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December 3, 2015

— William Blake, 1757-1827, English poet and artist

New Instant Gift Certificates

3 Fall Crop-Failures are Back for Spring

Growing Lilies in Your Living Room

Broken-Color Iris: From ‘Loreley’ to ‘Bewilderbeast’

New Book: The Artist’s Garden

From all of us here at Old House Gardens, thanks for another wonderful year of flowers and friendship! May your holidays and the New Year be full of sunshine, just enough rain, and the infinite pleasures that come from nurturing Nature in our own back yards.

Warm someone you love all winter long with our unique, dream-inspiring gift certificates. We’ve decked them out in red and white for the holidays — and now you can deliver them instantly!

Holiday Colors — Decorated with photos of red and white flowered heirlooms, the brand-new holiday version of our gift certificate is merry and bright. Take a peek here.

Print Your Own — Can’t wait for the mail? Now you can print your own gift certificate and deliver it in person. Or if you need it even quicker . . . .

Email Delivery — Last-minute shoppers rejoice! No matter how late it is, now you can deliver your gift certificate instantly by email. That’s even faster than by flying reindeer.

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Bulbs for Spring Planting — Luxurious dahlias, perennial iris, small-flowered glads, fragrant tuberoses, all-but-lost daylilies, easy samplers — including our Spring Intro to Heirlooms — and more, all for delivery in April.

Bulbs for Fall Planting — Deer-proof daffodils, native wildflowers, fragrant lilies and hyacinths, tulips that once sold for thousands of dollars, easy samplers — including our Fall Intro to Heirlooms — and more, all for delivery in October.

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Good news! Although heavy rains during the harvest season this past fall led to huge losses of several of our favorite lilies, we’ve managed to secure a small supply of three of them for delivery this coming April.

Dainty white martagon, fragrant gold-band, and charmingly speckled ‘Guinea Gold’ are now for sale at our website, along with the spectacular pink and white L. speciosum ‘Uchida’ (though not, alas, L. speciosum ‘Album’.) You’ll find them in our Spring Diverse section, and since supplies are limited, NOW is the best time to order them!

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Speaking of lilies, here’s an unexpected way to enjoy them up close, from our good customer Kathryn Hubler of Falls Church, Virginia:

“I thought you’d enjoy this photo of the gold-band lilies we received from you last year blooming in our living room. We’ve discovered we like to grow them in pots so we can enjoy their beautiful blooms and scent indoors. A pot of them is now a necessity, so we ordered fresh bulbs from you this year and will rotate the old ones into the garden.

“I grow the lilies outside, protecting the pot in the winter, and then when the first bud opens I bring them inside by our sunny, south facing window. I started doing this by accident one year when I brought the pot indoors to protect the flowers during a big rain storm. They last longer indoors, they’re never damaged by deer, slugs, or earwigs, and their fragrance is divine!”

Two of the most influential gardeners of the 20th century, Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville-West, would probably approve of Kathryn’s technique. Both recommended growing fragrant lilies in pots and then moving them onto the terrace, near doorways, or alongside garden benches when they came into bloom, as they did in their own famous gardens.

Kathryn planted her lilies in the fall which gave them plenty of time to develop a good root system before they had to start growing above ground. Spring-planted lilies may be more of a challenge in pots, but we plan to try gold-band and ‘Uchida’ ourselves this spring, and we’ll let you know how they do.

For tips on growing all sorts of bulbs in containers, see our Bulbs in Pots page. Have fun, and send us your photos!

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New to our catalog for delivery in April is ‘Loreley’, one of the most popular iris of the 20th century. Introduced in 1909, ‘Loreley’ was one of the first “broken-color” iris, a type that has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Unlike broken tulips whose stripes are caused by a benign virus, broken-color iris are irregularly splashed with contrasting colors due to a genetic mutation. Although at least one dates to the 19th century — ‘Victorine’ of 1840 — most early examples were probably discarded as misfits. The enormous popularity of ‘Loreley’, however, helped iris breeders begin to see these “flawed” iris in a whole new light.

Varieties with names like ‘Kaleidoscope’ and ‘Joseph’s Coat’ followed, but ‘Loreley’ remained the most popular broken-color iris until the elaborately patterned, purple and white ‘Batik’ was introduced in 1986. ‘Batik’ won the AIS’s top prize for iris its size and became a huge commercial success, opening the door for the scores of broken-color iris introduced since then, often with amusing names such as ‘Bewilderbeast’.

As our friend Mike Unser writes in his excellent blog post about the history of broken-color iris, “No two blooms are ever just alike, and they can create a very lively and exuberant effect in the flower garden.” To see for yourself, order ‘Loreley’ now for delivery in April!

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Gardening is a creative act, and plants can be amazingly beautiful, so is it any surprise that artists are often gardeners — or should I say that gardeners are often artists?

In The Artist’s Garden, the intertwining histories of American art and American gardening from about 1880-1920 are explored in seven essays by noted experts. Written to accompany a traveling exhibit organized by art historian and avid gardener Anna O. Marley of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the book focuses on artists from the Northeast and the Philadelphia area which has had a rich gardening tradition for centuries.

More than 100 of the book’s 250 pages feature full-page color illustrations of paintings and other works by artists ranging from well-known figures such as Childe Hassam and Mary Cassat to lesser lights whose work is often equally impressive. Although the quality of the reproductions isn’t as sparkling as might be hoped — Impressionism, after all, emphasized sunlight and vibrant colors — paging through them is a great pleasure and offers fascinating glimpses of the gardens of the era.

As might be expected, the essays vary in interest and readability, but they’re all worthy contributions. I especially liked Katie Pfohl’s “The Garden Painted, Planted, and Printed” which explores the rise of chromolithography in nursery catalogs and commercial art and its impact on fine art and the public’s acceptance of the brighter palette of Impressionism.

If you’re lucky enough to live near Winston-Salem or Pasadena, you can enjoy the exhibit itself at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art through January 3 or the Huntington Library near Pasadena from January 23 through May 9. If not, add the book to your holiday wish list and you can enjoy it in the comfort of your own home all winter long.

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Thanks to all of you who’ve liked our Facebook page — 13,236 strong! To make sure you see every one of our heirloom-flowered weekly posts this winter, click “Follow” under the “Liked” button near the top of our page. We’ll save a comfy chair and a cup of hot chocolate for you!

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As usual, we’ll be closed for two weeks starting at 5:00 EST on Friday, Dec. 18, so our hard-working OHG crew can relax and enjoy the holidays.

We’ll be back at work on Monday, January 4, at 9:00 EST, and we’ll look forward to serving you then!

November’s articles included Gaye’s tiny white daffodils found (maybe), thwarting animals with “noxious” bulbs, $400,000 oak tree one year after its move, and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at

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