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May 14, 2015
“Queer things happen in the garden in May. Little faces forgotten appear, and plants thought to be dead suddenly wave a little green hand to confound you.”
— W. E. Johns, 1893-1968, British author of adventure stories
Thanks for a Great Spring!
Not only did we sell more bulbs than ever before this spring, we finished shipping them the day before Jane and I had to leave town for our son’s wedding. Thank you!
3 Ways to Support Your Big, Beautiful Peonies
Au Naturel – Although we always look for strong stems when we’re evaluating peonies for our catalog, even the strongest stems will bow when their gloriously double flowers are drenched by rain. If you gently shake the water out immediately afterwards, most of the time they’ll stand back up, so most gardeners simply cross their fingers and grow their peonies without support, au naturel.
Cheap and Easy – Although garden centers offer all sorts of wire-ring and linking-stake supports for peonies, most of these are surprisingly pricey. A less expensive option (and what we usually do here at OHG) is to cut a wire-ring tomato tower in half just above one of the rings, so you have two shorter towers. Use the narrower one for newly-planted peonies or smaller perennials, and the wider one for mature peonies. Set it over the plant, pushing the legs securely into the soil. The earlier you do this the better, because once the plant has leafed out you’ll need a helper – or twine – to contain the foliage while you slip the support over it. Leave some stems and foliage outside the support for a more relaxed, natural-looking plant and to hide the wire which is virtually invisible anyway, especially once it rusts.
The Hildene Star – There’s a better, more historic way they use to support the 175 peonies at Hildene, the summer home of President Lincoln’s son in Manchester, Vermont. Basically you insert five short stakes in a circle at the outer edges of the plant, weave twine back and forth to create a star, and then finish by circling the stakes with twine. Hildene’s Andrea Luchini offers complete instructions. Although I can’t imagine doing it for 175 peonies, for a few it’s actually kind of fun.
See Our 20,000 Tulips in Colonial Williamsburg Journal
Since 2009 we’ve been proudly supplying all of the bulbs that Colonial Williamsburg plants throughout the 300 acres of its world-famous historic village. If you haven’t seen them blooming there, we highly recommend you add “visit Williamsburg in spring” to your bucket list. It’s really something.
This spring our tulips also graced the cover and a four-page photo spread in Colonial Williamsburg: The Journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “The tulips arrive from Old House Gardens, a supplier of heirloom flower bulbs, during October’s first week,” the article begins. “They are planted anew each season to ensure that the displays in Historic Area gardens are spectacular. More than 20,000 tulips are planted, usually around November 1. More than 14,000 bulbs of other kinds – narcissus, anemones, alliums, hyacinths, and others – go into the ground as well.”
To enjoy the photos, start at the cover (which may load slowly) and then enter 28 in the page-number box at the bottom of the screen. Although we don’t offer most of the tulips in the photos to home gardeners, you can order the stiletto-petalled Tulipa acuminata (on page 31) and all the rest of our fabulous tulips NOW at last fall’s prices – and enjoy a bit of Colonial Williamsburg in your own back yard next spring.
Celebrate Dirt with the International Year of Soils
Getting your hands in the dirt is one of the great pleasures of gardening (am I right?), and we gardeners understand first-hand the importance of soil. Now you can help spread the word about this critical natural resource by celebrating the International Year of the Soil. The global campaign is built around six key messages that highlight how we all depend on soils:
1. Healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production.
2. Soils provide us with plants we use for feed, fiber, fuel, and medicine.
3. Soils support our planet’s biodiversity, hosting a quarter of the total species.
4. Soils help combat climate change by playing a key role in the carbon cycle.
5. Soils store and filter water, improving our resilience to floods and droughts.
6. Soil is a non-renewable resource and its preservation is essential for a sustainable future.
That last one really gave me pause. A non-renewable resource is defined as one whose “loss and degradation is not recoverable within a human lifespan,” and today 33% of the world’s soil is considered “moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification, and chemical pollution.”
To learn more, visit the Soil Science Society of America’s activities page at https://www.soils.org/IYS where you’ll find “I Heart Soil” stickers in a dozen languages including Klingon, recipes for “soil desserts,” educational packets for teachers, and monthly themes such as “Soils are Living.” It’s already given me a whole new appreciation for soil’s importance – and its vulnerability. Save the Soils!
Love Letters to Tough, Mop-Headed ‘Van Sion’
“Can you tell me what this flower is?” We get asked that a lot, and if it’s a daffodil, the answer is most often ‘Van Sion’, a 400-year-old double that’s so tough it can often be found growing deep in the woods where a house disappeared ages ago.
Two of our customers loved ‘Van Sion’ long before we helped them identify it. Christiane Shems of zone-5b Yarmouth, Maine, ordered 25 ‘Van Sion’ last fall, explaining:
“The first time I saw this old beauty was in my parents’ yard in France. It was love at first sight, and they smelled so good. I took some bulbs back with me to the US. That was years ago and I am still enjoying them every spring. I had been looking for more since then but without luck. Nobody knew what I was talking about, until I found you. My parents have both passed away since, and these bulbs are so much more dear to me now. Thank you!”
Then in February, Marilyn Gist of zone-7b Raleigh, North Carolina, emailed to say:
“There is a daffodil that grows in a part of my yard down by the lake where it can be quite soggy, especially in winter or after a tropical storm. They were here when I moved here in 1987, and they spread and naturalize all over the place. They are very early blooming – the first one opened January 31 this year, which has been on the cold side for us. They grow in part shade in very dry areas, and they also grow in full sun right at the edge of the lake where it’s quite wet, all in my red clay soil. Amazing, don’t you think?
“Not knowing what they were, I always called mine the Phyllis Diller daffodils, after her wild-looking hairstyle. I searched various bulb catalogs for them, but never found a match. Thank you so much for the newsletter article that helped me identify them as ‘Van Sion’!”
What Was Missing in Your Spring Garden?
Do yourself a favor and walk your garden now, while spring is still fresh in your mind. Where did you need more flowers? And when – early, middle, or late? What flowers did you admire elsewhere this spring that you’d like to see blooming in your own yard next spring?
Take a couple of minutes to jot down a few notes, snap some cell-phone photos, sketch a simple map, or even mark a couple of spots with plant labels, golf tees, or small sticks. At planting time this fall – when spring has faded from your memory and your garden looks so different – you’ll be glad you did.
Even better, why not get a start on your fall order now at LAST year’s prices? Crocus and other little bulbs to scatter about, deer-proof daffodils, fragrant hyacinths, and a rainbow of tulips can all be yours. And you can add to your order anytime before October 1, so there’s no need to wait. Simplify your life, beautify your garden, and save money by ordering NOW!
Welcome the First Blooms of Summer with Us on Facebook
With over 1000 likes, our most popular recent post was a bouquet of daffodils we picked April 24 after a low here of 25 degrees. To see more of what’s blooming in our trial garden (and a few photos coming soon from our son’s recent wedding in the Virgin Islands), come join us and 10,682 fellow flower lovers at Facebook.com/HeirloomBulbs.
Don’t forget, though, that Facebook will limit the posts you see from us unless you show you’re interested in them by either (a) checking “Follow” in the drop-down menu under “Liked” in the top part of our page, or (b) liking, commenting on, or sharing one of our posts every once in a while. Thanks, and happy May!
Did You Miss Our Last Newsletter? Read It Online!
Late April’s articles included how old do heirlooms have to be, identifying true English bluebells, award-winning and resilient dahlias, making gladiolus flowers face you, and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at oldhousegardens.com/NewsletterArchives.
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