Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  Living Treasure from the Past


Dec
22
2020

219 Dahlias from 1929: “Are They All Lost?”

We aren’t the only ones sending heirloom treasures through the mail. Sometimes our customers send them to us.

“While trolling the aisles of a local antique store,” Janine Seitz wrote us early this year, “I found this nifty old seed catalog. The cover caught my eye as I had recently sent you my first dahlia order.”

Thanks, Janine! The cover caught our eyes, too. From the late 1800s well into the 20th century, the John Lewis Childs Seed Company was one of the largest mail-order nurseries in the country, and its catalogs were richly illustrated.

Janine enclosed copies of the catalog’s ten pages of dahlias, too. “So many!” she wrote. “Are they all lost? I felt a little melancholy while reading these pages, thinking that they’ve vanished from the face of the earth. I’m fervently hoping there are old dahlias still thriving in some forgotten corner, but it made me doubly-glad to know Old House Gardens is doing what it can to save the ones we do have.”

Although 99% of the 219 dahlias offered in the catalog are now extinct – including ‘Daddy Butler’, ‘Kaleidoscope’, ‘Ivoire’, ‘Pink Madonna’, ‘Rookwood’, ‘John Wanamaker’, ‘Amun Ra’, ‘Le Grande Manitou’, ‘Geisha’, ‘Millionaire’, ‘Colossal Peace’, ‘Sequoia Gigantea’, and ‘Miss Minnie Vosburg’ – the good news is that two survive, and we offer them both.

‘Jersey’s Beauty’ – “Next to ‘Sunkiss’ [the dahlia on the cover], the most popular and biggest selling dahlia in America. This pure rose-pink beauty is a wonderful thing. Huge size (8 to 10 inches). Each $1.00, postpaid.”

‘Mrs. I. De ver Warner’ – “A deep mauve-pink. One of the very best dahlias grown. Flowers very large, averaging 8 to 10 inches across. Excellent for cut flowers, Each $.75, postpaid.”

These two rare survivors also top the list of the catalog’s 16 best-sellers of 1928 (after ‘Sunkiss’), with ‘Jersey’s Beauty’ in the number-one spot having “outsold all others listed below by a trifle better than three to one.”

Although today nobody will ever be able to grow 217 of the dahlias in Janine’s catalog, there are still two you can – by ordering them now for April delivery – and we hope you will. (Oops! ‘Jersey’s Beauty’ just sold out, but if you click the “alert” link in its description, we’ll email you as soon as we get more.)