Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  Living Treasure from the Past


March 2020

Feb
26
2020

UK Blogger Praises “Bold, Bee-Friendly” ‘Bishop’

There sure are a lot of people who like ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlia, including British blogger Dan Cooper of FrustratedGardener.com.

“With its dark, bronzed foliage and scarlet flowers,” Cooper writes, ‘Bishop’ “needs little introduction. It was thanks to Christopher Lloyd and his extensive use of ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ that dahlias found their way back into gardeners’ affections again. There are now lots of other ‘Bishops’ and a seed strain called ‘Bishop’s Children’” – all recent introductions – “but none surpass ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ in popularity.

“It was bred and introduced by Fred Treseder, a Cardiff [Wales] nurseryman and named to honor Joshua Pritchard Hughes, Bishop of Llandaff, in 1924. [It] earned an RHS Award of Garden Merit by 1928 and continues to be one of the most popular dahlias in cultivation today.

“Despite its bold looks, this vigorous, healthy, bee-friendly plant combines well with other perennials in a mixed border. Along with Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ is an essential ingredient in any ‘hot’ or exotic planting scheme.”

Two other dark-leaved, heirloom dahlias you might like to try are ‘Fascination’ and ‘David Howard’, and for open-center, bee-friendly dahlias don’t miss ‘Fascination’, ‘Bonne Esperance’, and ‘G.F. Hemerik’, as well as ‘Clair de Lune’ and ‘Fashion Monger’ which, alas, are already sold out for this spring – but you can click the link in their descriptions to be notified the moment they’re available again.

‘Fascination’
‘David Howard’
‘Bonne Esperance’
Feb
20
2020

Fragrant and LONG-Loved:
Tuberoses from 1530 to 1893

double ‘Pearl’, 1870

“Everyone who has a garden, or a taste for flowers, knows the tuberose,” wrote C.L. Allen in his 1893 Bulbs and Tuberous-Rooted Plants.

“Its history, however, may not be known,” he continued. “The earliest account we have of [it] is in L’Ecluse’s History of Plants, from which we learn it was brought from the Indies by Father Theophilus Minuti, a Christian missionary, about the year 1530….”

“In Parkinson’s quaint old book, The Garden of Pleasant Flowers, published in 1629, we find the following description of it ...: ‘Hyacinthus Indicus major tuberosa radice, the greater Indian knobbed hyacinth.... The tops of the stalks are garnished with many fair, large, white flowers ... composed of six leaves [petals] lying spread open as the flowers of the white daffodil ... and of a very sweet scent, or rather strong and heady.’

“The double flowering variety was a seedling raised by Mons. Le Cour, of Leyden, in Holland, who for many years would not, under any circumstances, part with a root of it … in order to be the only possessor of so valuable a plant and which he considered the finest flower in the world.”

Other than that, Allen says, the tuberose has changed little and “the only change worthy a varietal name was a ‘sport’ discovered by John Henderson, of Flushing, N.Y., growing in his field, about 1870.” This was a double “of dwarf habit, and much larger flowers [which] he at once named the ‘Pearl’.”

Perhaps surprisingly, although “the cultivation of the tuberose bulb was for many years confined principally to the Italian nurseries, for the past twenty-five years they have been largely grown in the United States,” Allen says, and “the markets of the world are largely supplied with American-grown bulbs.” (Today a handful of American farmers still grow tuberoses. Our ‘Mexican Single’ bulbs, for example, come to us from an Illinois family farm where they've been grown for almost a century now.)

“For field culture, prepare the ground as if for a crop of potatoes,” he advises, and plant the bulbs “just below the soil surface; if covered too deep they are not as likely to flower.”

In greenhouses, “tuberoses can be had in bloom, with a little care, nearly the whole year,” but Allen cautions against “the too common practice of filling up every vacant place in the greenhouse with tuberoses” – an indication, I suspect, of their great popularity.

As for the home gardener, he explains that “the tuberose is a gross feeder, and succeeds best in a light loam, but will grow in any soil, providing it is moist and rich. Rich it must be, without regard to other conditions. Its complete requisites are heat, water, and manure. If these are proportionate, it matters not how much there may be, the plants will consume it, and by their growth show its importance.”

Today tuberoses are still as blissfully fragrant and easy to grow as they’ve ever been – and you can order our big, sure-to-bloom bulbs now for delivery in April.

Feb
13
2020

Just in Time for Valentine’s Day:
A Wildflower Love Charm

Dutchman’s breeches is a delightful little North American wildflower – and maybe something more.

In an article titled “Menominee Love Charms” posted at the website of Macalaster College’s Ordway Field Station in Minnesota, Michaela Koller writes, “The main plant [the Menominee used for love charms] is Dicentra cucullaria, more commonly known as Dutchman’s breeches. The Menominee called this plant ‘a’nimau kapotise’sa’ which is translated into: ‘the one that looks like little pants, with his hands in his pockets’” – which is remarkably like the English name for it.

“The Menominee believed that Dutchman’s breeches could be used in two ways by a man to attain the love of his desire,” Koller continues. “The first way was … by throwing a piece of the plant at her. The second way … was by chewing a piece of this plant, so that the scent would be released…. In order to insure the girl smelled this plant, the man would circle around her, until she would ‘follow him wherever he goes.’”

Learn more here or just order your own little charmers now for delivery at planting time this fall.

Feb
11
2020

Fragrant Tazettas are Top-5 Favorite
at Michigan Public Garden

In its January 2020 issue, Horticulture magazine shines a spotlight on our home-state treasure (and long-time customer), the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

Located in Grand Rapids, Meijer Gardens features scores of impressive sculptures, a vast conservatory filled with orchids and tropical birds, a recreated 1930s farmstead with heirloom plants, an English-style perennial border reinterpreted in North American natives, and a lot more.

Five of “Meijer Gardens’ Favorite Spring Plants” are also featured in the article: hellebores, ‘Jack Frost’ Siberian bugloss, ‘Arnold Promise’ witchhazel, ‘Mount Airy’ fothergilla, and – drumroll, please – tazetta narcissus.

“This daffodil group carries numerous sweet-scented flowers on each stem,” Horticulture explains, and “many tazettas are tried-and-true heirloom varieties.”

We’re proud to say we offer six heirloom tazettas and poetazes (hardier crosses of tazettas with forms of Narcissus poeticus), including iconic ‘Grand Primo’ from 1780 (which is hardy in zones 8 and warmer only) and orange-cupped ‘Geranium’ from 1930 (hardy in zones 5b and warmer). You can see them all here – and if you order now for delivery this fall, you’ll be able to enjoy their enchanting perfume in your own garden next spring!