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November 21, 2013
“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”
— May Sarton, 1912-1995, American poet, novelist, and memoirist
Happy Thanksgiving (and Thanks for a Great Fall!)
Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday. My wife Jane is an amazing cook, and she and I work together for days to prepare a feast for our family (including my mom’s cornbread and sausage stuffing). This year our rat terrier Toby will be joining us for the first time, and though he won’t get any food from the table, I know he’ll enjoy having all the extra people and dogs in the house.
In other happy news, for the first time since the economy tanked in 2008, our sales this fall were up by more than 10%. Although I’m sure some of that is due to the strengthening economy — which in itself is good news — I know most of it is because of our many wonderful friends like you. Whether you’re new to us or you’ve been a loyal customer for years, thanks for choosing our bulbs and our mission, thanks for spreading the word about us, and thanks for sharing our joy in gardening with flowers that — like old family recipes — have been enjoyed and passed down gratefully for generations.
“Winter Dreams” Sale: Save 10% on Bulbs for NEXT Fall, Starting Dec. 1
Here’s an even better deal than the winter “price freeze” we usually offer. On December 1 we’re putting our fall-planted bulbs back on sale for delivery NEXT fall at 10% less than this PAST fall’s prices! That’s right, when you order in December this year you’ll not only put yourself at the head of the line for our rarities next fall, but you’ll also pay 10% less than you would have paid for them this fall — no matter how much our prices may increase next year.
Of course you can add to your order anytime — for example when our new catalog arrives in the summer — so why not get a head start on it? Put a sticky note on your calendar or a reminder in your phone NOW, and then join us at oldhousegardens.com in December to save money and get first dibs on the fall-planted bulbs you want the most. Happy shopping!
We’re Ubuntu, Eco-Friendly, and “Top 5” for Holiday Gifts
No matter how busy the season is, our good customer Kristina always wants to give her loved ones “just the right gifts.” At UbuntuFuture.com, her website for socially-conscious, entrepreneurial women, she recently blogged about her Top 5 Favorite People and Eco-friendly Holiday Gifts — and we’re proud to say our bulbs and gift certificates made the list!
For years now, Kristina has been giving our bulbs to her grandmother Mimi who’s an avid gardener. Mimi “enjoys having ‘different’ flowers in her gardens,” and she loves that we’re “working tirelessly to preserve endangered antique flowers.” Our American-grown and bee-friendly bulbs win points from Kristina, and she calls our customer service “top notch,” but she says her favorite reason for giving our bulbs year after year is that “the flowers are just breath-taking.” And if “you’re not sure what your favorite gardener would like,” she adds, “you can always order a gift certificate.” Thanks, Kristina and Mimi, and Happy Holidays!
From Our Archives: Poetry, Weather, Animals, and Laughter
Mike and I just rearranged our Newsletter Archives a bit to make it easier for you to find what you want there. Our “Garden Tips” archive was way too long, so we split out a new “Weather and Hardiness” archive in addition to the “Animals and Other Pests” archive that we made in September. We also pulled articles out of “Other Interesting Stuff” to make a separate archive for “Bulb Poetry and Laughter.” Enjoy!
Have We Served You Well? If Yes, Please Tell Garden Watchdog. If Not, Please Tell Us!
As always, we hope you were thrilled with our bulbs and service this fall.
If not, PLEASE do us a favor and let us know so we can make things right for you (and improve!). Kathy, our super-nice VP for Customer Care, is eager to hear from you at 734-995-1486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If, on the other hand, we’ve served you well, please consider telling the world at the popular catalog-rating website GardenWatchdog.com. Although we’ve been the Watchdog’s top-rated source for Heirloom Bulbs, ALL Spring-Blooming Bulbs, and ALL Summer-Blooming Bulbs for many years, recent reviews count the most — so we always need happy customers to say good things about us there. Will you help? It’s quick, easy, and we’ll even walk you through the three simple steps at oldhousegardens.com/RateOHG. Thank you!
Adventures in Forcing: Bearded Iris
We’ve enjoyed forcing all sorts of bulbs into winter bloom, but we never even considered trying it with bearded iris until we read this suggestion from almost 100 years ago by the pioneering iris evangelist Charles S. Harrison. In his popular Manual on the Iris he writes:
“Take some strong clumps, not too large, say two or three years old. Leave the earth on them, take them up just before the ground freezes, put them in large pots and place in a cool cellar. It will not hurt them to freeze. If they do, let the frost come out gradually. Then bring them up to the light and put them in the south window and you can have flowers through February and March, and by planting white ones you can have beautiful Easter flowers. . . . Grown in the house they will be more beautiful and delicate than if grown out of doors. . . . .
“The expense will be small and the results extremely satisfactory. Sheltered from the weather they will continue longer in bloom than out of doors. Other winter flowers are expensive but these you can secure at little cost and when you get started you can get them from your own garden. It will be found that this immense family will furnish such a variety in bloom and in color they will be a constant surprise and delight.”
Will this actually work? We have to admit we’re a bit skeptical, but we just potted up a couple of iris for our unheated back room and a couple more for our basement refrigerator. (We doubt that any modern cellar is cold enough to keep iris dormant.) Watch for a report on our results here in the spring, and if you’re adventurous enough to try it yourself, please let us know how it goes for you!
Donor Gives $500,000 to Nurture Heirloom Peonies
The historic Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden at the University of Michigan received a huge boost recently when the last surviving grandchild of the original donor gave a half-million dollars to help fund its ongoing restoration. The Peony Garden was established in the 1920s when W.E. Upjohn, founder of the Upjohn pharmaceutical company, gave the university hundreds of peonies from his private collection. “We’re honored that the University has cared for the peony collection for more than 90 years,” Upjohn’s granddaughter Martha G. Parfet said in announcing her gift, “and proud to be part of the effort to preserve the collection for the future.” According to the University, Parfet’s gift “will play a key role in three long-term stewardship goals for the Peony Garden as a model for historic gardens.” Learn more at umich.edu/mbg/happening/peonygift.asp .
Bulbs in Winter: Tips for Forcing, Storing, and Protecting
Now is the best time to protect iris against borers with a simple, poison-free garden clean-up. Learn more at ksre.ksu.edu/news/story/fall_cleanup110410.aspx .
Storing tender bulbs like dahlias, glads, and tuberoses is easy — and frugal. For guidance, see the bulb-by-bulb “Winter Care” sections of our spring-planted Planting and Care page.
A Fellow Bulb Merchant on Our Street — in 1839
The past is always present, as an email from our good customer Susan Wineberg reminded us recently. “I just bought this letter from 1839 on eBay. It’s on foolscap!” she began. Although I knew foolscap was some kind of old paper, I had to look it up online to learn that it refers to a size, 8.5” x 13.5”, which was the traditional standard before the 20th century.
The letter was written by nurseryman Samuel B. Noble who in 1839 was selling plants — including many of the same bulbs we sell today — just a few blocks down the street from us here in Ann Arbor. “I have an establishment . . . in its infancy,” he writes to a fellow nurseryman in Detroit, “and my supply of fruit [trees] except apples is quite limited. My supply of hardy shrubbery and ornamental trees is also small, as well as bulbous roots.”
Noble goes on to list thirteen ornamental plants that he’s seeking for his nursery in this small Midwestern city that just fifteen years earlier had been nothing but wilderness. Seven are bulbs: 100 tulips, 100 hyacinths (once even more popular than tulips), “50 to 100 dahlias of choice varieties, double assorted” (a reflection of the already booming popularity of dahlias which were first grown in US gardens just a few decades earlier), 25 tiger lilies (also relatively new, having arrived from China in 1804), 25 anemones (probably A. coronaria), 25 ranunculus, and 25 crown imperials — but no daffodils, whose heyday was yet to come.
Completing the list of ornamentals are 120 roses, 40 scented-leaf geraniums, 25 each of three shrubs — snowballs, honeysuckle, and double flowering almond — and 10 each of horse chestnut and mountain ash trees as well as “Lonicera flexuoso” (probably the now invasive Hall’s Japanese honeysuckle).
Since he’s writing in March, Noble also asks his Detroit colleague “what time may we expect the Lake to be open” — that is, ice-free — so the dahlias and so on can be delivered with “as little delay as possible,” apparently from the extensive wholesale nurseries near Buffalo, at the far end of Lake Erie.
Noble’s nursery was the first of a series of nurseries and greenhouses that for over 100 years occupied a stretch of low-lying land just five blocks north of OHG’s world headquarters. Today most of the land is a large city park with some magnificent old native oaks and a creek that’s been partially “daylighted.” This past summer, I spent many happy hours walking our new dog Toby there, even before I knew anything about its history — which I’ve since learned includes a Native American trail still visible in 1929 and a flower-filled grade-school garden in the early 1900s.
Just outside the park’s eastern entrance, Noble’s small Greek Revival house still stands today, and as Toby and I meander through the park now I keep looking for plants that might have survived from the days of this pioneering colleague’s nursery. Although I haven’t found anything yet, we’ll keep walking and looking and enjoying — each in our own way — things we can’t actually see.
(See photos here of the park and Noble’s house today, along with an old postcard of the school garden.)
Gear Up for Winter with Us on Facebook
With the addition of 108 new “likes,” our friendly tribe of green-thumbed bulb lovers now numbers 6270. Thank you, all! This morning we posted a photo of Kelly and Josh planting the last of our bulbs in the trial garden. Please come take a look, join the conversation (or just listen in), get occasional early-bird alerts, and help spread the word about the joys of heirloom bulbs.
Did You Miss Our Last Newsletter? Read It Online!
Late October’s articles included award-winning daffodils, our bulbs help celebrate Children’s Garden centennial, a 17th-century bulb mosaic, storing dahlias underground, bulbs for partial shade, post-Katrina larkspur in bloom, and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at oldhousegardens.com/NewsletterArchives .
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