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August 5, 2015

— Lou Erickson, 1913-1990, American editorial cartoonist

Our New Catalog and Cover Images

JFK’s ‘Blue Parrot’ Tulips

Campernelles: From Slave Quarters to Lake Superior

Our Customers’ New Favorite Bulbs

Earwigs: Surprisingly Human

Garden Gate’s Top Picks

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Hallelujah! If all goes as expected, we’ll get it back and mailed next week, and — even though bulk mail can be slow and unpredictable — it will be in your hands by late August.

But why wait? Here are three easy ways you can shop it ALL right now:

1. For NEW bulbs and those back from a break — including SPRING-planted L. speciosum ‘Album’ and ‘Uchida’ lilies, go to

2. For FALL-planted bulbs, now including ‘Temple of Beauty’ tulip, go to

3. To SEARCH by up to 16 criteria including color, zone, animal-resistance, fragrance, bloom-time, and more, go to

On the front you’ll see “red,” white, and blue hyacinths from the 1903 catalog of John Lewis Childs of Floral Park, NY, and on the back there’s a painterly image of dahlias in a blue vase from Childs’ 1888 catalog. Enjoy them both here.

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‘Blue Parrot’ — one of the seven tulips we’re offering for the first time this fall — once played a leading role in the White House Rose Garden. According to a 1963 LIFE magazine article titled “JFK’s New Garden,” the “once rundown” space outside the Oval Office was bulldozed and replanted as a “traditional 18th-century garden” with a lawn for presidential receptions.

“And the master gardener is none other than urban oriented J.F.K. himself,” the article continues. “While Jackie toils at renovation in the White House, the President happily shows visitors around the great outdoors of the flower beds. ‘Isn’t this garden terrific?’ he glows. ‘And you know, you’re only allowed to stand in one spot on the grass for two minutes.’”

The garden was designed by Bunny (Mrs. Paul) Mellon, a good friend of the First Lady who went on to spend the rest of her long life — she died last year at the age of 103 — gardening, designing gardens, and collecting rare garden books at her Virginia estate, Oak Spring Farms.

The article includes color photos and a partial plan of the garden where “visitors now parade amid a panoply of Blue Parrots, santolina, Oriental Splendor, Queen of Sheba, Yellow Cheerfulness, periwinkle, and Shot Silk nourished by seven gardeners working diligently under the President’s very eye.” See it all here.

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One of our all-time best-selling bulbs is our true, American-grown Campernelle narcissus. Often called the “large jonquil” in old books and catalogs, Campernelles are a naturally-occurring hybrid of Narcissus jonquilla (the “small jonquil”) and N. pseudonarcissus (Lent lily) collected from the wild sometime before 1601.

In zone-8a East Texas, our good friend and daffodil expert Keith Kridler makes an interesting observation about this enduring daffodil: “One of the things I’ve noticed in our area is that the black slaves nearly all had Campernelles and jonquils blooming where they lived. You often find at larger plantation headquarters that the main house where the white folks lived (this part of the country was poor, so we’re talking about a simple ‘dog-trot’ house here) has few if any daffodils, but back from the house aways and further down the spring creek, the slaves’ or sharecroppers’ location is marked with masses of these daffodils today.”

Although they’re best known and loved in the South, Campernelles also do fine for us here in zone-6a Ann Arbor — and sometimes even further north. For example, our good friend Nancy McDonald who lives near Lake Superior in zone-5a Grand Marais, Michigan, writes: “I’ve had your Campernelles since 1995 and they’ve done very well, multiplying freely. So maybe they’re hardier than you think, especially in a mix of sand and old horse manure” — and when your garden is insulated by ten feet of snow every winter, as Nancy’s is.

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Can you guess which bulbs our customers liked best last fall and spring? See for yourself at our newly updated Customer Favorites page. Think of it as helpful plant-selection guidance from thousands of fellow gardeners!

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You may shudder when you spot an earwig in the garden, but they have their good side, too. They feed on aphids, mites, and insect larvae; they provide food for birds, toads, and other creatures; and — believe it or not — they care for their eggs and young.

After mating in the fall, the male and female earwig spend the winter together in a shallow burrow in debris or soil. In early spring the female lays her eggs and then tends them for a week or so until they hatch, continuously cleaning them to prevent the growth of fungi and protecting them from predators. When they hatch, the nymphs cluster under their mother like baby chicks and she feeds them by regurgitating, just like birds do.

Although there is one native American earwig, most of them in the US today are the European Forficula auricularia which arrived in 1907 and has since spread across the country. Here in the upper Midwest, older gardeners can remember life B.E. — before earwigs. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, for example, earwigs “first became noticeable in Wisconsin in the early 1980s and Minnesota in the early 1990s.”

Despite their good points, if earwigs are chewing up your prized dahlias and other flowers, you’ll probably want to control them. Earwigs feed at night and hide in cool, moist places during the day. Since mulch and garden debris are favorite hiding places, you can limit their damage by keeping the area at the base of favorite plants clear of both.

If that’s not enough, you may want to try home-made earwig traps. You can stuff a cardboard paper towel tube with straw or weeds, for example, and lay it on the ground near vulnerable plants. A rolled, moistened newspaper or a short length of an old hose will also work. In the morning, shake the earwigs out into a bucket of soapy water or simply stomp on them. Another trap can be made by filling an empty tuna fish can with a half-inch of vegetable oil. Empty and refill as needed. And good luck!

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In “Garden Gate’s Top Picks: These 9 Plants Add a Touch of Tropical Flair,” Shayna Courtney recommends three of our favorite spring-planted bulbs. The August 2015 article starts with a photo of ‘Atom’, our all-time best-selling glad. “Hummingbirds love the miniature blooms of 3-foot-tall ‘Atom’,” Shayna writes. There’s also a great photo of ‘Mexican Single’ tuberose, and she writes that its fragrance “intensifies in the evening, so choose a spot where you can enjoy its fragrance and the moths that visit its radiant nighttime blooms.” Finally, Shayna praises rain lilies (Zephyranthes), and although here in zone 6 we always grow them in pots, she notes that where they’re hardy they make “a good spreading groundcover.”

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Now it’s easier than ever to pin images from our website to your Pinterest pages. When you hover your cursor over any of our photos or antique images, a “Pin it” button will appear. Click it and you’re done. Have fun!

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In July we debuted our new cover image and shared a painting of glads that hangs over Scott’s fireplace. If you missed them, you may want to click “Follow” under the “Liked” button near the top of our page at Thanks to all 11,775 of you fans who’ve liked us so far, and happy gardening!

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July’s articles included gender-bending Indian turnip, daylilies in bouquets, killing earthworm “pests” with tobacco, finding historic gardens near you, Madonna blows up our Facebook page, and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at

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