Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  Living Treasure from the Past


May 2019

May
22
2019

What’s That Iris? Get ID Help from Experts Online

Like many gardeners, you may have some beloved plants in your garden that have lost their names. Calling them “Great-Grandma’s rose” or “that daffodil we found in the woods” doesn’t make them any less wonderful, but sometimes you may wish you knew their real name.

If it’s an iris you’re wondering about, you can now ask the Historic Iris Preservation Society about it. On the HIPS homepage, you’ll find a green box that says “Need help with iris ID? Click here.” Do that and you’ll be taken to their ID Central.

Don’t be daunted by the long introduction and instructions for filling out the application. All you need to know is that it’s hard to identify nameless iris – roughly 70,000 have been introduced, many look a lot alike, and colors often vary depending on climate and soils – and that “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer to any of the questions.

Do read the “Photo Request” section which explains how and when to take the three required close-ups of your nameless iris. Then enter its height, bloom size, fragrance, and so on, upload your photos, and send it.

If you’d prefer, you can mail in your application and photos. Either way, you’ll get a response from the HIPS experts, and – although identifying an iris is always a longshot – there’s at least a chance that your nameless iris will no longer be nameless.

Good luck!

Read May’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

May
15
2019

Get Outside and Celebrate Preservation Month!

May is Preservation Month and a wonderful time to explore historic gardens and landscapes near you.

If you don’t know where those are, The Cultural Landscape Foundation can help. “Cultural landscapes” are historic places ranging from gardens and parks to farmland and ethnographic landscapes. Enter your zip code at tclf.org/advanced-search and you’ll get a list of some of the most important ones within 100 miles of your home.

Another great resource is the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Though traditionally focused on buildings, the Trust has a new motto, “This Place Matters,” and a broadened vision that includes landscapes. For 45 landscape-related articles from its excellent Preservation magazine – including ones about Brooklyn’s 175-year-old Green-Wood Cemetery, historic orchards in California, and “What Type of Historic Landscape Fits You?” – check out “Landscape Stories.”

Of course you could also just go for a walk in any old neighborhood and look for how the plants, constructed features, and the way things are arranged outdoors differ from what you see in newer neighborhoods. The past is out there, all around us – and Preservation Month is a great time to enjoy it!

Read May’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

May
1
2019

Natives Not Required,
Expert Says – “Just Grow Plants”

As I watched the bees feeding frenziedly on my winter aconites and Crocus tommasinianus this spring – long before any native plants were in bloom – I was reminded of the advice of an eminent British ecologist.

Ken Thompson, who was profiled in Gardens Illustrated last November, has spent most of his long career studying the relationship between gardens and wildlife. He says his work was inspired by Jennifer Owen who, in the course of 30 years spent cataloguing the wildlife in “her ordinary, neat, suburban garden,” found 2,673 species including several which were new to science. As Thompson notes, Owen’s work “showed that you don’t have to create a pretend version of a natural habitat in order to attract wildlife.”

“Gardens aren’t like any natural habitat and because of that people think they are inferior, but they’re not,” he says. “They’re just another kind of habitat. Yes, have a pond if you can, do without chemicals, and leave some piles of dead wood around, but hedges, flowers, and plants all create places to feed and places to rest, and that is all that wildlife needs.”

“My best advice for anyone concerned about wildlife is this,” he says in conclusion – “just grow plants. Creatures eat plants, or the nectar created by plants, and everything else eats the creatures. As long as you are growing plants, you are doing all right.”

So even though native plants are awesome, there’s no need to feel guilty about growing plants that aren’t – and the bees in my garden clearly agree with Thompson on this.