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September 9, 2015

— Hugh Miller, 1802-1856, Scottish geologist, paleontologist, and folklorist

Back . . . and On Sale

Autumn is the Real Spring

It’s Okay to Kill Our Bulbs

Better Bouquets with Easy Arranger

Heritage Flower Farm

Tulips Gone Wild

. . . so time is running out to treat yourself to something wonderful you’ll look forward to all winter long!

I’m crazy about great old bulbs (as you may have noticed), and when our growers offer us more of their rare treasures, I hate to say no. That’s good news for you because sometimes we have to reduce prices to sell them all – which means you can now save 10-20% on eleven of our rarest beauties.

‘White Lady’ daffodil – which was 3/$15 last year – is now a steal at 3/$9.23. Fiery ‘Lucifer’ has fallen to 3/$9.60. And graceful ‘Albatross’, double ‘Daphne’, almost-red ‘Firetail’, exuberant ‘Insulinde’, charming little ‘Niveth’, and sparkling ‘Queen of the North’ daffodils are also on sale – along with spectacular ‘Silver Standard’ and ‘Wapen van Leiden’ tulips and wildflowery ‘Roman Dark Blue’ hyacinth.

See all ten at our Bulbs on Sale page. We’re hoping you’ll find their new prices irresistible!

We mailed our new catalogs in mid-August, so you should have yours by now. If not, and (a) you paid for a catalog any time since last October 15, or (b) you ordered bulbs any time since fall 2013, or (c) you’re a garden writer, please call Kathy at 734-995-1486 or email and we’ll rush you another one by first-class mail.

If you received an extra catalog, please let us know so we can clean up our mailing list and save a tree, or at least a bush.

And if you’re not on our mailing list but you’d like to have our gorgeous, 52-page catalog, order it here for just $2 and you’ll have it in your hands within a week.

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Although the Czech writer Karel Capek (1890-1938) is best known today for coining the word “robot,” he was also an outspoken anti-fascist and an avid gardener. In his 1929 classic The Gardener’s Year he writes:

“While we only look at Nature it is fairly true to say that autumn is the end of the year; but still more true it is that autumn is the beginning of the year.

“It is a popular opinion that in autumn leaves fall off, and I really cannot deny it; I assert only that in a certain deeper sense autumn is the time when in fact the leaves bud. Leaves wither because winter begins; but they also wither because spring is already beginning, because new buds are being made, as tiny as percussion caps out of which the spring will crack.

“It is an optical illusion that trees and bushes are naked in autumn; they are, in fact, sprinkled over with everything that will unpack and unroll in spring. It is only an optical illusion that my flowers die in autumn; for in reality they are born. We say that Nature rests, yet she is working like mad. She has only shut up shop and pulled the shutters down; but behind them she is unpacking new goods, and the shelves are becoming so full that they bend under the load. This is the real spring; what is not done now will not be done in April.”

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Every now and then a customer tells us, “Don’t send me any of your ‘Rarest’ bulbs because I’m not a great gardener and I’m afraid I’ll kill them.”

We appreciate that concern, but

(a) even our rarest bulbs are tough and adaptable — they’re survivors, not fragile antiques,

(b) even if they don’t last forever in your garden, when fellow gardeners see them and you talk about how awesome they are, you’re building support for heirlooms, and

(c) as long as people keep buying them, the farmers who grow them for us have a reason to keep growing them.

It’s like heirloom vegetables. As best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver explains in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, “You can’t save the whales by eating whales, but paradoxically, you can help save rare, domesticated foods by eating them. They’re kept alive by gardeners who have a taste for them, and farmers who know they’ll be able to sell them.”

So don’t worry about killing our precious heirlooms. It’s actually pretty hard to do, and even if a couple of them die, you’re still helping to preserve them!

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Fresh, local, and almost free, bouquets from your own backyard are one of the great pleasures of gardening. And they’re easy — so I admit I was skeptical when Vanessa brought a little wire doohickey called an Easy Arranger into work one day. It’s a grid of woven wire that fits over the top of a vase and holds flowers upright and in place. Once I tried it, though, I was convinced. This thing really does make bouquet-making easier.

It’s all but invisible, too, and relatively cheap. We ordered a set of three different sizes from for $12 plus $2.20 shipping. You can find look-alikes elsewhere, but the Grommet sells the original by Annabelle Noel Designs, “a firm with a mission to launch innovative household products designed and manufactured by women. Its founder Anne Cork tapped her jewelry-making skills to create Easy Arranger after being inspired by the tape grids she saw florists using to hold their flowers in place.” Check it out here — and happy bouquets!

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At Heritage Flower Farm in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, Betty Adelman grows over a thousand varieties of heirloom flowers and ships them to gardeners all across the country. Our friends at The American Gardener magazine profiled Betty recently, and at our request they’ve posted her story online.

Along with heirlooms from Acanthus to Zizia, Betty offers a few pre-planned gardens such as the Emily Dickinson Garden with flowers mentioned in her poetry or pressed in her herbarium. There’s also a fascinating section of “People in Plant History” with short bios of 45 greats from the ancient Greek Dioscorides to Karl Foerster who in 1939 introduced what has become the world’s most popular ornamental grass.

Treat yourself to a look at the Heritage Flower Farm website — and then please consider joining Betty and me as members of the 93-year-old American Horticultural Society, publisher of the always excellent American Gardener magazine. Both are well worth your support.

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Although it’s a graceful wildflower with a long history in gardens, the Florentine tulip (T. sylvestris) is also a bit weedy, spreading by underground stolons to produce new plants that can take years to bloom. Two articles in the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society newsletter gave me a deeper appreciation for both its history and its vigor.

Linda Chapman explains that the Florentine is “a tetraploid (having double the number of chromosomes) which may account for its vigor. It is not native to the UK but is naturalized here, though how it arrived is not known. It could have come with the Romans” or much later with “Flemish, Walloon, or French refugees from 1540 onwards.”

When Linda went searching for Florentines where they’d been reported in the past, she found almost none — until she visited a protected “Site of Special Scientific Interest” in Yorkshire. There along the banks of the River Nidd “there were tulips as far as we could see, literally hundreds of them. It was a truly remarkable sight.”

In a second article, Anita Irehoim writes about the Florentine in Sweden. “Olof Rudbeck the Elder (1630-1702) established the first botanical garden in Sweden at Uppsala and grew the ‘yellow tulip from Bologna’” — an early name for the Florentine tulip. (Florence and Bologna are 50 miles apart.) By 1744 it was naturalized in Sweden, and today it’s still foundespecially in grass areas in old gardens and parks but also in forest edges and along [roadside] verges.” Anita says “the best way of getting flowers is to disturb the soil. Dig and turn the soil upside down! It makes some sense since it is . . . a weed of the vineyards.”

Olof Rudbeck’s son was also a botanist, and “one of his best known students was Carl Linnaeus, the man who devised our system of plant nomenclature.” Today Linnaeus’s summer house is a museum and “sanctuary for surviving Linnaean plants. Of the 900 varieties he may have had in the garden, only about 40 remain today — one of which is T. sylvestris.”

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We’ve posted some great photos in the past month (if we do say so ourselves), from a big bouquet of little ‘Boone’ gladiolus in a Mason jar to one of our latest-blooming daylilies, ‘Princess Irene’, which is still full of flowers here today.

If you missed them, you may need to check “Follow” under the “Liked” button near the top of our page — to let Facebook know you’re still interested in us.

Thanks to all 12,405 of you fellow gardeners who’ve liked our page, and especially to the 630 who joined us in the past month. We appreciate your support. Happy fall — and happy spring!

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August’s articles included JFK and ‘Blue Parrot’ tulip, amazing earwigs, Campernelles from slave quarters to Lake Superior, our customers’ new favorites, Garden Gate’s top picks, easier “pinning” at our website, and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at

Please help us “Save the Bulbs!” by forwarding our newsletter to a kindred spirit, garden, museum, or group. Or if a friend sent you this issue, SUBSCRIBE here!

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