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September 24, 2014
“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.”
— Janet Kilburn Phillips, author of English Cottage Gardening American Style
Fall Shipping Starts Next Wednesday
And NOW is a great time to order! Most of our American-grown bulbs are in the barn, and our big shipment from the Netherlands will arrive Friday (knock on wood). Monday and Tuesday we’ll finish counting and checking quality, and then we’ll start picking your orders. Woo-hoo!
Returning Customers: Order by Tuesday and Save!
If you’ve EVER ordered bulbs from us before, you qualify for our 5% “thank-you” discount on all bulbs. To get it, simply order for fall by midnight this coming Tuesday, Sept. 30. Online you can use the “Apply my discount” line in the basket at the END of our order form or just mention it in the “Special Requests” box and we’ll deduct it before charging your order
Six Heirlooms among “18 Stunning and Off-Beat Bulbs”
I’d been waiting for the fall issue of the reborn Garden Design magazine ever since one of my favorite writers, Jenny Andrews, interviewed me this past summer for an article about less-familiar but amazing bulbs. When it arrived last week I was happy to see that six of her “18 Stunning and Offbeat Bulbs” are heirlooms we offer: hardy Byzantine gladiolus (which Jenny says “has kept its graceful, wild look, in contrast to its frou-frou cousins”), Tulipa clusiana (a “perennial tulip” that “requires fewer chilling hours to bloom” than most), red spider lily (with “its sparklers of coral-red . . . in the golden glow of early autumn”, Formosa lily (which, alas, we can’t supply this fall due to crop failure), and two of our spring-planted glads: ‘Boone’ (“a treasured plant I’ve carried with me as I’ve moved”) and ‘Atom’ (“a small glad with giant impact”). To see them all, subscribe at gardendesign.com.
“Did you know some tulips have a fragrance?” garden writer Jean Starr asked at her blog petaltalk-jean.com. “I discovered this a few years ago when I was perusing the Old House Gardens catalog. I ordered ‘Prinses Irene’ first, [and now] it’s one of my favorites. Introduced in 1949, its flower is subtle from a distance, but up close, it’s like a Southwestern sunset. Its deep orange petals feature a bold purple freestyle streak at the center and edges that fade a bit to glowing peachy-gold.”
Last fall Jean planted orange ‘Generaal de Wet’, but she says “orange isn’t enough to describe the color of this tulip. It starts out pale – more of a peach than orange, but just as fragrant as ‘Prinses Irene’. As I went in for a sniff I was rewarded by the sight of delicate striations of shades belonging to the peach family. It’s as if a brush laden with coral, salmon, and the palest apricot were drawn in an outward motion from the center of each petal to its edge.”
Jean also planted fragrant ‘Orange Favorite’, but it was still in bud when she wrote her blog. She wrapped up by saying, “It’s rare to find flowers both beautiful and fragrant. Even half a dozen fragrant tulips planted close at hand (or nose) is well worth enjoying in April.” Take a look at all of our fragrant tulips here – and happy sniffing!
“Great Bulbs That Last”
That’s the title of an excellent article by Karen Bussolini in last September’s American Gardener. “The best surprise of the first spring in my new home in Connecticut,” Karen writes, “was a mass of shaggy, fragrant daffodils that bloomed like crazy. . . . They were growing all over the neighborhood, but I couldn’t find them in any of my books or catalogs.” It turned out they were ‘Van Sion’, from 1620, and “twenty-five years later, they’re still going strong.” Bussolini asked experts around the country to recommend other “durable bulbs” like that which “come up every spring [and] bloom with no effort on a gardener’s part,” and many of them were heirlooms:
SOUTH: Scott Ogden in the humid Gulf South notes that “wild narcissus such as N. jonquilla . . . have naturalized in roadside ditches and Lent lilies (N. pseudonarcissus) are taking over old pastures.” Scott also recommends Byzantine glads, crinums, rain lilies, oxblood lilies, and red spider lilies.
MOUNTAIN WEST: In zone-9 Tucson, Arizona, Scott Calhoun recommends T. clusiana and white rain lilies. In dry, zone-5b Fort Collins, Colorado, Lauren Springer says “only grape hyacinths and foxtail lilies survive . . . without irrigation,” but with one inch of water a month C. chrysanthus, tommies, and Byzantine glads do well, and if you double that in spring so will species tulips such as T. clusiana. “Most alliums are champs,” too, she adds.
WEST COAST: Greg Graves in zone-8a Graham, Washington, recommends ‘Thalia’ and pheasant’s-eye daffodils, tommies, snowdrops, snake’s-head fritillaries, and T. clusiana. In zone-10a Encinitas, dry-climate gardening expert Nan Sterman “relies on slim, elegant” Byzantine glads. And on zone-10b Alcatraz, our good customer Shelagh Fritz says that when the Garden Conservancy started restoring the abandoned gardens there, “as soon as the winter rains began, bulbs started popping up,” including Scilla, grape hyacinths, snowflakes, daffodils, and gladiolus.
For more, read the entire article. And then, as Bussolini recommends, “plant some new bulbs that will yield a huge payoff for many years to come.”
Toby Says: October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and You Can Help!
You don’t have to actually adopt a dog to make a difference in the lives of millions of animals who are desperate for a second chance. Petfinder, for example, has posted a list of ten other ways you can help, from “donate your Facebook status” to “pass on an understanding of the importance of pet adoption to the next generation.” And if you are thinking of getting a dog, why not take a look at the many who are looking for someone like you at Petfinder.com? As my wife Jane and I will tell you, shelter dogs can make great pets, and as Toby tells us every day, being adopted is wonderful.
Mildew on Your Peonies? Act NOW to Control It
Although peonies are rarely bothered by pests or diseases, powdery mildew has become a problem in some areas. We first wrote about it in 2012, and expert Don Hollingsworth recently offered his perspective in the APS Bulletin. Don has been growing peonies since the 1930s but he says “it was not until 2014 that I noticed the striking sight of white mildew” on a few of the hundreds of peonies at his farm in Missouri. He searched the web but found no explanation as to “why powdery mildew is only now taking hold on peonies, while it has long been known to affect other commonly grown ornamental plants.”
To control it, Don says “the first line of defense is to clean up and destroy all infected plant parts at season’s end” to prevent spores from overwintering – and earlier is better than later. Instead of waiting until late fall, cut infected plants to the ground and carefully bag and remove all foliage “before the leaves dry up, which is best accomplished well before frost.” Don also offers a recipe for a preventative spray by the Massachusetts Master Gardeners: “In a quart of water add a few drops of liquid dish soap and a teaspoon of baking soda.” That’s similar to the spray we recommended two years ago: Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of horticultural oil (or vegetable oil) in a gallon of water. Spray weekly throughout the spring, using a new mix every time and avoiding overuse to prevent a build-up of salts in the soil.
Learning from You: Pink Surprise Lilies Beyond Zones 6-7
Thanks to all of you who responded to our query about growing pink surprise lilies, Lycoris squamigera, outside of the narrow range we’d been recommending for them. You gave us lots of great feedback, and here’s the short version of what we learned.
ZONES – Many readers told us they’ve had long-term success with surprise lilies in zones 5b and 8a, and for the past couple of years we’ve been getting our bulbs from a third-generation bulb farm in 8a, so we’ve now expanded our zone recommendations to include zones 5b-8a(8bWC).
SOIL – Although well-drained soils are usually recommended for surprise lilies, several readers say theirs grow just fine in clay soil. Clay is dense, though, which makes it harder for bulbs to multiply, and it holds water longer which can cause bulbs to rot.
WATER – Many readers say they never water their surprise lilies, and that may be a good thing. Like most bulbs, they do best when they’re relatively dry during their summer dormancy. Since many of us water our gardens then, this could be one reason they’re often found surviving in lawns and “neglected” areas that get less watering – though of course they do need water when they’re not dormant, from fall through the end of spring.
SUN/SHADE – Full sun seems to suit them best, especially the further north they’re planted. But many of our readers said they do well in partial shade, too, especially if it’s from deciduous trees which leaf out later.
PLANTING DEPTH – Some authorities say to plant them with the neck just under the soil surface, but our expert North Carolina grower recommends planting them so they’re covered with 2-4 inches of soil. Since the bulbs we ship are 3-4 inches tall, that means planting them with the base 5-8 inches deep.
LONG WAIT FOR BLOOM – If you dig them from a neighbor’s yard you probably won’t have this problem, but if you plant dry, dormant bulbs you’ll have to be patient. Although most will put up leaves their first spring, sometimes nothing emerges until the spring after that, and they virtually never bloom until their second or even third year.
Thanks again to everyone who helped us “crowd-source” this article! For the longer version, including quotes from customers growing them everywhere from zone-3 Saskatchewan to zone-9 Florida, see our More About Surprise Lilies page.
Historic Public Gardens Symposium, Oct. 15-17
Like many of the country’s finest public gardens, Winterthur’s landscape is not only richly planted and beautiful, it’s also deeply historic. That makes it a perfect setting for “Telling the Garden’s Story,” a symposium sponsored by the Historic Landscapes Professional Section of the American Public Gardens Association. With speakers from Wave Hill, Biltmore, Monticello, Vizcaya, the Santa Monica Botanic Garden, and more, the Oct. 15-17 symposium invites participants to “explore, learn, and share strategies for interpreting our gardens to new audiences in the digital age, while honoring layers of history, caring for aging plant collections, and building core support within the organization.” Learn more here.
Stay in Touch with Us This Shipping Season on Facebook
Another 158 fellow gardeners have “liked” us at Facebook this month, bringing our cheery online garden club there to 8755. Thank you, all! If you haven’t yet, we hope you’ll come take a look at what’s still blooming here this fall and share the excitement of bulb-ordering/shipping/and-planting season with us.
Did You Miss Our Last Newsletter? Read It Online!
Early September’s articles included Scott’s chat with top blogger Margaret Roach, fragrant peonies, when dahlias go wacky, vole-resistant bulbs, the last passenger pigeon, tulips in hanging baskets, and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at oldhousegardens.com/NewsletterArchives.aspx.
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