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August 13, 2014
“Hope is one of the essential tools of a farmer or gardener.”
— Amy Stewart, The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, 2004
Our New Catalog is at the Printers!
Finally! It should be back to us and in the mail sometime next week. If everything goes right, you could have it by the last week of August, but since bulk mail typically travels slower than first-class, there’s a good chance it won’t reach you until September. If you don’t have yours by Wednesday, Sept. 10, give us a call and we’ll rush you another one by first-class mail. You don’t want to miss it!
But Why Wait? 3 Easy Ways to Shop It All Right Now
Our entire new catalog is online now, and we’re eager to serve you there 24/7.
1. For a quick list of everything that’s NEW (or back from a break), go to oldhousegardens.com/NewBulbs .
2. To start with our fall-planted bulbs, go to oldhousegardens.com/FallPlantedBulbs .
3. To search by color, zone, animal-resistance, fragrance, bloom-time, or ten other criteria, go to oldhousegardens.com/search/ .
Many More Treasures Added Since Last Month
Since last month’s newsletter, we’ve added so many more bulbs online that we’ve lost count. You’ll find most of them at oldhousegardens.com/NewBulbs, but here are a few highlights to tempt you:
Manitoba-bred, martagon-like ‘Guinea Gold’ lily’,
the finest of the past 125 years, ‘Magnet’ snowdrop,
flame-like ‘temple of Beauty’ tulip,
charming little Victorian ‘W.P. Milner’ daffodil,
chocolate-leaved ‘David Howard’ dahlia, and
violet and deep claret ‘Monsignor’ iris.
And We’ve REDUCED Most of Our Shipping Charges
Good news! We’re saving money with the post office’s Priority Mail Regional Rate boxes, and we’re passing the savings on to you. Justin, our awesome new VP for IT, did a state-by-state analysis of all of last year’s orders, comparing what we charged and what we paid for shipping them, and as a result we’ve reduced most of our rates. Customers in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, and Wisconsin, for example, will now pay a dollar less for any order under $200, and just 5% on larger orders. Customers in 37 other states will save $.50 to $1.50 on most orders, and those in Alaska and Hawaii will save a lot more. The only rates we’ve had to increase are those for orders under $80 to Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington — sorry, friends! — and at least we managed to keep those to a dollar or less.
We hope this makes sense and seems fair. We may not be Amazon, but we don’t think anyone should pay more than it actually costs for the convenience of home delivery.
See Our New Catalog Cover — Before and After
The daffodils gracing our new cover first appeared on the Sutton and Sons bulb catalog of 1890. Founded in Reading, England, in 1806, Suttons went on to become one of the world’s largest and best-known seed companies, and it’s still flourishing today. We first saw its 1890 cover image on a Christmas card from our friend Alan Shipp of the UK National Hyacinth Collection.” I thought you’d like this,” he wrote, and we did. Months later when we still hadn’t found an image from an American catalog cover that we liked as well, we asked Suttons for permission to use it. Happily they agreed, and we’re grateful for their generosity! They emailed us a scan of the original, and Mike and I went to work on it in Photoshop. You can read what we did and see the transformation here. We hope you enjoy it.
Plant a “Small Extravagance” – “Technicolor Tulips” as Annuals
William Cullina, the highly-regarded author of three books about native plants, is one of the last people you’d expect to hear praising tulips. That’s why we were so pleased to read this recommendation he made in the January 2014 Horticulture magazine:
“After a long, gray winter the burst of Technicolor tulips in our spring gardens provides me the same sensation moviegoers must have experienced in 1939 when Dorothy spiraled down into Oz. Our annual display of tulips at the [Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens] brings throngs of winter-weary families out on warm weekends to soak up the life-giving color, and school groups have begun scheduling their annual trips around the peak display. Though it may seem excessive to some, we purchase tens of thousands of bulbs from Holland each October and plant them in soil recently vacated by frost-slain summer annuals. With a few weeks of gentle weather left, the bulbs quickly sprout a nest of white roots to anchor them against the heaving frosts. Once their blooms have been spent the following spring, we dig them up to make way for summer displays. . . . On a smaller scale at home, even a hundred bulbs can make for an attention-getting display, and . . . this small extravagance will not break the bank.”
Heck, even 10 or 25 tulips can bring a thrilling splash of color to your spring garden. You probably don’t want to try this with our rarest ones, though, so we’ve put together a list of our 19 most affordable tulips here. We hope it inspires you to plant your own little bit of Technicolor magic this fall!
Little ‘Rip van Winkle’ “Cheers the Heart”
“I’m not especially fond of double daffodils,” says philosophy professor/garden writer Allen Lacy in The Gardener’s Eye, “but I make an exception for a selected form of N.pumila plena, which is generally listed in catalogs as ‘Rip Van Winkle’. . . . The somewhat greenish yellow petals of this small charmer open to form a rounded starburst about one and one-half inches across at the base of the flower. Just one blossom in a tiny vase cheers the heart.”
Rita, our fabulous Orders Manager, is also a big fan of this little daffodil. “It’s just sooo sweet,” she says. How so, I asked her, and after thinking a minute she added, “If ‘Rip’ were a little boy, he’d be Opie.” Because it’s small and grows so well, farmers can plant more bulbs of it per acre, making it one of our most inexpensive daffodils – which is another good reason, Rita says, to try it!
Teach Us, Please: Where (and How) Do Pink Surprise Lilies Grow Best?
I was surprised to see a couple of pink surprise lilies (Lycoris squamigera) blooming here in Ann Arbor recently, and they reminded me that we wanted to ask your advice on growing them. Although we recommend them for just zones 6a-7b(8bWC), some authorities recommend them all the way from zone 5a through 9b, so . . .
1. If you garden in zone 6a or colder: Is pink surprise lily winter-hardy for you, and do you have any tips — sunlight, soil, planting depth, watering, winter protection, etc. — for getting it to multiply and bloom happily?
2. If you garden in zone 8a and warmer : Is pink surprise lily thriving for you, and do you have any tips — sunlight, soil, planting depth, watering, winter protection, etc. — for getting it to multiply and bloom happily?
One zone-5b garden where we know they’re flourishing is the spectacular Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden in downtown Des Moines. Garden manager Sandra Gerdes sent us a photo of them blooming there last year and wrote, “I love the surprise lilies, and they always generate a lot of comments from visitors, which is why I’m ordering more to add to our patch. You can also see clusters of them blooming in the older, established neighborhoods of Des Moines when you drive around in August. It is ‘surprising’ that we have success with them here in zone 5b, while you say they can be a challenge in 6a. We definitely experience the extremes of winter and summer here on the prairie! As the saying goes, ‘Plants can’t read those catalog restrictions.’”
Grow Your Own Ryan Gainey Bouquet: Tiger Lilies and Crocosmia
Ryan Gainey, the celebrated Atlanta-area garden designer, has a special affection for heirloom flowers, including many of our bulbs. A while ago he sent us photos of a bouquet he’d made in a quirky old jug with tiger lilies — the iconic pass-along plant — combined with yellow ‘George Davison’ crocosmia, antique montbretia (which is also a crocosmia), and the berried stalks of Arum italicum. See Ryan’s bouquet here, and if you like it we’d be glad to send you everything you need to recreate it at home — except, unfortunately, for the Arum and the jug. (Please note: Since tiger lilies are fall-shipped but the crocosmia are spring-shipped, you’ll have to place two separate orders for them.)
Our Old House and Barn in Excellent New Book
The new Historic Ann Arbor: An Architectural Guide includes histories of some 375 structures, ranging from cobblestone farmhouses to U of M’s iconic football stadium — and there in the middle of it all is our old house. “This wonderful example of the Queen Anne style was built in 1889 by Louis and Lydia Betz,” the write-up begins, and it goes on to note our “double front gables with sunburst designs” and “the wonderful Arts and Crafts-style stone porch” added in the early 1900s. “The home has been lovingly maintained,” the final paragraph reads, “by Scott Kunst and Jane Raymond, who run the internationally famous Old House Gardens from here. . . . Their adaptive reuse of the barn as a business space received an award from the Historic District Commission in 2011.”
Thanks to authors Susan Weinberg and Patrick McCauley for this fascinating and thoroughly researched book that helps us look beyond the outer beauty of so many of Ann Arbor’s historic buildings to see the people and events that shaped them. I’ve been using it to plot new walks with Toby, and we’re both having a lot of fun. For your own copy, visit nicolasbooks.com/book/9780991346608.
No More Faxes
We’re sorry for any inconvenience it causes, but we recently cancelled our fax line. The number of orders we receive by fax had dropped to roughly one per month, so when a power surge (or aliens) blew out the fax modem in our copier, we reconsidered the $50/month we were paying AT&T for that line and decided it was time to do without this once essential technology.
Savor the Waning Days of Summer with Us on Facebook
Another 200 gardeners “liked” us at Facebook during the past month, bringing our happy circle of green-thumbed friends there to 8415. Thank you, all! If you haven’t yet, we hope you’ll come take a look at what’s blooming here (it’s dahlia season!) and join us in savoring the last days of another shimmering summer.
Did You Miss Our July Newsletter? Read It Online!
July’s articles included top 12 alliums, Elizabeth Lawrence on the old white trumpet daffodils, Russell’s mad love for ‘Madame Sophie’, the return of Garden Design, an “eco-tip” for bouquets, and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at oldhousegardens.com/NewsletterArchives.
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