Heirloom Bulbs of the Year
Old House Gardens (536 Third St., Ann Arbor, MI 48103, phone
734-995-1486, web site <http://www.oldhousegardens.com ; catalog of
antique bulbs $2) annually picks two cultivars from their extensive
offerings (one for fall planting and the other for spring planting) as
Heirloom Bulbs of the Year. These are truly special bulbs with unique
features. The latest selections are described below in news releases
provided by Old House Gardens.
Indestructible Black Beauty¹ lily named
Fall-Planted Heirloom Bulb of the Year
Though gardeners are drawn to Black Beauty¹ lily because it¹s
drop-dead gorgeous, with dark raspberry flowers elegantly edged in
silver, once they grow it, they love it even more because it¹s so
incredibly tough. In fact, lily experts call it ³indestructible.² ...
Old House Gardens¹ previous Bulbs of the Year have been mostly
Victorian rarities in danger of extinction. Black Beauty¹, on the other
hand, dates to 1958, and though it¹s beginning to drop from mainstream
sources, it¹s still widely available. So why honor it? ³We followed our
hearts on this one,² says Scott Kunst. ³As we talked about all the great
heirloom bulbs we might celebrate, we kept coming back to how
spectacular Black Beauty¹ is and saying too bad it¹s not that old or
endangered.¹ Finally we decided if we all loved it so much and thought
it belonged in everyone¹s garden, it didn¹t really matter if it¹s only
45 years old and not yet on the edge of doom.²
Black Beauty¹ grows a dramatic five to eight feet tall yet rarely
needs any support. The dark raspberry petals of its 10 to 40 lightly
fragrant, turk¹s-cap flowers sweep back like the wings of a hawk, and
each is trimmed with silver. Hardy in Zones 5 through 7 (or 9 on the
mild West Coast), it¹s wonderfully healthy and long-lived in sun or
light shade, and unlike many lilies, it¹s perfectly happy in soils that
range from acid to alkalineas long as they¹re well-drained. In fact,
it¹s so tough researchers say that even the voracious New England lily
beetle leaves it alone. Its enduring success in gardens across the
country made it the very first lily voted into the North American Lily
Society¹s Hall of Fame.
Black Beauty¹ was one of many extraordinary lilies bred by Leslie
Woodriff, an American hybridizer who shook up the lily world by making
crosses that most people considered impossible. Its parents were two
wild lilies from Asia that had never been crossed before: the lovely,
fragrant, pink-and-white Lilium speciosum, and the graceful,
limetolerant, virus-proof L. henryi. Woodriff went on to create two
other Hall of Fame lilies, Gold Eagle¹ and White Henryi¹, before
introducing his masterpiece, the groundbreaking Stargazer¹, which is
currently the most widely grown lily in the world.
³But Black Beauty¹ is better in the garden,² Kunst says. ³It blooms
more and lives forever.² Tough, long-lived, and gorgeous ...
Luxuriously fragrant Aztec tuberose named
Spring-Planted Bulb of the Year
³Everyone who has a garden, or a taste for flowers, knows the
tuberose, ² C.L. Allen wrote in 1893, and that had been true in America
since colonial times. But today, these luxuriously fragrant bulbs are
woefully uncommon. To help gardeners rediscover the timeless pleasures
of tuberoses, the folks at Old House Gardens have named the easy-to-grow
Mexican Single¹ variety as ... Heirloom Bulb of the Year for spring
Despite its long history, Polianthes tuberosa has never been found in
the wild and is believed to be extinct there all the more reason to
grow it in your own backyard. It was domesticated by the Aztecs, who
held it sacred to Xochiquetzal, ³the Aztec Aphrodite,² goddess of the
earth, flowers, music, dance, beauty, and especially love. It was
brought to Europe by 1530, and Parkinson included it in his great
florilegium of 1629, calling it the ³Indian knobbed Iacinth.² By 1730,
it was thriving in Williamsburg, and in 1777, pioneering botanist
William Bartram reported it on a plantation near Baton Rouge, where the
flower stalks were a prodigious ³five to seven feet high in the open
ground, the flowers being very large and abundant.²
More typically, tuberoses bloom on stalks three to four feet high
over a clump of grassy foliage. Though the starry white flowers of
Mexican Single¹ have a simple, old-fashioned beauty, it¹s their
ravishing fragrance that makes gardeners swoon. Some compare it to
vanilla, other to orange blossoms, gardenias, or even chocolate. And
it¹s richer in the evening, making it perfect for gardeners who commute.
Millions of pounds of tuberose blossoms are harvested annually in
Provence for the perfume trade, and all are picked at night.
Though they¹re subtropical, tuberoses are not just for the South,
Kunst says, noting that Old House Gardens¹ bulbs come from a family farm
in Illinois, where they¹ve been grown commercially since the 1930s.
³They¹re easy to grow almost anywhere as long as you start with big
bulbs, about the size of a man¹s thumb, and then give them the three
things C.L. Allen recommended for them in 1893: heat, water, and
manure¹or any garden fertilizer.² In the North, where soils warm
slowly, they bloom best in pots. That way, you can move them right where
you want to enjoy them, too.
Tuberoses are easy, fragrant, deeply historicand you won¹t see them
in everyone else¹s yard....
Reprinted with permission from the August 2003 _HortIdeas_.
2003 by Greg and Pat Williams. HORTIDEAS (ISSN 0742-8219) is published
monthly by Gregory and Patricia Y. Williams, 750 Black Lick Road, Gravel
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