Heirloom Bulbs of the Year

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 ŒBlack Beauty¹ lily named Fall-Planted Heirloom Bulb of the Year
Though gardeners are drawn to ŒBlack 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. ŒBlack 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 ŒBlack Beauty¹ is and saying Œtoo 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 ŒBlack 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 alkaline‹as 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. ŒBlack 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, ŒGold Eagle¹ and ŒWhite Henryi¹, before introducing his masterpiece, the groundbreaking ŒStargazer¹, which is currently the most widely grown lily in the world. ³But ŒBlack 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 ŒMexican Single¹ variety as ... Heirloom Bulb of the Year for spring planting.... 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 ŒMexican 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: Œheat, water, and manure¹‹or 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 historic‹and you won¹t see them in everyone else¹s yard.... ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Reprinted with permission from the August 2003 _HortIdeas_. Copyright 2003 by Greg and Pat Williams. HORTIDEAS (ISSN 0742-8219) is published monthly by Gregory and Patricia Y. Williams, 750 Black Lick Road, Gravel Switch, KY 40328 U.S.A. Annual subscription rates: U.S., $25.00 periodicals or $27.00 first class; Canada and Mexico, $32.00; Overseas, $30.00 surface mail or $42.00 air mail. Single issues: North America, $2.50 each; Overseas, $3.00 each, surface mail, or $4.00 each, air mail. The email address for HORTIDEAS is: snipped-for-privacy@mis.net. _HortIdeas_ is now on the world wide web at http://www.users.mis.net/~gwill/hi-index.htm
Bob Batson
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