— Amy Stewart, The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, 2004
Winter still has its icy grip on us here in Michigan, and – as usual – it will probably be April before we can start shipping bulbs without the risk of them freezing to death in transit. Mother Nature is in charge, so thanks for your understanding and patience.
The good news is you still have time to order our fabulous heirlooms for spring planting – and 24 of our treasures are now on sale for 10-20% off! Choose from:
And – last but not least – ravishingly fragrant ‘Pearl’ double tuberose.
See them all at our Bulbs on Sale page – and then treat yourself to something special to look forward to in the garden this year!
“Rather than planting big-box-store flowers this spring, why not raise storied heirloom varieties that yield bragging rights as well as beauty?” So asks Bart Ziegler of the Wall Street Journal in a Feb. 20-21 article titled “Petals with Provenance.”
“Heirloom vegetables have been the rage for more than a decade,” Ziegler continues, “with foodies cooing over zebra-striped tomatoes and blue potatoes. But a lesser-known category of historic plants has its own devoted following: heirloom flowers.”
Illustrated with a big color photo that includes our catalog and even a few of our gladiolus corms, the article quotes experts from Monticello, Old Sturbridge Village, and Longwood Gardens, along with yours truly and our good customer Alicia Guy.
“Cooking-school manager Alicia Guy, who grows antique dahlias at her home outside Seattle, said of doing so, ‘It makes me feel like I have a connection with gardeners from 100 years ago that transcends technological change,’” Ziegler writes. Alicia “likes knowing her great-great grandmother might have cared for the same flowers,” including ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, a “summer showstopper.”
“The bragging rights historic plants give gardeners are well-founded,” Ziegler continues. “You can grow the same tulips planted in the White House Rose Garden when it was redesigned for President John F. Kennedy, in 1962; the variety of tuberoses Louis XIV enjoyed at Versailles; or the diminutive Silver Bells daffodils that author Eudora Welty tended in her Mississippi yard in the 1930s. All are available through Old House Gardens.”
“Raising heirloom plants,” he adds, “yields more than beauty: You ensure their survival. Catalogs from the . . . early 1800s offered hundreds of varieties of hyacinths, said Scott Kunst, founder and owner of Old House Gardens,” while today “most purveyors sell a half-dozen or so.”
The article ends with a call to action that you’ve probably heard from me before: “Heirloom flowers can’t be conserved in a museum like historic documents or antique furniture. ‘The only way to save them is to grow them,’ Mr. Kunst said.”
You can read the entire article here. (And thank you, Bart and the Journal, for shining a light on the flowers we love!)
“Why don’t you do a blog?” Our newsletter has 24,000 subscribers, and our Facebook page has 13,000 likes, but a lot of people kept asking us this — so this morning we launched one!
Instead of being filled with all new information, our blog will be simply an alternative way to enjoy what we’re already delivering in our newsletter. Here’s how they’ll differ:
NEWSLETTER — As you know, we email this once every month or so. It usually includes 3-5 informational articles along with alerts about newly available bulbs, special offers, and sales. Starting with this issue we’re also going to display one photograph in most articles. If you want to see more photos you’ll have to click links — or subscribe to our blog!
BLOG — Once a week, we’ll post one or two of the informational articles from our most recent newsletter, with all photos displayed right in the post. You’ll need to click links, though, to see our alerts about sales and so on, as well as our monthly garden quotation.
Basically the decision comes down to whether you prefer to get weekly, bite-sized bits or a monthly buffet of good stuff to read. The choice is yours, and we hope one of our options will suit you perfectly.
Anyone who loves heirloom flowers (or reads this newsletter) will find a lot to like in a set of stamps the post office issued in February. The ten “Botanical Art Forever” stamps are illustrated with images drawn from the antique catalog collection of the New York Botanical Garden. Six of the flowers pictured on the stamps, we’re happy to say, are bulbs — daffodils, dahlias, corn lilies (Ixia), and three different images of tulips, including one you may have seen at our website — along with petunias, roses, stock (Matthiola), and Japanese iris.
See all ten of these beauties or order your own at here.
Although it may be too late for you lucky souls who garden where spring is already well advanced, here are some tips for those of you in colder zones:
1. Crocus, snowdrops, and other bulbs start to emerge earlier than many gardeners realize, especially in warm spots where the snow melts first. Matted leaves and winter mulch can distort their growth, so get out there EARLY and gently loosen or remove it.
2. Rabbits and other animals love to eat crocus, so you may want to spray leaves and buds with a repellant the moment they emerge. Check to see if you have some on hand before you need it, because the animals won’t wait! Tulips and lilies are two other, later-emerging animal delicacies that you may also want to spray.
3. Very early spring is also one of the best times to scratch a little fertilizer into the soil above your bulbs. If you wait too long, particles tend to get lodged between the leaves at their bases where they can burn the tender new foliage. Early spring is also when bulbs need the fertilizer to fuel their rapid growth and bloom. Don’t overdo it, though, and remember it’s always good to be guided by a soil test.
4. Now is also a good time to wash any pots that you’re planning to use for starting dahlias or growing tuberoses, etc. Finish by sterilizing them for a few minutes in a mix of 10% bleach and water. Later when you’re scrambling to keep up with your burgeoning garden, you’ll be glad you did.
Always the first bulb to bloom here in our garden, winter aconites are thrilling, cheery, and carefree — so why aren’t more people growing them?
Although their tiny tubers can be hard to get established, our good friend Margaret Roach writes this week at her wildly popular A Way to Garden blog, “Good news: Buying waxed tubers from a vendor like Old House Gardens helps. I had virtually 100 percent success with their waxed tubers — a dramatic difference from any other time I’d tried to establish a new colony.”
Read more tips and see Margaret’s inspiring photos of these easy beauties in her garden at awaytogarden.com/hot-plants-winter-aconite/.
Thanks to all of you who’ve liked our Facebook page — and especially to the 235 newbies who joined us there in February to bring our total up to 13,692 strong! Last month’s most popular posts were spring bulbs in bloom on Vanessa’s recent trip to the UK and a bee enjoying ‘Pearl’ double tuberoses.
To get our weekly shot of garden beauty, click “Follow” under the “Liked” button near the top of our Facebook page — and together we’ll cheer the unfolding of spring, glorious spring!
February’s articles included Meadowburn Farm’s rescued dahlias, late-winter tips for stored bulbs, Southern Living’s 50th anniversary, the World Daffodil Convention is coming, and more. You can read all of our back-issues, by date or by topic, at oldhousegardens.com/NewsletterArchives — and we’re gradually adding the best of them to our new blog!
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!
Simply credit www.oldhousegardens.com.