Bulbs For The South
From America’s Expert Source for Heirloom Flower Bulbs
| Here’s a wealth of information about BULBS FOR THE SOUTH and other warm places from our email Gazette and past catalogs, starting with the most recently published. For other topics, please see our main Newsletter Archives page.|
To subscribe to our FREE email newsletter, click here.
| For more expert growing advice, see our|
“Dahlias for Hot Spots” and
“Daffodils for the South and Warm West”.
For a quick and easy list of bulbs for any warm-climate garden, use the “Hardiness Zone” option at our awesome Advanced Bulb Search.
‘Challenger’ Daylily Proves Its Worth to Arty in Atlanta
Arty Schronce lives in the historic Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta and writes a column called “Arty’s Garden” for the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s 95-year-old Market Bulletin. With a philosophical outlook, a sense of humor, and an appreciation for heirloom plants, Arty is our kind of guy – as you can see in this excerpt about a daylily we’re offering for the first time this spring:
Silver Bells, Presbyterian Sisters, and Eudora Welty
The small white daffodil known as Silver Bells, Swan’s Neck, or Goose Neck has been a cherished favorite in Southern gardens for a very long time. Author Eudora Welty and her mother grew it in their Mississippi garden, and she wrote about it in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Optimist’s Daughter, as Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown explain in their excellent One Writer’s Garden:
Mary Rediscovers Her Great-Aunt’s Spider Lilies, Thanks to Southern Living (and Us)
Sometimes the best thing about an heirloom plant isn’t its beauty or vigor or fragrance but the memories it evokes, as Mary Mattison of Sandy Springs, Georgia, reminded us recently: “My great aunt in Charleston, South Carolina, had a small garden in her backyard on Queen Street where she had lived since the 1870s. In the borders was a mass of spider lilies that held my attention as a young girl. Over the years I have inquired at numerous nurseries in Atlanta about spider lilies, only to be given a quizzical look. I thought perhaps my memory wasn’t serving me well as to the name, until I read an article in Southern Living this fall which led me to your website. Thank you!” (Oct. 2012)
How Do Red Spider Lilies Know It’s Fall?
“It’s the first great mystery of fall,” our long-time friend Bill Finch of the Mobile Press-Register wrote back in 2009, “and even after watching it happen for nearly 50 years, I can’t get over it: The naked flowers of the lycoris, the red spider lilies, emerging from the weeds of summer. Doesn’t it worry you in the way it worries me? How do they know, with such absolute certainty year after year, that it’s the first of September, and the great wheel of the seasons is slowly but inexorably turning toward fall?
Book of the Month: One Writer’s Garden
Here’s a book to put at the top of your gift list – for you and anyone who loves gardening, history, American literature, independent women, or the South. Eudora Welty is one of the most revered American writers of the 20th century, and her home in Jackson, Mississippi is now a historical museum visited by pilgrims from all over the world. But when Welty first gave the property to the state in the 1980s, the garden which she had helped her mother plant and tend since the 1920s, and which offered her comfort and literary inspiration for decades, had all but disappeared from neglect.
Got Drought? Bulbs Are Built for It
Our condolences to you if you’re one of the millions of gardeners suffering through the drought that’s afflicted huge swaths of the country this summer. (And our hearts go out to the farmers who are already facing billions of dollars in losses.) It may be small consolation, but bulbs are one of Nature’s clever ways for hanging on to a back-up supply of moisture, safe underground, and surviving when there’s no rain for days and days on end. They have their limits, of course, but when the drought finally breaks, you’ll probably find that your bulbs recover better than most plants. Here’s hoping that’s soon. (Aug. 2011)
Book of the Month: Bill and Greg’s New Heirloom Gardening in the South
North, south, east, west – no matter where you garden, if you like heirloom flowers, you’ll want this book. Our friends Bill Welch and Greg Grant have been growing and championing heirloom plants for decades. Their 1995 The Southern Heirloom Garden became an instant classic, and although this new book is based on that landmark publication, it’s different enough to warrant the new title. Chapters on the garden influences of various ethnic groups – Native Americans, Africans, Germans, etc. – have been completely rewritten, and many new chapters have been added, including ones on naturalizing bulbs, traditional ways to multiply plants, heirloom fruits, and “Natives, Invasives, Cemeteries, and Rustling.”
Garden Artist Embraces Heirloom Glads
Like most artists, Atlanta-area garden designer Ryan Gainey has a keen eye for beauty and a creative spirit that won’t be bound by convention. He even likes gladiolus! In fact, he wrote a whole article about them, “So Glad,” for Flower magazine. As he explains, “my great-grandmothers and my Aunt Marie grew gladiolus” and he did too when he started gardening in the 1960s. ‘Spic and Span’ was an early favorite, and when 40 years later he found it in our catalog, he was “swept away by a wave of nostalgia.” Since then he’s added many other heirloom varieties to his garden, including the rare parrot glad, an old Southern form of G. dalenii.
Book of the Month: Laughing and Learning with Greg Grant
For about 11 cents a piece, you can enjoy 54 essays by one of the smartest – and funniest – gardeners I know, Greg Grant. If you’ve ever heard Greg speak, or read his modern classic The Southern Heirloom Garden (co-authored with Bill Welch), you know how laugh-out-loud funny he can be. But he’s a world-class horticulturist, too. His new book, In Greg’s Garden: A Pineywoods Perspective on Gardening, Nature and Family gathers together the first nine years of his columns from Texas Gardener magazine. Topics range from “Heirloom Bulbs” and “The Lure of Nocturnal Flowers” to “Confessions of a Plant Rustler” and “White Trash Gardening.” Most are engagingly personal, and though they’re Texas focused I think any gardener anywhere will find them well worth reading.
Southern Living's “10 Best Plants for Fall Planting”
“Order from oldhousegardens.com” – that's what Southern Living's senior garden writer Steve Bender recommends for all three bulbs on his recent “10 Best Plants for Fall” list. He calls Spanish bluebell “the best spring bulb no one seems to know about. It stands 15-20 inches tall, loves our climate, and spreads steadily into glorious sweeps. It comes in white and pink, but blue ‘Excelsior’ [the form we sell] is my favorite.” Steve also praises red spider lily and surprise lily. Both “send up foliage in the fall which remains through spring and then disappears. In August and September, spikes of flowers standing anywhere from 18-30 inches tall appear seemingly overnight without leaves. Both are easy to grow, spread into drifts, and last for generations.” (Sept. 2010)
A Tulip for Houston: T. clusiana “Officially a Success!”
Our good customer Dawn Anderson of zone-8/9 Missouri City, Texas, emailed us recently:
Four Favorites for Hilton Head and Points South
“Despite being housed in Michigan, Old House Gardens offers more heat-loving heirlooms than anyone else,” wrote Betsy Jukofsky recently in Hilton Head’s Island Packet. She grows many of our daffodils and reports that “‘Avalanche’ is a favorite as is ‘Sweetness’, . . . the ‘best daffodil for the South.’ Its fragrance is the sweetest.
A Glimpse from 1810: Bulbs in South Carolina
In the Rare Books Library of the Missouri Botanical Garden, our friend Sara Van Beck tracked down a fascinating booklet titled Catalogue of Plants in the Botanick Garden of South-Carolina. Published in Charleston in 1810, it lists 494 plants, including these 25 ornamental bulbous ones (along with garlic and leeks). Though we wouldn’t recommend all of them for Southern gardeners today, the list offers a rare glimpse into the past.
Ryan Gainey’s Tips for Canna indica
Romantic garden designer Ryan Gainey calls us every now and then with tips, requests, and reports on what’s looking especially good in his garden. Our Canna indica was at the top of his list when we talked last month. He calls it by its old name, Indian shot (the round black seeds are as hard as buckshot), and says the big clump of it in his Georgia garden looks even better now that he’s planted chartreuse ‘Limelight’ hydrangea and yellow ‘Hyperion’ daylily alongside it.
“Martagons Won’t Do Well in Your Zone,” We Said, But . . . .
Last fall when Master Gardener Linda Cobb of Spartanburg, South Carolina, ordered our martagon lilies, we told her we didn’t recommend them for her zone-7b/8a garden. But Linda loves a challenge, and this past June she wrote us happily:
‘Little Beeswings’ Earns Rave Reviews in South Carolina
‘Little Beeswings’ has been added to our list of dahlias that thrive in Southern heat, too, thanks to our good customer Miranda Hein of zone-8a North Augusta, SC. She writes: “I’m originally from Washington state and I LOVE my dahlias. I was advised not to grow them here, but couldn’t resist. The first year I planted ‘Little Beeswings’ and ‘Claire de Lune’ in my backyard, but they were not happy. So last year I put them on my back deck in whiskey barrel tubs, and they were beautiful! ‘Little Beeswings’ absolutely astounded me. It bloomed for ages, tons of flowers, and, let me tell you, my back deck faces south and is absolutely incinerated from sun-up till sundown. What an impressive little flower in every way!” (Mar. 2009)
Dahlias in Florida (and Another Sniff of Abyssinian Glads)
Our friend Jonathan Lubar reports “great luck” growing our old dahlias in his “trial bulb garden” at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in zone-8 Gainesville, Florida. Those doing especially well this year were ‘Yellow Gem’, ‘Willo Violet’, and ‘Thomas Edison’.
Black Beauty Lilies Thrive in Zone-8 Florida
Our good customer Judy Little of Cantonment, Florida, writes:
Another Southern Voter for ‘Gravetye Giant’ Snowflakes
Our long-time customer Peter Schaar of Dallas writes:
Tulipa clusiana Returns Happily for Mississippi Gardener
Our good friend Felder Rushing shared this email with us from one of his Mississippi Public Radio show listeners, Karen Lee:
Spring Starts with Stinky Narcissus
Spring has sprung for many of you (we’re jealous!), and your tazettas may already be blooming. These cluster-flowered narcissus include paperwhites which are often forced on pebbles for winter bloom. Some gardeners love their rich fragrance, and others can’t stand it.
Campernelles and Heaven
Known since colonial days as the “large jonquil,” Campernelle narcissus are memorably fragrant — as our good customer Jan Ayers of Plano, Texas, makes clear:
Rain Lilies for Elizabeth Lawrence’s Grave
This past May we were proud to be a small part of a ceremony honoring Elizabeth Lawrence, patron saint of Southern gardening and one of America’s most revered garden writers. At the 25th annual meeting of the Southern Garden History Society, members made a pilgrimage to Lawrence’s unadorned grave in a colonial churchyard outside Annapolis where they planted white rain lilies we had donated for the occasion.
“Mardi Gras Lilies” Lead Spring’s Parade
“Mardi Gras lilies are nodding in the warm breeze,” Bill Finch wrote in the Mobile Press-Register February 2, giving a new name to a very old jonquil.
Cannas in Colonial Williamsburg
Though cannas may seem flamboyantly modern, these New World natives were pictured in John Gerard’s Herbal of 1597, and in 1735 Peter Collinson of London wrote to his friend and fellow plant-collector John Custis of colonial Williamsburg:
Virginia Customer Awed by our TRUE Byzantine Glads
Our fall-planted Bulb of the Year is NOT your ordinary glad. For a start, it’s perennial through zone 6, and we have true stock! Our good customer Tamara Bastone of Chesapeake, Virginia, writes:
Gulf Coast Expert Surprised: Heirloom Tulip Thrives in Mobile
Bill Finch, Mobile’s garden guru and environmental editor of the Press-Register, reported recently:
Mobile’s Favorite Gardener Lauds Our Freesia and More
Bill Finch, Mobile’s garden guru and environmental editor of the Press-Register, reported recently that he has had excellent results with our antique Freesia alba (which we usually recommend for dry-summer/Mediterranean-climate gardens only), Byzantine gladiolus, Spanish bluebells, true Tulipa clusiana, and the Narcissus he calls our “Gulf Coast All-Stars:” ‘Grand Primo’, ‘Campernelle’, ‘Carlton’, ‘Sweetness’, ‘Avalanche’, ‘St. Keverne’, and ‘Thalia’. (Aug. 2006)
When Bi-Color Dahlias Aren’t: Blame the Heat
If your purple and white ‘Deuil du Roi Albert’ is completely purple, or your silver-tipped ‘Princess de Suede’ has lost its silver, chances are it’s been hot lately. Bi-color dahlias normally vary a bit from bloom to bloom, but when the temperature goes up the varying can get extreme. In our trial garden we’ve seen blooms on a single plant of ‘Deuil du’ that are almost all white next to some that are completely purple.
Mississippi Expert Says: For Tough Southern Daffs, Start with St. Keverne
Mississippi daffodil expert Ted Snazelle writing in the March 2006 edition of the American Daffodil Society’s Daffodil Journal had this advice for modern hybridizers:
Schoolhouse Lilies and Surviving Katrina
Our good customer Nancye Renihan of Fairhope, AL, writes:
More Success with Dahlias in the South
Here’s some more good news about growing dahlias where it’s HOT from our good customer Della Smith: “One of your ‘Bishop of Llandaffs’ is alive and well in zone-9 Houston, Texas! My daughter, who is a Master Gardener there, has had it return for three years now. She just leaves it in the ground over the winter and in the spring it pops back up. I was there last July, sweat box city, and it was gorgeous. I think that drainage is one of the keys for success there. It is planted in a raised bed.”
Farewell to Flora Ann Bynum
Many of us who love historic gardens were broken-hearted when we learned of the death on March 17 of Flora Ann Bynum. One of the warmest, most genuine people you could ever hope to meet, Flora Ann was devoted to her family and a wide circle of friends in historic Old Salem, NC, as well as in the Southern Garden History Society and all across the country. She founded and worked tirelessly for decades leading the SGHS and landscape-preservation efforts in Old Salem. She had a special affection for Roman hyacinths, making herself the country’s leading expert on these all-but-lost Southern heirlooms, and her big, old-fashioned garden on Main Street became a local landmark. The garden history community has lost one of its brightest lights, the world has lost an amazing human being, and we have lost a good friend who we will miss forever. (March 2006)
Tips for Growing Dahlias Where It’s HOT
Dahlias, we’ve always said, like it cool. They bloom best in the fall, they come originally from high mountain plateaus in Mexico, and they’re great favorites in northern states like Minnesota. So for years we warned gardeners in the Deep South and other hot areas to avoid them.
Garden Design’s “Way Hot 100” Includes Three of Our Bulbs
Every year in March, Garden Design magazine names their “Way Hot 100.” These are, editor Jenny Andrews says, “insiders’ top picks . . . , what designers and avid gardeners are wild about this spring.” Many are brand new, but of the eleven bulbs listed we’re proud that three are heirlooms we offer:
Newsletter Special: Parrot Gladiolus, Rare African Wildflower
Don’t delay! It’s been years since we’ve had enough of this rare glad to offer it, and we expect the handful of corms we have will sell out in a flash.
Felder Reports: Hurricane Lilies Light Up Katrina-Browned Mississippi
Our friend Felder Rushing (www.felderrushing.net) emailed us recently:
Hurricane-Ravaged Historic Sites Need Our Help, Too
The Gulf Coast is rich in history, and hundreds of historic buildings and gardens were devastated by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. To help, please join us in making a contribution to the Hurricane Relief Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. To learn more, click here. (Sept. 2005)
Hot and Dry? Try These Daffodils!
When the American Daffodil Society met in Dallas a couple of years ago, our friend Phil Huey gave a talk on daffodils for public plantings. Varieties he recommended as thriving in warm climates even without irrigation included our Erlicheer, Grand Primo, and Trevithian, along with heirloom February Gold, Fortune, Golden Dawn, Ice Follies, and Peeping Tom, and modern Dik Dik, Eclat, High Note, Pink Declaration, Pipit, Quail, and White Magnolia. (Sept. 2005)
Daffodils for Florida, Arizona, and Other Hot Places
Many of our Southern friends have snapped up the new Daffodils in Florida book which is based on the life’s work of the late John Van Beck. John was a great friend of ours and of historic daffodils. He tested hundreds of varieties in zone 8b Tallahassee to discover those that did best in what he called the Spanish Moss Belt where modern, mainstream cultivars often fail. Here are ones John recommended to us before he died in 2001, with a few additions from the book itself. Most should thrive throughout the South.
Other Excellent Performers: Butter and Eggs (needs shade), Campernelle, Double Campernelle, Orange Phoenix [currently unavailable], N. pseudonarcissus (Lent lily), Queen of the North (despite its name!), St. Keverne, and Van Sion.
Another challenging area for bulbs is the arid Southwest. Our friend Mary Peace Douglas who gardens in Tucson and Sonoita, Arizona, has been growing our bulbs since 1997. She reports great success with Avalanche, Conspicuus, Double Campernelle, Grand Primo, N. jonquilla Early Louisiana, and White Lady. If you’re in the Southwest, you might want to give some of these a try as well! (June 2005)
“Stunning” and “Profuse” in Mae’s California Garden
Our long-time customer Mae Hoag of Orinda, California, writes of a new favorite and two old friends that just keep going and going:
Watch for Our Tuberoses at Mount Vernon and the National Arboretum
Our ravishingly fragrant 2004 Spring-Planted Heirloom Bulb of the Year continues to gain converts. This spring we delivered bulbs of ‘Mexican Single’ tuberose to both Mount Vernon, where it is historically appropriate, having been grown in America since colonial days, and the US National Arboretum in Washington, DC. We’re honored! (April 2005)
‘Vuurbaak’ Hyacinths Wow Them in Fort Worth
Our good customer Steve Leahy of Fort Worth wrote recently:
Erna Says, “Plant Some Tuberoses This Spring!”
Our good customer Erna Hassebrock of Hot Springs, Arkansas, writes:
Pink Roman Hyacinths Smell Like Cinnamon Candy
Scott has a pot of pink Roman hyacinths blooming on his desk right now. The dainty flowers are graceful and charming, but what’s really fantastic is their fragrance. It started light and springy but then deepened into rich cinnamon or cloves, like the most potent pinks (Dianthus). Wow! (Feb. 2005)
New Daffodils in Florida: A Field Guide to the Costal South
Daffodils in Florida? You betcha! Self-published by our friends Linda and Sara Van Beck, this exciting new book is, as Scott says on the back cover of it, “a friendly, knowing guide” for gardeners in the Deep South, especially zones 8b-9a, who have been “disappointed by daffodil duds while longing for – and wondering about – the hosts of nameless daffodils thriving without care in old gardens and abandoned places.” The Van Becks are passionate amateurs whose advice and lists of recommended varieties are based on years of research in Florida gardens. This is no slick coffee-table book but a labor of love for everyone who “loves daffodils and the tough, gorgeous, traditional flowers of the South.” (Jan. 2005)
Did You Know Fragrant Tuberoses Make Great Cut Flowers?
Our good customer Judy Sanders of Montgomery, Texas, writes:
Eudora Welty’s Garden Restored with Our Heirlooms
Roman hyacinths, ‘Twin Sisters’, and other classic Southern bulbs are blooming again in the Jackson, Mississippi, garden of author Eudora Welty – and we helped! The garden opened to the public this past spring after a careful restoration led by landscape historian Susan Haltom who turned to us for authentic bulbs.
Protecting Your Plants from Armadillos
Our creative customer Sharon Black of Paris, Texas, writes:
No Joke: Kind Words from Felder Rushing
Felder Rushing, horticultural demi-god, garden comedian, and author of Passalong Plants and other great books, stopped by to see us last summer. Recently he emailed us:
Excellent New Book: Bulbs for Warm Climates
Thad Howard of Texas has spent 45 years collecting and growing bulbs that like it HOT. His encyclopedic Bulbs for Warm Climates is a terrific, scholarly companion for one of our all-time best-selling books, Scott Ogden’s Garden Bulbs for the South. Read them both before it’s hot again! (Jan. 2004)
Mobile’s Bill Finch Lauds OHG and Daffodils for Zone 8/9
Bill is the environmental editor for the Mobile Press-Register, and after reading one of his articles you’ll probably wish he wrote for your local paper. Recently he wrote, “Let me remind you where you’re most likely to find the bulbs that grow well in our climate: Old House Gardens.” Then he listed the daffodils he has found most reliable in his zone 9 garden. His top three are ‘Campernelle’, ‘Carlton’, and ‘Grand Monarque’ [currently unavailable], and he also highly recommends ‘Trevithian’, ‘Sweetness’, Lent lily (N. pseudonarcissus), ‘Avalanche’, ‘Thalia’, and ‘Early Louisiana’ jonquil. (Dec. 2003)
Good News – Louisiana’s Old Dickory is Saved!
The centuries-old live oak that we told you a couple of months ago was threatened by a highway project has been saved, thanks to an outpouring of support sparked by our good customer Coleen Perriloux Landry. The great old tree and its surrounding land have been donated to the local government, and three projects that would have fatally damaged it have been redesigned to protect it. Click here and scroll down the page for a photo and more info, and be sure to read the editorial from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, too. Who says one person can’t make a difference?! Thanks, Coleen, for the inspiration, and for saving this VERY historic plant. (July 2003)
Byzantine Glads Take Jim Back to Texas in the Fifties
Our good customer Jim Massey of Moncure, NC, writes:
Kind Words from Williamsburg
Our good customer Wesley Greene of Colonial Williamsburg, VA, writes:
OHG Customer Protects 800-Year-Old Live Oak
When an 800-year-old live oak is threatened by a $6-million highway extension, what do you do? Well, if you’re Coleen Perilloux Landry of Metairie, LA, you call local officials and even the governor, alert the media, organize volunteer crews to clean up the woods surrounding it, and speak eloquently about the value of a living giant that was already old when La Salle claimed the Mississippi Valley for Louis XIV in 1682. Thanks to Coleen’s efforts, the DOT is now studying alternative plans for re-routing the project and saving “Old Dickory.” Yea, Coleen! For a 14-state registry of ancient live oaks, visit the Live Oak Society website at www.louisianagardenclubs.org/live_oak_society/about.html. (March 2003)
Garden-Bubba Felder Rushing Visits, Writes About Us
Felder Rushing is one of the funniest guys in horticulture, and passionate about getting more people to have more fun gardening. We’re proud to call him a friend. Felder visited us here last month, picked our brains for his NEW edition of Passalong Plants, and then wrote about us for the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger. If you missed his column there, you can enjoy it here: oldhousegardens.com/felderRushing.asp. (March 2003)
First Blooms of Spring: Our Southern Customers Write
Many thanks to everyone who shared stories of their first spring bloomers! Here are two from a couple of our favorite Southern gardeners.
Tips for Success: Too Hot?
Though your dahlias may have stalled and looked stressed this summer, chances are they will revive in the fall – which is their glory season. They’re native to the highlands of Mexico and like it cool. For best bloom, give them plenty of water and don’t forget to fertilize.
In John Van Beck’s Memory, Plant Florida-Loving Daffodils
OHG and historic daffodils lost a great friend this past year with the passing of John Van Beck, founder of the Florida Daffodil Society. John was full of enthusiasm, humor, deep daffodil knowledge, and a maverick spirit. I’ll miss him a lot.
The Southern Heirloom Garden by Bill Welch and Greg Grant
I wish we had a book like this for every region in the country. Lively, serious, and beautifully illustrated, it starts with eight chapters, each by a different expert, on how various cultures – Native American, Spanish, French, African-American, and so on — have shaped Southern gardens. The second half is an encyclopedia of Southern heirloom plants, including many bulbs. It’s rich with historical facts, growing advice, and Bill and Greg’s entertaining reminiscences. (1996 catalog)
For articles on other topics, see our main Newsletter Archives page.
|For our print catalog click here or|
send $2.00 to
Old House Gardens
536 Third St., Ann Arbor, MI 48103.
|For our free email newsletter,
“The Friends of Old Bulbs Gazette”
with tips, news, history, &
send us an email with
“subscribe” in the subject line to
|© 1993-2012, Old House Gardens. All rights reserved.|