Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  Living Treasure from the Past


July 2018

Jul
26
2018

‘Nonette’ is “So Unique You’ll Stop and Stare”

Garden writer Stephanie Cohen – who’s been called “one of the most influential women in horticulture” – gives our ‘Nonette’ a shout-out in the August 2018 issue of Fine Gardening.

Calling it “A Dahlia to Die For,” Stephanie writes that ‘Nonette’ has “bright apricot flowers that are speckled with burgundy,” and “even those who consider themselves dahlia connoisseurs find this particular blossom so unique they will stop and stare.”

“As with many bicolor dahlias,” she continues, “the red stippling is highly irregular: one flower may have a lot of mottling, while another may appear to be just solid apricot. But the surprise is half the fun!” ‘Nonette’ also produces lots of flowers, “giving you plenty for the garden and the vase.”

Although it sells out every year, ‘Nonette’ is available now for delivery next spring. For plenty of flowers that will make you stop and stare, order now!

Jul
24
2018

Too Hot? Too Dry? This May Help

If you’re enjoying a cool rainy summer, lucky for you!

Unfortunately much of the country is once again suffering through high heat and low rainfall. (When even the weeds are wilting, as in the photo here from my neighbor’s yard, you know it’s bad!)

It’s a topic we’ve addressed frequently in recent years, so rather than write a whole new article about it, here are some links to our Weather and Hardiness archives that we hope you’ll find useful – and maybe even a little bit “cooling.”

“Hot, Dry Summer: Is it Bad for Bulbs or Good?” (Aug. 2016),

“Learning from California: Gardening with 28% Less Water” (Oct. 2015),

“Hot Summer = Dahlia Hell” (Aug. 2012),

“Got Drought? Bulbs Are Built for It” (Aug. 2011),

“High Heat Stresses Your Bulbs, Too” (Aug. 2010).

Jul
18
2018

“Easy, Inexpensive, and Intoxicating” Regal Lily

“There are few plants as rewarding and foolproof” as bulbs, Dan Cooper wrote recently at his Frustrated Gardener blog. Most are “bold, colorful, long-flowering, and best of all inexpensive, giving gardeners plenty of bang for their buck. In short, they are one of the plant world’s best investments.”

Regal lilies are one of Dan’s favorite summer-flowering bulbs.

“Here’s a bulb with class, elegance and history,” he writes. “No wonder it was named Lilium regale, the regal lily. It was introduced to England from China in 1903 by Ernest Henry Wilson and quickly became a favorite of Gertrude Jekyll, who used it prolifically in her garden designs at a time when it would have been quite a novelty.

“Jekyll would frequently plant large clumps of Lilium regale in strategic spots, creating height and drama at pivotal points in her schemes. In addition to stature, the lilies also contributed intoxicating scent and blushing white flowers that stood out well against dark foliage. . . .”

“There is no flower so exquisite as Lilium regale at dusk on a warm June evening, glowing in the gloaming and sharing its intoxicating perfume,” Dan writes in closing. “Plant plenty, and then plant some more.

We couldn’t agree with him more! To enjoy these intoxicating beauties in your own garden, order now for delivery at planting time this fall.

Jul
13
2018

Our Immigrant Gardens

from Asia

With the national debate on immigration raging, and Independence Day just past, we’ve been thinking a lot lately about the plants in our gardens that have come from other countries.

From tulips and peonies to dahlias and iris, our gardens are filled with immigrants. And although it’s possible to have a garden of only native plants, and some immigrant plants have turned out to be thugs, I think gardeners of all persuasions would agree that our lives have been enriched by 99% of the once-foreign flowers that have made themselves at home here.

So here’s a list of where most of the bulbs we offer came from originally. As you may notice, some are listed in more than one area because, to Nature, it’s all one world.

from Mexico

Mexico and South America – dahlias, tuberoses, rain lilies, oxblood lily.

Africa – gladiolus, freesia, crocosmia.

China, Japan, and Korea – most peonies and daylilies, tiger lily, Formosa lily, gold-band lily, red spider lily, pink surprise lily.

Asia from Turkey and Syria to Afghanistan and Mongolia – tulips, hyacinths, crocus, bearded iris, regal lily, Madonna lily, Byzantine glads, Elwes snowdrop, Turkish glory-of-the-snow, Allium sphaerocephalum, sowbread cyclamen, sternbergia, Siberian squill (which, despite its name, is not from Siberia).

from Europe

Europe – daffodils, bearded iris, crocus, martagon lilies, Madonna lily, Byzantine glads, lemon daylily, traditional snowdrops, snowflakes (Leucojum), Spanish bluebells, winter aconite, snake’s-head fritillary, Grecian windflower, Allium sphaerocephalum, sowbread cyclamen, sternbergia.

North America –trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, Dutchman’s breeches, Lilium superbum.

Jul
3
2018

Propagating Hyacinths in 1896 and Today

Daffodils, tulips, and most other bulbs multiply naturally underground by producing offsets or daughter bulbs. Roman hyacinths do, too, but – after centuries of breeding – traditional garden hyacinths multiply so slowly on their own that bulb growers long ago developed ways to speed up the process.

The techniques described below by Liberty Hyde Bailey in his 1896 Nursery Manual would have been familiar to bulb-growers a century earlier and are still standard practice in the Netherlands today.

Bailey starts by explaining that “bulbels are often produced by an injury to the bulb. Growth of stem and leaves is more or less checked and the energy is directed to the formation of minute bulbs.” It’s the bulb’s natural reaction to injury that growers take advantage of in multiplying hyacinths.

“The favorite method is to make two or three deep transverse cuts into the base of the bulb [image 1]. The strongest bulbs should be chosen, and the operation is performed in spring or early summer, when the bulb is taken up.”

In another method, “the bulbs are hollowed out from the underside for half or more of their depth [image 2]. This operation is sometimes performed later in the season than the other, and precaution should be exercised that the bulbs do not become too moist, else they will rot. . . .

“The mutilated bulbs are stored during summer, and are planted in fall or spring. The wounded bulbs produce very little foliage, but at the end of the first season the bulbels will have formed. The bulbels are then separated and planted by themselves in prepared beds.

“Several years are required for the bulbels to mature into flowering bulbs. Some of the strongest ones may produce flowering bulbs in three years, but some of them, especially those obtained from the hollowed bulbs, will not mature short of six years.”

Could you do this at home? Of course – and now’s the time for it. If you do, please share your story (and photos) with us. Good luck, and have fun!