Friends of Old Bulbs Gazette
From America’s Expert Source for Heirloom Flower Bulbs
To read more by topic or date, see our Newsletter Archives page.
“A garden is the best alternative therapy.”
– Germaine Greer, Australian-born author, scholar, and feminist
Although we updated most of our fall offerings in late May, we’ll continue adding more to our website as the summer goes on and our growers confirm availability, etc. Here’s what’s new since our last newsletter:
Quantities of all are limited, so get them while you can!
Just in time for National Pollinator Week, June 20-26, our bee-keeping neighbor and friend Eileen Dickinson knocked on our door asking, “Will you sign a pledge to make your yard pollinator-safe?”
Eileen – whose garden was featured in Country Gardens last year – explained that the Bee Safe Neighborhoods pledge offers various levels of commitment. The first and most important is to stop using any lawn or garden product that contains neonicotinoids – which are especially harmful to bees – or any other systemic herbicide or pesticide, since systemics are absorbed into the plant and poison the pollen and nectar that pollinators collect.
To learn more, visit the Bee Safe Ann Arbor Facebook page which has a lot of useful information about pollinators and gardening more safely, including a link to a “Grow Smart, Grow Safe” list of weed control products ranked from least to most hazardous.
Eileen also shared the good news with me that Ann Arbor has applied for certification as a Bee City USA community. “Launched in 2012, the Bee City USA program endorses a set of commitments for creating sustainable habitats for pollinators, which are vital to feeding the planet,” I learned at the organization’s website. “Communities across America are invited to make these commitments and become certified as a Bee City USA affiliate.”
I signed the Bee Safe pledge, and even if Eileen doesn’t make it to your door, I hope you’ll celebrate National Pollinator Week by pledging to make your yard a safer place for these critically important and vulnerable creatures.
You may know David Culp as the best-selling author of The Layered Garden and an acclaimed landscape designer, but to us he’s a customer and fellow fan of heirloom bulbs, especially graceful old daffodils and unusual tulips.
David lives in a 1790s farmhouse known as Brandywine Cottage just outside of Philadelphia. His plantings there are especially beautiful in the spring – as an article by Janet Loughrey in a recent issue of Garden Design made abundantly clear.
Although “renowned for his masterful successive plantings and naturalistic style,” Laughrey writes, David is also “an avid collector of rare and unusual plants, including antique and specialty tulips. ‘I plant my favorite varieties near the house, in the rock or gravel gardens, or along the road, where they can be displayed more prominently and I can enjoy them up close,’ he says. Unusual patterns, colors, and shapes such as these striped, multicolored, or lily forms get top billing.”
Among the tulips pictured are three of our heirlooms: lily-flowered ‘White Triumphator’, stiletto-petalled Tulipa acuminata, and ‘The Lizard’, “a highly prized Rembrandt broken form with swirling patterns of rose and creamy yellow.”
Thanks, David, for giving our bulbs such a beautiful home!
Dead-Heading Iris and Peonies – Cutting faded blooms redirects your plants’ energy from seed-making to future growth and bloom. Cut down iris bloom-stalks (not individual leaves) as close as possible to the rhizome, but cut back peony bloom-stalks no more than is needed to make the plant look good.
Growing Bulbs in Pots – Container gardening is great, but it’s not the same as growing bulbs in the ground. For the best results, see our Bulbs in Pots page.
Multiplying Your Rarest Tulips – In most gardens, the best way to give your rarest tulips the dry summer rest they need is to dig them up after the foliage yellows and store them in a dry, well-ventilated place – maybe hanging in mesh bags from the rafters in your basement or garage. Then put a note on your calendar so you don’t forget to replant them in the fall!
Staking Dahlias – For a bushier plant, pinch out the center shoot after three or four sets of leaves develop. Although dahlias grow upright and may look like they don’t need support, they do. Learn more.
Controlling Red Lily Leaf Beetle – The earlier you find and destroy these pests – which are currently expanding beyond New England – the better. Learn more.
How about settling down in the shade with a tall glass of something frosty and losing yourself in a great garden book this summer?
After a lifetime of gardening, 86-year-old Penelope Hobhouse – who has written a dozen books and designed gardens for English royalty, the RHS, and Steve Jobs – listed her ten favorite garden books in the December 2015 issue of Gardens Illustrated.
Two of her favorites, I’m happy to say, are more than a century old, and six deal with garden history!
Garden Design, by Sylvia Crowe, 1958 – “My first choice,” Hobhouse says. This work starts with a long section on garden history and “remains the most comprehensive book on design I know.”
The Education of a Gardener, by Russell Page, 1962 – A modern classic, this small book by the celebrated garden designer “describes his visits to great gardens and discusses what they taught him.”
The Formal Garden in England, by Reginald Blomfield, 1892 – This historical survey by a man who was “violently opposed” to the then-new “natural-style” gardens “makes you think where you stand in the argument which still reverberates today.”
Penelope Hobhouse's Gardening through the Ages, 1992 – Originally published in England as Plants in Garden History, this is “an illustrated history of plants and their influence on garden styles from ancient Egypt to the present day.”
Paradise as a Garden in Persia and Mughal India, by Elizabeth Moynihan, 1979 – “Highly readable” and a “masterpiece,” this is “the best introduction” to garden-making from Cyrus the Great in 540 BC to Shah Jehan in 1660 AD.
The Landscape of Man: Shaping the Environment from Prehistory to the Present Day, by G. and S. Jellicoe, 1979 – “Perhaps this is the only book you need,” Hobhouse writes, because it covers garden history and design “but with an emphasis on the garden as part of the environment.”
Italian Villas and Their Gardens, by Edith Wharton, 1903 – The only American book on her list, this 1903 work by the famous novelist “captures the essence of Renaissance taste.”
The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs, by Hillier Nurseries – This is “for me the most valuable” reference book, Hobhouse writes, because “I cannot envisage a garden without a framework of woody plants.”
Perennials and Their Garden Habitats, R. Hansen and F. Stahl, translated in 1993 – “Astonishingly detailed” and “my new bible for planning my own garden,” this encyclopedic German work “puts more emphasis on the ecological needs of a plant.”
The Green Tapestry: Perennial Plants for the Garden, by Beth Chatto, 1999 – “No library can be complete without” one of Chatto’s books, Hobhouse concludes. “She has taught us to garden better using suitable plants in sustainable ways.”
Could one of these be your next favorite garden book? If you can’t find them at your local library, ask about borrowing them through inter-library loan which is simple and free. Or consider buying used copies at Amazon and elsewhere, where some are available for as little as $.01 plus $3.99 shipping – less than you’d probably pay for a six-pack of annuals.
Every week when we post one of our most recent newsletter articles to our blog, we also add a few of the best articles from our archives. You can read more than 100 of them there now, including these four we posted recently as our first lilies of the season – coral lily and the martagons – started blooming.
New York Times Praises Our Lilies (Sept. 2008)
Summer Delight: ‘Red Velvet’ (Lily) Cake Recipe (June 2006)
Can Regal Lilies Ease Arthritis Pain? (Aug. 2010)
May’s articles included the 2016 Great Plant Picks, tips for making peonies last longer in bouquets, the $3 million restoration of an iconic American garden, lightning as fertilizer, iris articles at our blog, 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 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!
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