Other Interesting Stuff
From America’s Expert Source for Heirloom Flower Bulbs
| Here’s a grab-bag of OTHER INTERESTING STUFF from our email Gazette and past catalogs, starting with the most recently published. For other topics, please see our main Newsletter Archives page.|
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Larkspur Blooms in the Wreckage of Katrina
When she heard we were giving away larkspur (or poppy) seeds in every order this fall (learn more here), our good customer Colleen Perilloux Landry of Metairie, Louisiana, posted this at our Facebook page: “Several months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I went into an area that had 20 feet of water on it for many days. The house was totally ruined and still a disaster, but the yard was full of larkspur in bloom.” If it can thrive there, imagine how beautiful it could be in your garden! (late Oct. 2013)
A World Without Bees?
Every gardener knows that bees are important, and you may know they've been dying off recently at an alarming rate. But did you know that a third of what we eat every day is bee-dependent? Or that this past winter almost a third of all bee colonies in the US disappeared? And what about neonicotinoids? Have you been using them -- or bringing them into your garden on plants you've bought? Although I thought I was well-informed, I learned a lot -- both about the wonders of bees and the threats facing them today -- in a sobering cover article in Time magazine. You can read an excellent short version here and learn more about the dangers of mass-market plants laced with neonicotinoids here. Bees have been working hard for gardeners for thousands of years. Now they need our help, and learning more is the first step. (Sept. 2013)
What Would Mad Men’s Don Draper Grow – and Save?
He may not be a gardener, but the star of TV’s enormously popular Mad Men is a preservationist – at least according to the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner. With meticulous attention to its setting in the early 1960s, the show has helped revive interest in that era’s fashion and design. (I’m guessing I’m not the only viewer who blurts out things like “That’s a cool desk lamp” while watching it.) In a recent interview for Preservation magazine, Weiner talks about his work with the LA Conservancy, his appreciation for not-so-old places, and how he sees Don Draper as a person who “like the rest of us, is fighting a battle all the time over what you save and what you throw away.” Read it here. (July 2013)
My Kind of Summer School
Luther Burbank (1849-1926) was one of America’s most famous and prolific horticulturists, developing some 800 new varieties of plants including the Shasta daisy and Burbank potato, a form of which, the Russet Burbank, is now the world’s most widely grown potato. Burbank was also very interested in education, and I think any nature-lover will appreciate – and long for – the kind of education he describes here:
Milkweeds for Monarchs – But Not in Chicago?
In last month’s newsletter, we told you about the plight of monarchs due to genetically modified crops, and we encouraged you to help by planting milkweeds in your garden. But beware! One person’s valued native plant and butterfly host is another person’s weed, and in many communities that can lead to trouble with the law – as reported recently in the Chicago Tribune. (June 2013)
Save the Monarchs!
Every fall millions of orange and black monarch butterflies migrate hundreds of miles south to a handful of tiny sites mostly in Mexico where they survive the winter by huddling together on trees. In spring they mate, return north, lay eggs, and die – which means no monarch ever makes the trip twice. So how do they find their way? Scientists are still trying figure that out.
Stamps for Gardeners: Vintage Seed Packets, La Florida, and More
Apparently we’re not the only ones who think that flowers and the mail are great together. Earlier this month the post office released two new sets of “forever” stamps graced with flower images.
Spring in the Comic Pages
Last Sunday’s edition of one of our favorite comics, Arlo and Janis, will bring a knowing smile to any gardener. Enjoy it here. (March 2013)
Farewell to Garden Design
We subscribe to a lot of garden magazines, and we enjoy the diverse views they offer of the wide world of gardening. Sadly, after the April issue we’ll be missing the high-end, fashion-forward, design-centric view of Garden Design. With a relatively small circulation of 185,000 and weak ad sales, the magazine is the second to be folded by publisher Bonnier Corporation since a new CEO took over there a few months ago. Garden Design not only kept us looking ahead to the future of gardening, it helped save America’s landscape history by promoting the preservation work of the Cultural Landscape Foundation. Thanks, friends, for both. (March 2013)
March Madness: Go Big 10!
For the first time since 1994, our hometown University of Michigan Wolverines have made it to the Sweet Sixteen, beating the tough teams of South Dakota State and VCU. Next up, the formidable Kansas Jayhawks. Three other Big 10 teams are still playing, too – Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan State (the alma mater of our OHG colleagues Derick, Rick, and Vanessa) – and we’re cheering for them all, at least for one more round. Go Blue! (March 2013)
Sipping Spring: Dandelion Beer
You’ve probably heard of dandelion wine, but dandelion beer? As I was picking up a six-pack of Magic Hat #9 recently, the name of the beer sitting next to it caught my eye: Pistil. “Stop and smell the petals,” the label read, “brewed with dandelion.” What gardener could resist?
On Trend for 2013: Romantic, High-Value, and Heirloom
In a recent post at his thought-provoking blog Grounded Design, landscape architect and passionate gardener Thomas Rainer predicts seven major trends that will impact gardening in 2013. “Trend predicting is, of course, utterly obnoxious,” he writes, “but I love trying to articulate the zeitgeist,” the spirit of the time. Two of his trends resonate especially strongly with us here at Old House Gardens:
Green is Cool! Emerald Named Color of the Year
Drum roll, please! Every year the Pantone Color Institute announces its Color of the Year, and this year it’s a favorite of gardeners everywhere: green, or more specifically, emerald. “A lively, radiant, lush green,” emerald “enhances our sense of well-being by inspiring insight as well as promoting balance and harmony,” according to the Color Institute. “Since antiquity, this luminous, magnificent hue has been the color of beauty and new life in many cultures” as well as the color of “growth, prosperity, healing, and unity.” To learn more, view some emerald-rich photos, and maybe even order an emerald coffe cup or iPhone case, visit pantone.com/pages/index.aspx?pg=21055&from=hp. (Feb. 2013)
The Evolution of “Mail” Ordering
Do you remember the first time you ordered from us? For many customers, that was a long time ago, and a lot has changed since then, as Jim Ramoni of San Jose, CA, reminded us recently:
Enjoy Heirloom Flowers Every Day of the New Year
Give yourself or someone you love a year full of heirloom flowers with Suzanne Lewis’s 2013 Classic Bouquets calendar. An award-winning photographer and long-time OHG customer, Suzanne features many of our flowers in her stunning images. One of our favorites this year is her all-white March bouquet of ‘Thalia’ and ‘Grand Primo’ narcissus, ‘L’Innocence’ hyacinths, and ‘Gravetye Giant’ snowflakes. (Dec. 2012)
Hurricane Sandy: Sympathy, Defiance, and Free Bulbs
Our sympathies go out to everyone who’s been battered by Hurricane Sandy and its devastating after-effects. For gardeners who are used to finding joy in our gardens, seeing this other side of nature must have made it even more horrifying.
Flower Power: Bulbs to Cure Breast Cancer and AIDS
Every gardener knows the healing power of Nature’s beauty and getting your hands in the dirt, and of course plants have been used medicinally since the dawn of time. In his always interesting Plant Delights newsletter, Tony Avent recently shared some good news about the medical potential of some of our favorite bulbs and other flowers:
Laugh of the Month: G-argh!-dening
Fragrant, Colorful, Historic . . . and Hard to Spell
Once America’s favorite bulb – the one at the front of every catalog, with more varieties offered than even tulips – hyacinths have plummeted in popularity over the past 150 years. Could spelling be to blame? Gardeners searching for hyacinths at our website have misspelled it and its Latin name hyacinthus 38 different ways, more than just about any other bulb.
On Trend: Heirloom (Light) Bulbs and Authenticity
It’s not just savvy gardeners who are getting excited about heirloom bulbs. In a recent article about the booming “past-is-present trend,” Richard Mullins of The Tampa Tribune explains:
Easy to Love, Hard to Spell
One of our most popular bulbs is the hardy and amazing Bissentine glad . . . er, Bynzyntine glad . . . no, wait a minute – how do you spell that?? If you’re not sure, you’re not alone. Gardeners searching for Byzantine glads at our website have misspelled it and its Latin name byzantinus 23 different ways. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! Whether you spell it Bisantine, Bisentine, Bissentine, Bizantine, Bynzyntine, Bysantine, bysantinus, Byzanine, byzanticus, Byzantile, byzantinas, byzantinis, byzantinius, Byzantinne, byzantinum, byzantium, Byzatine, byzatinus, Byzentine, Byzintine, byzintinus, Byzntine, or Bzatinne, you’ll find true stock of exactly what you want at oldhousegardens.com. (June 2012)
It’s Official: Spring was Hot
“Call it spring’s fever,” wrote Seth Borenstein in a recent Associated Press article that confirmed what many gardeners already suspected. “Federal records show the US just finished its hottest spring on record. March, April, and May in the lower 48 states beat the coldest spring temperature record by a full 2 degrees. The three months averaged 57.1 degrees, more than 5 degrees above average. That’s the most above normal for any US season on record. . . . The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also reported that it was the second warmest May since records began in 1895. May averaged 64.3 degrees, just behind 1934.”
The High Line: Heirloom Bulbs Flourish in New York’s Coolest Park
The Martha Stewart Show wasn’t the only exciting thing I did in New York last week. I also visited the High Line, a cool new park built on an abandoned railway high over the streets of Manhattan. The railway was originally used to deliver meat, produce, and raw materials to warehouses and factories along the west side of lower Manhattan. Abandoned in the 1980s, it was slated for demolition until neighborhood activists, inspired by the way nature was reclaiming the railbed, convinced the city to recycle it into an aerial greenway. Since opening in 2009, the park has become wildly popular and sparked billions of dollars worth of re-development in the area.
International Plan for Biodiversity Recognizes the Importance of Heirloom Bulbs
Well, not specifically, but the importance of preserving cultivated plants has been officially recognized at the international level for the first time. The United Nation’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity is “a ten-year framework for action by all countries and stakeholders to safeguard biodiversity and the benefits it provides to people.” The plan includes five goals and twenty “targets,” one of which reads, “By 2020, the genetic diversity of cultivated plants . . . including . . . culturally valuable species, is maintained, and strategies have been developed and implemented for minimizing genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity.” As with world peace, we can’t expect to see 100% success anytime soon, but the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity is an important step forward in any case – and not just for heirloom bulbs. Learn more here. (March 2012)
Bankruptcy Rocks Van Bourgondien Bulbs
The Van Bourgondien family has been growing and selling flower bulbs for over a century, so we were saddened (and rattled) to read this news in the Plant Delights newsletter:
Spring’s First “Inexpressably Beautiful” Day
Gardeners love spring more than anybody else, and no matter how mild your winter has been, we bet you’ll know exactly what Sydney Eddison is talking about here in A Patchwork Garden (1990):
Garden Resolutions from Our Readers
In December we shared a few of our garden resolutions for 2012 and asked for yours. Most of you must have been too busy wrapping presents, but five forward-looking gardeners emailed us theirs:
Looking Ahead: What’s Your New Year’s Resolution for the Garden?
In winter, every gardener seems to be making plans for how they’re going to make their garden even better in the year ahead. So we ask: do you have a New Year’s resolution for your garden? If so, we’d love to hear it at firstname.lastname@example.org. Heck, we might even share it in an upcoming newsletter. To prime the pump, here are a few of ours:
Two Great Heirloom Flower Calendars
Give yourself or someone you love a lush bouquet of heirloom flowers every day of the year with Suzanne Lewis’s 2012 Bouquets calendar. An award-winning photographer and long-time customer of ours, Suzanne features many of our flowers in her calendar’s stunning images. In the February bouquet, for example, ‘Rubrum’ lilies mix with old roses, in March there’s an amazing all-blue, all-heirloom bouquet of hyacinths, and in October elegant ‘Jersey’s Beauty’ dahlia glows among burgundy mums and autumn leaves.
Charlie Says: Protect Your Cat from Feline Diabetes
Although he makes the rest of us answer his email, no one here is better loved than Charlie. When we first met him fifteen years ago, he was so small we could hold him in one hand. He loved to eat, though, and eventually, like many of us, he put on a little too much weight. We tried to limit his food, but Charlie could be insistent – and the next thing we knew our vet was telling us he had diabetes and if we wanted him to live we’d have to give him insulin shots twice a day for the rest of his life.
Eudora Welty’s Ode to Bulb-Eating Rodents
My family looks at me like I’m a lunatic when I pound on the window and holler at squirrels digging in my garden, but Eudora Welty would understand. I recognized her as a kindred spirit when I read this witty, William Blake inspired poem that she wrote and posted on a stick in her garden. (One Writer’s Garden, page 146) (Nov. 2011)
Squirrel, squirrel, burning bright,
Do not eat my bulbs tonight!
Albuquerque Gardeners Get Paid to Save Water by Planting Bulbs
In an October 3 article titled “Droughtbusters,” TIME magazine spotlights five innovative efforts to conserve that increasingly rare resource, water. Along with mandatory rainwater harvesting in India and purifying toilet water for drinking in Namibia, the article explores how Albuquerque, NM, has reduced its per-capita water use by 38% – thanks in part to hyacinths. Yes, hyacinths! “Since 1996,” it reports, “Albuquerque’s water authority has been paying residents $.75 per square foot to rip out their thirsty lawns and replace them with plants that need little water to thrive. To date, some 6 million square feet of turf have been replaced with agave plants, Joshua trees, hyacinths, and other desert-appropriate vegetation in a style known as xeriscaping.”
Summer 2011: Hottest Since the Dust Bowl
Though it was cooler than usual in Oregon and Washington, much of the country suffered through punishing heat this past summer. In fact, according to USA Today, 2011 was the country’s “hottest summer in 75 years and the second-hottest summer on record” – topped only by the Dust Bowl year of 1934. Texas and Oklahoma were hardest hit. Their averages of 86.8 and 86.5 degrees – based on the entire 24-hour cycle, not just daily highs – were the hottest ever recorded for any state.
Thank You! Kelly’s Pink Ribbon Samplers Raise $525
Your generous support of our Pink Ribbon Samplers raised another $174 this past spring. We added a few extra bucks and sent a check for $200 to LiveStrong.org, which brought our collective donation from last fall and this spring to a grand total of $525. Kelly, our shipping and micro-farms manager, was deeply touched, and the best news of all is that almost two years after her operation she’s cancer-free, feeling great, and gardening as enthusiastically as ever. (July 2011)
Made in Michigan: Hospital Grows Its Own Vegetables (and Our Dahlias)
We’ve introduced you to some of our favorite Michigan-made products here, in an attempt to boost our home state’s hard-hit economy. But this month we’re spotlighting an innovative Michigan-made idea instead.
Bomb-Sniffing Tulips: Coming Soon to a Garden Near You?
“Could airport security gardens be the wave of the future?” asked a recent article in the New York Times. “How about a defensive line of bomb-sniffing tulips in Central Park … or lining the streets of Baghdad?” Though it may sound far-fetched, researchers at Colorado State University report that they’ve “created the platform for just such a plant-kingdom early warning system: plants that subtly change color” by draining chlorophyll from their leaves when exposed to air-borne particles of TNT. “Plants are uniquely suited by evolution to chemical analysis of their environment, in detecting pests, for example,” the article explains. “When modified to sense TNT, the most commonly used explosive, [plants in the lab] reacted to levels one one-hundredth of anything a bomb-sniffing dog could muster.” There’s still work to be done “to make sure the plant’s signal is clear enough and fast enough to be of use,” but researchers hope to have response time down from hours to minutes within three years. Read more here. (March 2011)
Sports and Flowers: Gardening with Team Colors
Although sports and flowers may seem to be an unlikely combination, quite a few of our customers mention their favorite teams to us – perhaps because we’re headquartered in Ann Arbor, home of the (usually) mighty University of Michigan Wolverines. One enthusiastic customer even sends us a sympathy card whenever Ohio State kicks our butt in football.
Pleasures of the November Garden
If the short, cold days of November have you feeling a bit gloomy about your garden, here’s a pep talk from one of the 20th century’s greatest gardeners, Vita Sackville-West, creator of England’s iconic Sissinghurst Gardens.
Suzanne’s Heirloom Bouquets Calendar is Back!
After a three-year hiatus, the award-winning Bouquets calendar of our good customer Suzanne Lewis is available again – along with prints of her gorgeous photos of heirloom flowers that you can frame and enjoy forever.
Dutch Bulb Fields Changed Monet’s Gardening and Art
An 1886 trip to Holland had a profound impact on Monet’s painting and gardening, as explained by Vivian Russell in Monet’s Garden: Through the Seasons at Giverny.
The Hottest June Ever
It's official. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this past June was the hottest ever recorded. TIME magazine reports that "The combined global land and ocean temperature was 1.22 degrees F above the 20th century average." Temperatures in March, April, and May were also the hottest ever recorded, and "2010 is well on its way to becoming the warmest year worldwide since 1880, the earliest date for which global data is available." (July 2010)
Summer Reading: Between Tulips and the Gloomy Sea
Flowers have been inspiring art and poetry for millennia. Here's a recent poem that starts with a familiar scene from the Dutch bulb fields but quickly morphs into something darker and more poignant. Thanks to our good customer Sue McIver for emailing it to us, the Poetry 180 program of the Library of Congress for emailing it to her, and Doug Dorph and his publisher for giving us permission to share it with you.
Bankruptcy Stuns Fans of Wayside, Park Seed, Jackson and Perkins
The economy is picking up, but it’s still a tough world out there. On April 2, three of the oldest and most highly respected plant suppliers in the country filed for bankruptcy protection. According to a spokesperson for the three, “The horticulture industry is challenging and highly seasonal in the best of times. As the general economic situation declined starting in 2008, demand for luxury, non-essential purchases dropped sharply. . . . Seeking court protection and restructuring is clearly our best option for returning to a position where we can focus on delighting our customers.”
Laughing Locally: Arlo and Janis Grow Their Own
Last week my favorite comic-strip couple did what a lot of us are doing this spring: they planted vegetables. And, as usual, they not only made me laugh, they got me thinking. You can enjoy their week-long adventure at comics.com/arlo&janis/2010-04-12/. Click on the arrow by the date above the strip to continue to the next day’s installment. You could also ask Comics.com to email “Arlo and Janis” (or dozens of other comics) to you every morning. It’s free and, like gardening, laughing is good for you. (May 2010)
Eating Locally: The Year’s First Asparagus
On one of our first dates, my wife Jane took me searching for asparagus growing along the roadsides out by her family’s farm. Unfortunately, we’d picked just two stalks when our car got stuck in the mud and we had to call a tow truck. That wasn’t a lot of fun, but it’s a happy memory now and we laugh about it every spring when our favorite vegetable finally comes back into season here in Michigan. From mid-April till we can’t get it anymore, we eat asparagus from our local Farmers’ Market every single day. At first we just want it steamed or grilled (perfection!), but eventually we get around to recipes like this easy one from the old “Cartoon Kitchen” (anyone remember that?) which we hope you’ll enjoy:
Pasta with Asparagus
asparagus (1/4 lb. per person)
109-Year-Old Bulb Burning Bright
For a different kind of heirloom bulb, check out the illuminating website of Livermore, California’s Centennial Light Bulb. Installed in a firehouse in 1901, it’s the longest-burning incandescent bulb in the country. You can’t plant it, but that kind of longevity is impressive no matter what! (Feb. 2010)
Narcissus Stamps to Celebrate Year of the Tiger
For centuries, cluster-flowered tazetta narcissus much like our ‘Grand Primo’ and ‘Avalanche’ have been an important part of New Year’s festivities in Asia. Their gold cups symbolize wealth, and if they bloom on New Year’s Day, it’s said you’ll have luck and prosperity throughout the year. To celebrate New Year’s Day for the year 4707 which is coming up February 14, the post office is issuing a bright red 44-cent stamp decorated with these traditional narcissus. Take a look! (Jan. 2010)
Bulbs Gone Wild: Craving Spring
If you’re already looking forward to spring, this poem’s for you. Written this past March by our good customer Stephani Franklin of Tulsa, it’s so far from smarmy it may deserve a warning label, but we love how it captures the desperate exuberance that all of Nature seems to feel as spring gets near. (Stephani added in a post-script, “Don’t worry, it melted, they all survived.”)
“Now is the Best Time of Year to Be a Gardener”
Would you agree? Our friend Jessica Walliser made that claim recently in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. See what you think:
Laughing with Bulbs: Doonesbury’s Zonker
Even Doonesbury’s Zonker Harris is planting bulbs this fall. For six days of laughs, go to doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20090928. Click the “Next” tab at the top of each comic to see them all. There’s also a link just above that to “Latest FAQ: Why do bulbs keep coming up in Doonesbury?”
New Hope for Zone-Stretching Gardeners
A brief note in the current April issue of Garden Gate magazine tells of a new development that could have North Dakota gardeners growing cannas year-round:
Buying Local: Our Bulbs Help Feed Your Neighbors
When you buy your bulbs from us, you’re giving a whole lot of your neighbors right here in America something better than a bailout – a job that allows them to continue paying their bills and feeding their families.
“In the Dirt”: A Gardener’s Song for Tough Times
Our good customer Karen Savoca is a gifted singer-songwriter whose funky, melodic, highly personal songs have gained her a loyal following across the country. If she and her guitar-wizard husband Pete are ever performing anywhere near you, go! They’re mesmerizing, and a whole lot of fun. One of Karen’s songs has been echoing through my head recently, and she was happy to let us share the lyrics with you. We hope you’ll find it a helpful tonic for these challenging times. (You can listen to it here or buy it from iTunes for $.99!) (Mar. 2009)
“In the Dirt,” by Karen Savoca, © 2005 Alcove Music/BMI
gonna dig down in the dirt
Got Too Many Plastic Pots? Try This!
If your pile of empty plastic pots and cell-packs is getting dangerously high because you hate to send them to the landfill, here’s an earth-friendly solution. Last fall our friends at Milwaukee’s Boerner Botanical Gardens and UW-Extension hosted a Plastic Pot Recycling Weekend. They invited local gardeners to bring in their empty plastic pots, cell-packs, garden trays, hanging baskets, fertilizer and mulch bags, greenhouse poly film, irrigation drip tape, and landscape edging to be shredded on site by a company that makes plastic lumber for decking and outdoor furniture.
Mourning Ed McRae, Champion of Lilies
American gardening lost a great friend with the passing of lily expert Edward McRae late last year. Born in Scotland, Eddie moved to Oregon in 1961 and spent the rest of his life growing, hybridizing, and promoting lilies. In 1995 he launched the Species Lilies Preservation Group, and in 1998 he summed up a lifetime’s worth of knowledge in Lilies: A Guide for Growers and Collectors.
Happy 250th Birthday, Pittsburgh!
One of my favorite cities is celebrating its 250th birthday this year, as I was recently reminded by an insightful article from the Associated Press. Pittsburgh is a Rust Belt city that’s been doggedly transforming itself into a vibrant, livable 21st-century city without losing sight of its past. It has a spectacular natural setting; diverse, lively neighborhoods; the historic, revitalized Phipps Conservatory – and I could go on and on. Add it to your list of places to explore, and if you’re one of our many friends who live there, congratulations and Happy Birthday! (Dec. 2008)
Now Online: Extended Info on 8 Bulbs of the Year!
Only our most exciting bulbs are crowned Bulb of the Year. For a list of all 16, visit our brand new Bulb of the Year page. Click on the “Learn more” links there and you’ll be taken to our original press releases announcing eight of the winners, each full of information we just can’t squeeze into a catalog description. You might get so inspired you’ll want to put together your own Bulbs of the Year sampler. Enjoy! (Oct. 2008)
Don’t Bury Your Money in the Backyard, Plant Bulbs!
In troubled times like these, flower bulbs are one of the smartest investments you can make. And what other luxury costs so little? For a few dollars you get months of anticipation, weeks of beauty, fragrance, and pride when they bloom, and – as long as you meet their simple needs – they multiply happily year after year. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the Fed knows what it’s doing, but we’re also hoping that you’re like us – and that nothing’s going to stop you from planting some very special bulbs this fall. (Sept. 2008)
Anniversary Party Favors from the Hortus
To celebrate its 80th anniversary, the Hortus Bulborum has printed four snazzy bookmarks, each decorated with antique bulb illustrations, and they’ve given us 1000 of them to share with you. We’ll tuck one into every order we ship this fall that includes a bulb we get from the Hortus (while supplies last). If you see “from the Hortus” in the description of any bulb you’ve ordered – or will order – for delivery this fall, you’ll get a bookmark! (Aug. 2008)
An Unexpected Tote-Bag Testimonial
Our brand-new Heirloom Bulbs Tote-Bags are getting rave reviews from some very demanding critics: our staff. Twenty-something Renee Hytinen, for example, found a couple of unorthodox uses for it on a recent weekend trip to Lake Michigan.
Link of the Month: Historic Sewers
We’re not kidding. Sewers are essential to modern life and critical to the health of our waterways, wildlife, and all of Nature. They can be pretty darn interesting, too – as we think you’ll agree once you take a look at garden writer Adam Levine’s website The History of Philadelphia’s Watersheds and Sewers at phillyH2o.org/index.htm.
Inspired by OHG: A Holiday Carol for Bulb Lovers
Here’s a cheery little treat from our friend Linda Beutler of Portland, Oregon, author of the fabulous Garden to Vase: Growing and Using Your Own Cut Flowers. She writes, “Some of us here have started a little horticultural singing group, The Goddess Flora Chorus and Dead-heading Society. I’m their principal lyricist, and I was very much thinking of Old House Gardens when I penned the following. (For maximum pleasure, sing it aloud to a friend!)
“Catalog in Hand” (to the tune of “Winter Wonderland”), by Linda Beutler
Post man rings,
Heirloom Tulip Wallpaper by Bradbury and Bradbury
This Arts-and-Crafts wallpaper frieze in ochre, olive, and sienna would be gorgeous even if it didn’t feature tulips. See for yourself at the website of California’s famed Bradbury and Bradbury Art Wallpapers. While you’re there, you may find the perfect wallpaper for your Victorian parlor or 1950s rumpus room, too! (Sept. 2007)
Garden For Tradition
The National Garden Bureau offers people eight great reasons to try gardening, starting with this reason which we found most interesting:
Save the Pollinators!
Have you seen the beautiful new pollinator stamps? With intertwining images of four native flowers being pollinated by a bee, butterfly, hummingbird, and bat, they were released in June to celebrate the first annual Pollinator Week.
Sticker Shock in “Tulip City”
We’ve worked hard to hold the line on prices, but with the euro at record levels, Dutch-grown bulbs are costing more throughout the US this fall. In Holland, Michigan, that’s an especially big problem.
Bad News for Tulip Lovers: Euro at All-time High
Once again we managed to hold the line and even reduce prices for many bulbs in this year’s catalog. Unfortunately, we also ended up raising more prices than we’d like, mainly for varieties grown in the Netherlands where the euro continues to soar. Not so many years ago the euro was worth about $.85, but as the Associated Press reported just last week, “The euro shot to an all-time high against the US dollar Tuesday, [reaching] $1.3738, its highest level since the 13-nation currency started trading in 1999.” (July 2007)
“Bud Burst” Wants Your Help Tracking Global Warming
You can help scientists investigate global warming in your own backyard! Gardeners and other “citizen-scientists” are being recruited to note when native plants in their area – including many common garden flowers – first leaf out and bloom. The data will help scientists track the arrival of spring, which since 1955 is coming about six days earlier in the Northern Hemisphere. Several universities and federal agencies are participating, as are elementary and high school students across the country. To find out more, visit http://www.windows.ucar.edu/citizen_science/budburst/. (April 2007)
Celebrating Linnaeus’s 300th Birthday
This May 23, how about lifting a glass of dandelion wine and toasting the 300th birthday of Linnaeus? This great Swedish botanist created our system for classifying living things into species and larger groups and standardized Latin names into simple “binomials” such as Lilium auratum instead of names that were often dozens of words long. “His contribution to our passion for plant life should make a great party mandatory,” writes Jim Black in the excellent new MasterGardener magazine. And, in case you’re hesitating, he adds dryly, “It’s unlikely any of us will make the Quadracentenary.” (April 2007)
David and Goliath in the Garden
A recent report says that 70% of all lawn and garden sales are rung up by Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and K-Mart. We shop the big-box stores, too, but imagine this: If that percentage ever reaches 100%, how will that affect your gardening?
Heronwood’s Closing Prompts Laughter, Advice
Sometimes a little laughter is the best medicine. Mary Higgins of Cambridge, MA, emailed us recently: “Heronswood is closing? That’s horrible! I should have suspected something was up when those pig dogs stopped producing the print catalogue this year. . . . Please don’t ever sell Old House Gardens to Wal-Mart or Haliburton.”
Just in Time for Summer: Red Velvet (Lily) Cake Recipe
Red Velvet lily is wonderfully deep-colored, but I had always puzzled about its name because it didn’t match any red velvet I’d ever seen. Rachel set me straight, though, when she pointed out that it’s the color of old-fashioned red velvet cake. To see for yourself, try the recipe from our friend Matt’s Grandma Opal. Topped with white frosting and blueberries, it’s the perfect treat for a Fourth of July picnic! (June 2006)
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)
Christopher Lloyd Now Gardening in Paradise
Open-minded and fun-loving, Christopher Lloyd was one of my favorite gardeners. He had the vision and courage to champion plants like Wyoming cannas and Byzantine glads twenty years ago when most people were scorning them, and he never lost his child-like sense of wonder. To read a great tribute to him by our friend Ken Druse, visit http://kendruse.typepad.com/the_newsletters/2006/02/farewell_to_the.html . For a look at his inspiring gardens at Great Dixter, and to help support their preservation, visit http://www.greatdixter.co.uk/index.htm. (Feb. 2006)
Vandals Uproot Historic Iris at Renowned Presby Gardens
Shocking news reached us in early August. In the words of Philip Read:
New Heirloom Flower Screen-Savers
Enjoy inspiring flowers on your desktop monitor with dozens of new screen-savers from our friend Suzanne Lewis. Suzanne is the award-winning photographer whose breath-taking calendars we offer every year. To view her brand-new Heirloom Flowers, Bouquet, and Cats screen-savers, visit http://www.secondnaturecd.com/suzannelewis.html .
Diversity Diminishes As Big Growers Rely on Unskilled Labor
Steve Vinisky of Cherry Creek Daffodils posted this message to Daffnet, the ADS’s email discussion group:
Red Sox Win with a Little Help from Us!
Our good customer Mary Higgins of Cambridge wrote us last week after the Red Sox had beat the Yankees to win the American League pennant:
Celebrate Our Aztec Tuberoses with Antique Chocolate
The tuberose, our 2004 Spring-Planted Heirloom Bulb of the Year, is one of the Aztecs’ great gifts to the world. Chocolate is another. And now you can taste chocolate the way it was enjoyed back in the days of the Aztecs!
Plant a Little Hope
Is there anything that makes the cold, dark days of winter speed by faster than knowing that you have some new bulbs tucked underground preparing for the miracle of spring? And couldn’t we all use a little extra hope and beauty these days? Plant bulbs, plant hope! (Sept. 2002)
We’d like to second this advice from the September 1892 edition of The Mayflower magazine:
Why Save Old Bulbs?
“Each time we permit an old variety to become extinct, we sacrifice part of our heritage. Those who ask why we need more than a few varieties of beans or corn [or bulbs] might as well wonder why a library needs more than one book on a subject.”
Another Reason Why Modern Bulbs Often Disappoint Gardeners
Don Egger writing in the 1998 Lily Yearbook of the North American Lily Society explains:
The Thrill of Something New
If snowdrops bloomed for months, would we love them more? Here’s a thoughtful response from one of my favorite garden writers in Henry Mitchell on Gardening:
For articles on other topics, see our main Newsletter Archives page.
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