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January 8, 2014
“He who cultivates a garden and brings to perfection flowers and fruits, cultivates and advances at the same time his own nature.”
— Ezra Weston II, shipbuilder, speaking to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, 1836
Happy New Year!
We hope your 2013 was a good one, and that 2014 will be even better! Here at OHG, we had a lot to be grateful for this past year. Sales were up, the Garden Club of America honored us, nearly 4000 new fans joined us at Facebook, the Wall Street Journal dubbed us “A-list,” we launched our cool new homepage, Fine Gardening spotlighted our true Byzantine glads, and Toby the rat terrier, who was wandering in the cold last January, found a new home with Scott and Jane (see their Christmas card) and is now hard at work here at OHG keeping us all smiling.
Spring is for Planting BULBS, Too, and Now is the Time to Order!
As you enjoy all the new seed catalogs this month, don’t forget to order your BULBS for spring planting, too. Delivery starts April 1 for our fabulous:
dahlias for endless bouquets (why not try a couple in your vegetable garden?),
graceful little glads (including zone-6 hardy ‘Boone’ and ‘Carolina Primrose’),
pots of fragrant tuberoses (don’t go another summer without this pleasure!),
and our 8 easy samplers.
If you’re a returning customer (which means you’ve ordered bulbs from us ANYTIME in the past), you’ll also get a 5% “thank you” discount if you order by January 31. So don’t delay – an amazing summer is waiting for you!
Through January: Save 10% on Bulbs for This Coming FALL
Our “Winter Dreams” sale was such a hit that we’re extending it through January. Order bulbs for delivery this coming October and you’ll not only put yourself at the head of the line but you’ll also pay 10% less than LAST fall’s prices. And of course you can always add to your order later, so what’s not to like? Get first dibs and save on the fall-planted bulbs you want the most by ordering NOW!
Meet Our New Dahlia Farmers: Craig and Megan of Sun Moon Farm CSA
Ever since 1996 when we offered our first three dahlias, we’ve had the good fortune to have Nick Gitts and his family at Swan Island Dahlias growing most of our tubers for us. But a couple of years ago Nick called with some bad news. In order to devote more of their limited acreage to growing cut-flowers for the Portland farmers market where sales were booming, the Gitts would no longer be growing tubers for anyone else, including us. Needless to say, we were stunned. Happily, after talking it over Nick agreed to continue growing about a third of our treasures, and after a long search we found two other growers to entrust with the rest of them: Peter Komen in the Netherlands and Sun Moon Farm in New Hampshire.
Sun Moon Farm is a small CSA (community supported agriculture) farm run by husband and wife Craig and Megan Jensen. Although it’s only a couple of years old, the land it’s on has been continuously farmed since the late 1700s, and until recently it was home to The Meeting School, a small Quaker boarding school that made farming a cornerstone of its experiential learning. When the school closed in 2011, five young faculty members — including Craig and Megan — stayed on and eventually bought the property, closing on it just last month.
We met Craig and Megan through her mother Ann Lyzenga, a former OHG crew member who’s an avid gardener and dahlia-lover. Dahlia-growing runs in Craig’s family, too, Ann told us, and the couple were already growing a field full of dahlias to include in their weekly CSA shares. We talked, they came to visit, we hit it off, and most importantly we were convinced that they knew what they were doing and our dahlias would be in good hands at Sun Moon Farm.
Of course even the best laid plans sometimes go awry, and farming is never easy, but the first harvest of our tubers this fall was a good one, and with record cold sweeping much of the country this winter we were glad to hear that Craig and Megan had added extra insulation and a milk-house heater to the tuber-storage room in the basement of their magnificent old barn.
See some great photos and learn more about Sun Moon Farm here.
“Pack a Vertical Punch” with Unfloppable ‘Autumn Minaret’ Daylily
In the Jan.-Feb. issue of Fine Gardening, Nashville garden designer Troy Marden praises one of our most distinctive daylilies in his article “Pack a Vertical Punch.”
“Visitors to my garden always ask about ‘Autumn Minaret’ daylily,” Troy writes, “partly because of its late season of bloom in July, August, and early September [and even later further north] but mostly because of its towering height. Its foliage remains in a neat and tidy mound only 2 feet tall and wide, but its bloom stalks rise above almost everything else in the garden, standing at least 6 feet tall. Strong and sturdy, these stalks remain firmly upright and do not flop, bearing a seemingly endless succession of golden flowers for almost two months.”
Who’s That Growing in My Garden? “Singularly Fearless” Mrs. George Darwin
For the first time this spring we’re offering the elegant little iris called ‘Mrs. George Darwin’. Like its equally wonderful sister-in-law ‘Mrs. Horace Darwin’ which we offered last year, it was bred in the late 1800s by Sir Michael Foster, a Cambridge physiology professor who laid the foundations for modern iris by crossing garden forms with unusual varieties — including the first tetraploids — sent to him by missionaries and travelers.
But who was Mrs. George Darwin? Wikipedia offers a short biography along with a charming portrait of her dressed all in white, like her namesake iris. Philadelphia-born Martha du Puy — who was always known as Maud — met her husband while visiting relatives in England. George was the son of the great Charles Darwin and a noted astronomer at Cambridge where the young couple became lifelong friends with Foster.
I learned a lot more in the entertaining Period Piece: A Cambridge Childhood by Maud’s daughter Gwen Raverat. Her mother’s “casual happy-go-luckiness . . . was one of her most attractive qualities,” Raverat writes, but she was also “singularly fearless” and “always on the side of progress,” with a “sturdy American belief in independence” that made her “encourage us to do things for ourselves, unlike the well brought up English children of our class, some of whom did not know that you could make a bed yourself.” When Maud died in 1947 at the age of 88, her obituary noted her campaigning for women police officers.
Although iris aren’t mentioned in the 66-page preview of Period Piece at Google Books, there is a funny account of Maud’s first meeting with Foster, who seemed a bit tipsy. Even better, Raverat’s description of Maud’s physical appearance suggests why Foster named this particular white iris with its touches of gold and purple for her. “My mother . . . had golden-brown hair and dark blue eyes and such a lovely complexion that people often thought that she was made up.”
Crinum’s “Sticky Candy Aroma” Brings Back Memories of Grasshopper Sticks
“The sticky candy aroma of Crinum x powellii ‘Album’ makes me wistful for a youthful memory I never quite conjure up, so deep is it buried,” North Carolina garden writer Pam Baggett wrote in Horticulture a while back. “Vague images of my childhood Methodist church haunt my mind when I smell crinums, making me wonder if perhaps they grew there. But then so does the dark, cramped interior of Sessom’s Grocery, and a lime green hard candy they sold, grasshopper sticks. Did someone, a gardener herself, once manage to distill the essence of crinum, making it into candy sure to tantalize the taste buds of children? Was she hoping to make gardeners of us later, we who might strive to recapture an instant of childhood by nestling our noses deep in to the crinum’s candied heart? And most important, did she leave behind her recipe book?”
A New Beer for the New Year (with a Crocus on the Label)
Josh came to work last month with a bottle of beer in his hand. “Check this out,” he said. “There’s a crocus on the label.” Sure enough, a purple-and-white striped crocus bloomed against a stormy background on the eye-catching label for Closure, a beer from Michigan’s Greenbush Brewery. “When one door closes . . . ,” the mysterious tagline read, and “Ready to put the past behind you and reach for something new?” It all made sense when I went to the Greenbush website and learned that they use a different hop variety every time they brew Closure, which means that every batch is, in effect, a new beer. I liked the one I drank, and I’ll look forward to sampling new ones in the future. If you live in Michigan, Indiana, or Illinois, you can find Greenbush beer at these locations. Elsewhere you’re out of luck, at least for now — sorry!
Congratulations to the Garden Capital of Texas
This may be old news to our Texas readers, but we hope it’s not too late to share it with everyone else: Last year Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas, was officially named the Garden Capital of the Lone Star State. Gardening in the area started some 10,000 years ago when the Nacogdoches tribe cultivated beans, sunflowers, and tobacco there, laying the foundation for the most advanced Native American culture in Texas. The Spanish arrived in 1716, adding their traditional spices and herbs to the area’s gardens, and when Frederick Law Olmsted — father of American landscape architecture — visited in 1853 he said approvingly, “The houses along the road . . . stand in gardens, and are neatly painted — the first exterior sign of cultivation of mind since the Red River.” Today, Nacogdoches gardening is enriched by the horticultural programs and extensive gardens of Stephen F. Austin State University which is home to state’s largest collections of azaleas, bald cypress, boxwood, camellias, gardenias, hollies, hydrangeas, magnolias, and maples. Nacogdoches’ designation as the Garden Capital of Texas “makes official what we . . . have known for generations,” SFA officials said, “our gardens are an important part of what makes our city and our university so unique and appealing.”
Thanks to the 3879 New Facebook Fans Who Joined Us Last Year!
Our Facebook page boomed in 2013, with almost 4000 new fans joining us there to bring our total “likes” this morning to 6487. Thank you ALL for caring about what we’re doing and for helping us spread the word about the joys — and the importance — of heirloom bulbs. And if you haven’t yet, please come learn and share with us in this low-key but enthusiastic community of gardeners just like you.
Did You Miss Our Last Newsletter? Read It Online!
December’s articles included heirloom iris in perfumes and gin, OHG Purple named Color of the Year, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life and American Home Landscapes, tending your plants by smartphone, our new Garden Quotations archive, and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at oldhousegardens.com/NewsletterArchives .
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