Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  Living Treasure from the Past


June 2020

Jun
17
2020

New Stamps Feature
(Mostly Historic) American Gardens

I collected stamps all through grade school, and I still think they’re cool. Of course that means I’m a nerd, but I’m pretty sure that even gardeners who aren’t nerds will like the new American Gardens stamps.

The set of 20 forever stamps features ten magnificent gardens from across the country, most of which have a long history.

Eight are former estates that are now public gardens – Maclay Gardens (Florida), Biltmore, Dumbarton Oaks, The Huntington, Stan Hywet (Ohio), and Winterthur. The others are notable botanic gardens – the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (founded in 1910), Chicago Botanic Garden, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, and Norfolk Botanical Garden.

You can see the stamps here (and learn more about the gardens) or order them here.

Jun
11
2020

ADS Poll: 25 “Must-Have” Daffodils

clockwise from top left: ‘Avalanche’,
‘Thalia’, N. jonquilla, ‘Geranium’

When members of the American Daffodil Society were asked to list their 25 favorite daffodils, they ended up naming a whopping 766 different varieties – and “most of the varieties were older, not the newest available,” writes our friend Janet Hickman in the March 2020 Daffodil Journal. As one member explained, “If I can only have a few daffodils, I want them to be reliable growers.”

Many of the top-25 lists “came with charming annotations,” Janet adds, such as “‘my first blue ribbon,’ ‘named for my friend,’ ‘given to me by my grandmother,’” and so on, “demonstrating the way daffodils embody our memories and stories.”

At the top of the combined list was ‘Rapture’, an early-blooming cyclamineus daffodil introduced in 1976. Although that’s a little too recent for our catalog, thirteen of the Top-25 varieties date to 1958 or before: ‘Sweetness’ (#2, 1939), ‘Tahiti’ (#4/5 tie, 1956), ‘Tete-a-Tete’ (#4/5, 1949), ‘Actaea’ (#6/8, 1919), ‘Hawera’ (#6/8, 1928), ‘Thalia’ (#9/11, 1916), ‘Barrett Browning’ (#12, 1945), ‘Ceylon’ (#14/15, 1943), ‘Geranium’ (#16/19, 1930), ‘Salome’ (#16/19, 1958), ‘Xit’ (#16/19, 1948), ‘Avalanche’ (#20/26, 1906), N. jonquilla (#20/26, 1612).

All those we offer (except ‘Sweetness’, alas) are available now for fall delivery, and the rest are widely available elsewhere. Why not order a few now and see if they make it into your Top 25!

Jun
5
2020

Passion for Peonies: Wide-Ranging and Fascinating

I’m a huge fan of this brand-new book – and not just because I wrote a chapter for it.

Although peonies are relatively simple flowers, easy to like and grow, Passion for Peonies offers readers a complex portrait of them that includes past and present, art and science, Asia, the Midwest, hybridizers, fragrance, conservation efforts, and more. A rich array of historic and modern illustrations adds to its considerable appeal.

At the heart of the book is the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden of the University of Michigan which is both the country’s largest collection of historic peonies and a beloved local institution. A glorious two-page shot of the Garden in full bloom, overflowing with visitors, opens the book, and a short history of its nearly 100 years follows.

From there the book ranges widely. There are chapters on Midwestern breeders such as the ground-breaking Silvia Saunders, and Midwestern peony gardens old and new such as the vast, butterfly-shaped garden of Henry Ford’s wife Clara. There are excerpts from several historic works about peonies, a history of peonies in early American gardens by Monticello’s Peggy Cornett, and fascinating chapters about fragrant peonies, modern hybridizing, peonies in Asian art, and even investigations into the genomic diversity of garden peonies.

My chapter explores why historic flowers are worth saving and what’s being done today to preserve them. “Be sure to include information about Old House Gardens’ work,” editor Bob Grese told me, so I did.

Bob and his co-editor David Michener deserve a ton of credit for envisioning this book, writing several of the most interesting chapters, and bringing the whole thing to fruition. I don’t know how you guys did it, but bravo!

You can order the book here, and browse our heirloom peonies here (including newly added ‘Frances Willard’, ‘Philomele’, and – one of my all-time favorites – ‘Madame Ducel’).