diminutive and sweetly-scented iris has drawn praise from a wide variety of garden writers, including Canadian Master Gardener and self-proclaimed plantaholic Robert Pavlis who calls her “one of the best” that “makes a great show every year and multiplies quickly to form a good sized clump.” Scott Ogden suggests her as one of his Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens while Prince Charles (with Rosemary Verey) included “Katharine” in his organic Cottage Garden at Highgrove. Plant a cluster this fall at the front of a bed or your rock garden to see next spring why ‘Katharine Hodgkins’ is considered such a valuable part of the early spring garden.

Jun
13
2022

A Few Bulb Tips for June

Dead-Heading Iris and Peonies – Cutting faded blooms redirects your plants’ energy from seed-making to future growth and bloom. Cut down iris bloom-stalks (not individual leaves) as close as possible to the rhizome, but cut back peony bloom-stalks no more than is needed to make the plant look good.

Dividing Daffodils – When daffodils get overcrowded, they bloom less. The best time to dig and divide them is when their foliage yellows or shortly afterwards. You can replant them immediately or store until fall.

Multiplying Your Rarest Tulips – In most gardens, the best way to give your rarest tulips the dry summer rest they need is to dig them up after the foliage yellows and store them in a dry, well-ventilated place – maybe hanging in mesh bags from the rafters in your basement or garage. Then put a note on your calendar so you don’t forget to replant them in the fall!

Staking Dahlias – For a bushier plant, pinch out the center shoot after three or four sets of leaves develop. Although dahlias grow upright and may look like they don’t need support, they do. Learn more.

Controlling Red Lily Leaf Beetle – The earlier you find and destroy these pests – which are currently expanding beyond New England and into Michigan – the better. Learn more.

Jun
13
2022

Hurray for Pollinators!!

German Garlic
Mammoth Yellow crocus
Garden Party tulip

National Pollinator Week is June 20-26 this year and we’re hoping gardeners everywhere will join the celebration. It’s a time to spread awareness about how important pollinators are and how we can support their populations, many of which are declining due to habitat loss and pesticide use. As the organization Pollinator Partnership says, “Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce:” You can look for local events like walks, webinars, plantings and parades on their website’s map https://www.pollinator.org/pollinator-week. As gardeners, we can help by growing pollinator-friendly plants to provide a long season of bloom and habitat. In our Northern climate, honeybees need nectar and pollen earlier than many of our native trees and flowers bloom, so bulbs that bloom in early spring help support them then. Our bee-keeping friend and customer Eileen Dickinson says that “winter aconite and crocus are really important early bulbs. I see bees all the time in the Scilla siberica, bringing blue pollen into the hive. Grape hyacinths are good. And of course summer-blooming German garlic.” We’ve also found that ‘Atom’ glads are great for hummingbirds and bees love single and collarette dahlias. For specific suggestions to support your local pollinators you can find regional plant lists from the Xerces Society https://xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/pollinator-friendly-plant-lists and the Pollinator Partnership https://www.pollinator.org/guides.

Jun
13
2022

A Novel Mulch for Peonies at Hedgerow Farm

Our long-time customer and friend Lisa Douglas reports that on her historic farm in Georgia not only do they fertilize their bulbs only with sheep manure from their flock of Jacob sheep, they used fleece for the first time this year as a mulch to suppress weeds in one of their peony beds. She sent us this lovely photo of both the “glorious” peonies this spring and “our Tennesse Walker, 18 years old, who hopes for a handful of orchard clovers, and we oblige him, lovely horse.”

Jun
13
2022

Order Iris and Daylilies Now for July Planting!

We're kicking off summer by offering July-shipped iris and for the first time this year we're including daylilies! We've expanded both our iris and daylily sections to include an additional 14 varieties not offered this spring. If spring comes too late to plant iris in April or we sold out of your favorite variety this spring, this is your chance to add them to your garden. We’ll be accepting orders through July 15th and shipping July 11th-29th. The rhizomes will be fresh-dug and eager to go into the ground.

May
3
2022

The Historical Iris Preservation Society and Other Resources for Gardeners

Some of you with iris on your spring orders may have seen a postcard from HIPS attached to your packing list this year. Since we never share our customers’ personal information, this was a way we could help our friends there reach out to fellow enthusiasts as well as letting you know a little about their worthy organization. They are actively engaged in efforts to preserve historic iris and have a network of members who grow and share wonderful and rare varieties. They also try to identify mystery irises, though as they point out, many beautiful ones were results of home or small-scale breeding efforts and don’t have recorded names. Explore their range of resources here: https://historiciris.org/

And in case iris and peonies aren’t your passion, here are some of the other non-profit associations we recommend that provide a wealth of information for gardeners at all levels of experience:

The American Horticultural Society

The Colorado Dahlia Society (known across the country for their Big List of varieties and sources)

The North American Gladiolus Council

The North American Lily Society

The American Daffodil Society

May
3
2022

The American Peony Society is Coming to Our Hometown!

It’s the 100th anniversary of the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden in Ann Arbor, begun with the gift of a diverse collection of peonies from Dr. W. E. Upjohn, peony-lover, 1875 graduate of the University of Michigan, and founder of the pharmaceutical company that bears his name. The Garden now proudly holds North America’s largest public collection of heirloom herbaceous peonies, currently consisting of 350 historic varieties from the nineteenth to the first half of the twentieth century, including many of the original plants donated from 1922-1927. The American Peony Society was formed in nearby Detroit in 1903, so it seems fitting that they’re returning to their Michigan roots for their annual convention this year, to be held in Ann Arbor June 2-5. This article https://michigantoday.umich.edu/galleries/pretty-in-pink/ from the Michigan Daily provides lovely photos as well as more information about the history of the Gardens, and you can find out more about the American Peony Society’s convention at https://americanpeonysociety.org/100-years-in-bloom-michigan-convention/.

May
3
2022

A Note of Caution for Northern Dahlia Lovers: Don’t Plant Outside Too Soon!

We sympathize: your OHG box has arrived, it’s one of the first warm days of spring, and you are eager to get your new tubers into the ground and growing! Check the soil temperature and weather forecast before acting on that impulse, however. If the soil is too cool, or if spring rains are in the forecast, your tubers may rot before they put down roots. It’s best to wait until your local frost free date or until soil temperatures reach 60°F. Our soil temperature here in Ann Arbor is only 48F, still too early to plant, even though the 10-day forecast shows temperatures well above freezing. If you’re in a short-season area, you can try starting in pots indoors for a head start, but we find in zone 6 that our dahlias are just fine planted after May 15.

We were happy to see that the 2022 edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac gives the same advice, and it was lovely to read this quote leading off the article: “As Scott Kunst, former proprietor of Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan once observed: ‘Dahlias get more and more charged up. They’re like fireworks - they can animate and transform the garden.’” Here’s wishing you a glorious display in late summer!

May
3
2022

Time is Running Out – and So Are the Bulbs! Order Now and SAVE 25%!

It’s not TOO late, 33 of our spring-shipped treasures are still available. See our Bulbs on Sale page for 25% off remaining varieties. How can you resist? Order your own box-load of summer excitement now!