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February 5, 2015
“Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.”
— J. Willard Marriott, 1900-1985, American entrepreneur, founder of Marriott Corp.
8 Newly Added + 10 Almost Sold Out = Order NOW for April Delivery!
Spring IS coming, and we recently added eight more dahlias for spring planting: confetti-speckled ‘Gypsy Girl’, stately ‘Prinzessin Irene’, chocolate-leaved ‘Madame Stappers’, sweet little ‘Nellie Broomhead’, bouquet-perfect ‘Nepos’, Victorian ‘tommy Keith’, coral and frost ‘Princesse de Suede’, and the incomparable ‘Jane Cowl’, And don’t forget dreamy ‘Cafè au Lait’ and the 18 web-only glads we added in December, too.
Can you add them to an existing order? Of course, anytime before shipping starts April 1. Nine rarities are already sold out, and it looks like these ten will be next – so if you’re thinking of ordering any of them, now is the time!
Lost Your Catalog? We’d Be Glad to Send You Another
Although our website is easy and awesome, we know many people prefer the pleasures of print. If that’s you, and you’ve lost track of our 2014-15 catalog, simply email or call us (734) 995-1486 for a free replacement. We’re eager to serve you!
Staff Picks: Vanessa’s 3 Favorites for Spring Planting
Vanessa Elms lives in a charming little 1920s bungalow in the Depot Town neighborhood of nearby Ypsilanti (the Brooklyn of Ann Arbor). She traces her love of plants to tagging along with her parents to local nurseries when she was a child, and after earning a horticulture degree from Michigan State and spending a few years working for a landscape company in Chicago, she returned here a few years ago to join us as our VP for Bulbs.
When I asked her to recommend ONE of her favorite spring-planted bulbs, Vanessa gave me three instead:
‘Mexican Single’ tuberose – “Every year I grow these in clay pots near my living room windows, and their fragrance drifts in nicely on warm summer nights. They’re also a favorite of the hawk moths that visit my garden in the early evening.
‘George Davison’ crocosmia – “Last summer I planted these with some other plants that attract hummingbirds, and they were a big hit. They can be slow to sprout – I actually started to plant annuals over mine because I was sure they weren’t coming up – but they’re definitely worth the wait.
‘Prince Noir’ dahlia – “My all time favorite dahlia! I especially love the contrast of these dark-petaled flowers in a simple white vase.”
Rediscovering Papaw’s Hardy Lavender Dahlia
“I am hoping that ‘Mrs. I. De ver Warner’ is the dahlia that my papaw and mamaw grew for many years,” Roger Flatford wrote us when he ordered last spring. I hoped so, too, but I knew that was a very long shot. Tens of thousands of dahlias have been introduced, many look a lot alike, and very few have been preserved. But in late summer we got a happy surprise:
“I can’t say thank you enough for ‘Mrs. I. De ver Warner’ dahlia!” Roger wrote. “This dahlia grew at my mamaw and papaw’s house in [zone-7a] Heiskell, Tennessee, coming back for them for 30 or 40 years, even through some hard winters. I’m 52 and I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t there. Every summer it would reward us with the most beautiful lavender blooms. We never knew its name but we always loved to see it bloom.
“My papaw kept a beautiful yard, and I inherited the flower gene from him. After he died in 1980 I tried to keep his flowers growing for my mamaw. Over the years, though, most all were lost except for the lavender dahlia and two old peonies and a little iris that just kept multiplying. Then one year the dahlia didn’t come back. I was really sad to see it gone.
“A few years later my mamaw passed away at 93. That summer I spent a lot of time at the little white house on the hill, remembering how much fun we had visiting there when I was a kid. Then I started looking everywhere I could think of, hoping to find the lavender dahlia. I bought several that looked right, but when they bloomed they were never the one.
“This past spring I saw two dahlias at your website that I thought maybe, just maybe were it, so I purchased them both. A couple of weeks ago I went out to the garden and there it was, Papaw’s Lavender Dahlia. What a reward! I know Mamaw and Papaw are smiling down from heaven.
“Next spring, I’m going to plant another one at the little white house on the hill in memory of my mamaw and papaw, Goldie and Roma Graham. Thank you, Old House Gardens, for finding and preserving the beautiful ‘Mrs. I. De ver Warner’.”
You’re welcome, Roger! Interestingly enough, that unusually hardy dahlia came to us from Joyce Dowell who got it from her grandmother in Scottsville, Kentucky – which, as the crow flies, is just 100 miles away from where your grandparents lived.
3 Experts, 3 Centuries, 3 Great Iris
Sure, we think our heirloom iris are awesome, but there’s no need to take our word for it. Here’s what experts in 1597, 1930, and 2012 had to say about three of our favorites:
I. pallida ‘Dalmatica’ – In 1597 John Gerard praised this ancient iris in his landmark Herbal, saying it “hath leaves much broader, thicker, and more closely compact together” than other iris, “like wings, or the fins of a whale fish.” From these “riseth up a stalk of four feet high, as myself did measure oft times in my garden,” with “fair large flowers of a light blue” which “smell exceedingly sweet, much like the orange flower.”
‘Mrs. Horace Darwin’ – More than three centuries later, famed horticulturist John Wister writing in his book The Iris praised this petite beauty as one of three whites that “can never be omitted.” He called it “wonderfully free blooming,” and added that “it is unexcelled for massing and should be used in every garden in quantities.”
‘Quaker Lady’ – Last but not least, Kelly Norris who grew up on his family’s iris farm and now works at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, praised this subtle flower in his 2012 Guide to Bearded Iris: Cultivating the Rainbow, saying it “has a soft-spoken princess charm that stops me in my tracks each spring. . . . If your garden needs a vintage touch in lovely pastel hues of bronze and lilac, look no further.”
Book of the Month: The Garden Diary of an Irish Lady, 1891-1922
When she married the Earl of Mayo in 1885 and moved to the family estate outside of Dublin, Geraldine Ponsonboy knew little about gardening. Before long, though, she had thrown herself into it whole-heartedly, hiring and firing several head gardeners until she found one who could accept her decidedly hands-on approach, and eventually filling a garden diary with 31 years’ worth of notes, drawings, and watercolors.
Geraldine’s fascinating and beautiful diary has recently been published as Lady Mayo’s Garden. Sub-titled The Diary of a Lost 19th Century Irish Landscape, it gives readers an insider’s look at gardening during an era when Victorian pattern-bedding was giving way to Arts and Crafts esthetics and “old-fashioned” perennial borders. Happily for bulb-lovers like us, it focuses mainly on the spring garden, and as our good friend Betsy Ginsburg points out in a recent blog post, “with the renewed interest in heritage gardening and heirloom varieties, many of Lady Mayo’s favorite spring plants are obtainable today. The lovely Narcissus poeticus recurvus and ‘Conspicuous’ daffodils currently sleeping in my garden are the same varieties that graced” Geraldine’s garden a century ago.
In 1922 the Mayos’ estate was attacked by partisans during the Irish Civil War. Given just 20 minutes to get out before her house was burned, Geraldine set her chickens free and saved her diary. Learn more about this remarkable woman and her garden in Betsy’s engaging review of Lady Mayo’s Garden at GardenersApprentice.com.
Will You Be Our 10,000th Facebook Fan?
In the three and a half years since we launched our Facebook page, our happy group of fellow gardeners there has grown to 9726 – and we’re grateful for every one of you! Sometime in the next month or so we expect to welcome our 10,000th “like,” and when we do we’re going to celebrate with discounts, gift certificates, and free bulbs. If you haven’t visited our page yet (or lately), we hope you’ll come take a look and follow us as we look forward to this milestone and, even better, SPRING!
Did You Miss Our Last Newsletter? Read It Online!
January’s articles included photos of a 1921 gladiolus show and gardens, resurrecting a lost ‘Bishop’, misunderstood orange, embracing winter “like a hibernating hedgehog,” and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at oldhousegardens.com/NewsletterArchives.
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