Tulips in July? Of Course!

clockwise from top left: ‘Generaal de Wet’,
‘Couleur Cardinal’, ‘Prinses Irene’, and ‘Rococo’

With the heat driving us in from the garden too soon these days, and even the weeds starting to look parched, dreaming of spring can be as refreshing as an ice-cold lemonade – or gin-and-tonic, if you prefer.

To get you started, here’s an excerpt from “Spring’s Brilliant Promise” by Katherine Swift in the April/May 2020 edition of The English Garden.

“Winter, with its absence of color, makes me long for tulips: their clean outlines, each one a pop of color in the still-bare garden. For what other flower has such a wide range of colors?

“Whites from snow to clotted cream; yellows from primrose to egg-yolk; pinks and purples; reds from pillar-box to the color of dried blood; flaming orange and bronze; even the greens of viridiflora tulips. And in every combination from flamboyant bi- and tri-colored parrot tulips to the subtle layering in a simple early tulip like ‘Generaal de Wet’, glowing marigold-yellow and netted with mandarin-orange – my favorite early tulip, and scented, too.

“Then there are . . . families of related tulips, where color combinations are like different tenses of the same verb: ‘Couleur Cardinal’, whose crimson petals are shaded with rich plum, and ‘Prinses Irene’, a sport of ‘Couleur Cardinal’, whose orange petals are flamed dusky purple. The parrot tulip ‘Rococo’ belongs here too, another sport of ‘Couleur Cardinal’, with velvet petals flushed purple and splashed with green.

“But combining different colored tulips is an art in itself. You must consider not only colors but timings. . . . One year a trick of the weather meant ‘Couleur Cardinal’ and ‘Generaal de Wet’ flowered at the same time. I have been trying to replicate the electrifying effect ever since. . . .

“Don’t use them as bedding, en masse, underplanted with contrasting groundcover. They should not be treated as wallpaper for they are flowers that deserve to be looked at individually, close-up. A feast for the eyes after the famine of winter.”

For even more cooling refreshment, why not order a few tulips now for delivery this fall – when July’s heat, we hope, will be nothing more than a memory.


What’s That Weed?
(And That One? And That One?!?)

The longer I garden, the more impressed I am with weeds. They sure have figured out a lot of ways to travel around, to outsmart anyone who tries to get rid of them, and to spread their progeny far and wide.

That’s one reason I’ve been trying to get to know my weeds better this year. The more pressing reason, though, is that last year I grew some self-sowing flowers that were new to me (two favorites: green Nicotiana langsdorfii and towering kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate) and this spring when I started weeding I realized I wasn’t always sure which sprouts were weeds and which were volunteers from my new self-sowers.

Searching online I found a booklet titled Common Weed Seedlings of the North Central States with photos and descriptions of over 50 of them. Eureka! Even if you live somewhere else, there’s a good chance you’ll find this guide helpful since weeds tend to be highly adaptable and widespread. You can buy a print copy here or view the entire booklet online here.

Another site I’ve been turning to frequently is the New Jersey Weed Gallery – even though New Jersey is 600 miles away. The main page looks like a wall of “wanted” posters, and it’s easy to scroll down it till you find what you’re looking for – or get sidetracked by something else you recognize. The names are entertaining, too: smartweed (aren’t they all?), shepherd’s purse, mouse-eared chickweed, and two that seem made for a romance novel – redstem filaree (pictured here) and hairy galinsoga.

For these and other weed-identification resources – including the 174-weed University of California Weed Photo Gallery and the 656-page Weeds of North America – see Margaret Roach’s “What Weed is It? Putting Names to Pesky Plants” at her endlessly helpful blog, A Way to Garden.

And happy weeding!


Gorgeous Reading:
Everything for the Garden

This is a weird book – but I like it! And you might, too, especially if you enjoy the antique illustrations in our print catalogs.

That’s because Everything for the Garden is essentially a picture book for adults who like gardens and history. Although it includes five essays by noted scholars, none is longer than three pages, and together with the preface, index, and so on, only 27 of its 145 pages are filled with text. The rest are packed with a dizzying abundance of glorious, full-color, antique images drawn from books, magazines, catalogs, and other ephemera in the collections of Historic New England.

The book’s title was once the tagline on the catalogs of mail-order nurseryman Peter Henderson, so it’s only fitting that the book’s longest chapter is devoted to catalogs. In it you’ll find sumptuous images of flowers, fruit, and vegetables (one shows a huge potato being hauled home from “the Insect Fair” on a wagon drawn by ladybugs), as well as hand tools, lawn mowers, hoses (America’s first hose-making machine, I learned, came from England in 1865), and garden furniture. Substantial captions provide context throughout the book, including one at the end of this chapter that notes that heirloom varieties “now have great appeal.”

The book’s four other chapters cover garden books and magazines; garden structures and furnishings such as pergolas, fountains, birdhouses, and flower pots; portraits of older gardens, including five that survive today under the care of Historic New England; and “Social Revolution and the Garden Club.” In all of them the illustrations are gorgeous, diverse, and fascinating.

Although it’s not a traditional “beach read,” Everything for the Garden does offer a summery, entertaining escape into another world – even if you don’t read a single word of it.