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June 13, 2014
“Gardening is a mirror of the heart. Gardening is a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow. Gardening is an exercise in optimism. Gardening is not a rational act.”
— Margaret Atwood, Canadian novelist, poet, and environmental activist, 1939-
Let the Ordering Begin: 5 New Peonies, Our “Check Back in June” Rarities, and More!
Although a few more are still to come, most of our treasures for fall planting are now available at our website. We’re offering some great new peonies, Southern-grown Lent lily daffodil, a slew of extra-rare tulips — including beautiful brown ‘Feu Ardent’ and ‘Madras’, and for all you hockey fans, ‘Lord Stanley’— along with many other exciting heirlooms. Please come take a look . . . and don’t be afraid to order yourself a big box of garden fun!
Buzzing about Pollinators, June 16-22
The eighth-annual Pollinator Week kicks off on Monday, and we’re hoping gardeners everywhere will join the celebration. As Hunter Stanford writes in the current issue of American Gardener, “Pollinator Week is an opportunity to celebrate pollinators and promote awareness of the important role birds, bees, butterflies, bats, and many other pollinators play in our food supply and maintaining healthy and diverse ecosystems worldwide.” Pollinators account for one out of every three bites of food we eat, and the populations of many of them have declined drastically over the past decade, so one of this year’s goals for Pollinator Week is “teaching people about the causes of pollinator decline and how they can help.”
One way to help is to garden with pollinator-friendly plants, so I asked our bee-keeping neighbor Eileen Dickinson what bulbs she’d recommend. “Winter aconite and crocus are really important early bulbs,” she emailed me. “I see bees all the time in the Scilla siberica, bringing blue pollen into the hive. Grape hyacinths are good. And of course German garlic.” Eileen also pointed me to the website of Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary where I found a great page about bee-forage plants which includes “all spring bulbs” on its short list for gardeners with limited space. For a more specific list of bee-friendly bulbs, see the recommendations posted at our Facebook page by our good customer and avid bee-keeper Ron Geer. Thanks Eileen and Ron, and Go Pollinators!
What’s That Iris? See 100s of Photos and More at Revamped HistoricIris.org
The already excellent website of the Historic Iris Preservation Society (HIPS) just got better — and a new address, www.HistoricIris.org — thanks to an ongoing upgrade by webmaster Christine Woodward. Although I miss the charming look of the old site (by Mike Unser, a major hero of historic iris), the revised site offers a lot more information. My favorite section is still the Gallery of photos with descriptions from old catalogs, and now you can sort it by era (choose “pre-1900,” for example, and you’ll get a list of 49 names) or use the “Comparison Display” feature to look at two similarly colored iris side by side. In the Resources section there are almost 60 reprinted articles dating from as far back as 1887, and don’t miss the former HIPS e-zine, Flags. The annual Rhizome Sale fund-raiser is online now, too, and if you move fast you can order from a list of over 300 heirloom varieties (including some that we donated) for just $6.50 each. There’s a lot more to explore and enjoy at the HIPS site, and if you like what you see there I hope you’ll consider joining HIPS. It’s a terrific organization doing important work to preserve our garden heritage.
Furniture on the Outlawn: A Father’s Day Chuckle
Just in time for Father’s Day, here’s a funny little hellstrip/boulevard story from our good customer Cathy Egerer of Grand Marais, Michigan:
“I had fun reading your article on what people call the strip between the sidewalk and street. We always called it the ‘outlawn’ when I was a kid, but I cracked up when I saw that another name for it is ‘furniture zone’. [In urban settings, this term is used to differentiate the space for outdoor seating, etc., from the pedestrian zone.] You have no idea how apt that is! Our house was on a busy street, and whenever we had some old, large piece of stuff to get rid of (chair, barbecue grill, junky old dresser), Dad would haul it to the outlawn and put a ‘Free!’ sign on it. Then we’d take bets on how long it would take for someone to stop and pick it up. The record was about 15 minutes until last year, when my brother and I were cleaning out the house after Mom passed away. We put an old, beat-up desk out at the curb with a sign, and it was gone in eight minutes. We high-fived and decided it was Dad letting us know he was thinking of us.”
AHS Seeks Photos of Heirloom Daylilies: Can You Help?
“A treasure hunt is on,” writes Debbie Monbeck in the spring issue of The Daylily Journal. “The hunt is for missing photos of historic cultivars to post with their descriptions” in the Daylily Database at the American Hemerocallis Society website. “Of the nearly 1,200 cultivars registered prior to 1965, only a handful have a photo” there, and Debbie, who chairs the Historic Daylilies Subcommittee, wants to change that. “Your help is needed,” she writes, “before it is too late, and the photos are gone. . . . The photos are crucial to help identify some of these older gems, and to preserve the knowledge base for generations to come.”
We’ve answered the call, and we hope you will, too. Of the 62 daylilies we’re growing, all of which date to the 1950s or before, the Daylily Database lacks photos for almost half of them. We’re currently putting together our best photos of those varieties for Debbie who will then have them vetted by a group of AHS experts before they’re posted online. 1980 is the surprisingly recent cut-off date for this project, so if you’re growing any daylilies introduced before then, why not take a minute and type their names into the Daylily Database. If any of them don’t have a photo, Debbie would love to hear from you at email@example.com.
A Squirrel-Proof Tulip???
As any chipmunk or deer will tell you, tulips are one of the tastiest bulbs. That’s why we were surprised to get this email from our good customer Jane Baldwin (who you may remember from “Jane’s Easy Daffodil Baskets” at our Bulbs in Pots page):
“I had a quite a bit of loss with the bulbs I grew in pots this year. The extreme cold made it very difficult to keep them from deep-freezing, even in my garage, and I lost several pots that I had not protected well enough. So this spring I had just a few blooming on my patio, and then there were all these hungry red squirrels constantly rummaging in them. A curious thing happened, though, with the pot of ‘Prinses Irene’ tulip — no damage during the month or so it was on the patio. It was the only pot that wasn’t’ disturbed by the critters! I remember the basket I had them in last year was never touched either. I think I may be on to something, so I am going to give it a try again this fall. I may just have found a squirrel-proof tulip, at least in pots on the patio. Have you ever heard of anything like this before?”
No, Jane, we haven’t — but maybe one of our newsletter readers has? Although it’s probably nothing more than a happy coincidence, we’re definitely keeping our fingers crossed.
Stay in Touch with Us this Summer on Facebook
Over 200 more gardeners “liked” our Facebook page in the past month, bringing our friendly group of heirloom plant-lovers there to 7932. Thank you, all! Recent posts have included shots of the UM peony garden in full bloom, Mount Vernon’s first Garden Symposium, and iris, daylilies, and a half-dozen” brown” tulips from our micro-farms. If you haven’t yet, we hope you’ll come take a look and join us for weekly news, tips, beautiful flowers, and more.
Did You Miss Our Last Newsletter? Read It Online!
May’s articles included kind words from Country Gardens’ editor, 41 ways to say “curb lawn,” eternal spring in Alabama, ‘Atom’ helps heal glad “trauma,” and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at oldhousegardens.com/NewsletterArchives.
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