When we were in Milwaukee recently we visited Boswell's Book Company where I bought copies of a couple of my favorite UK magazines among other things. The March issue of House and Garden had an article about the Hortus Bulborum in the Netherlands, a "gene bank" of historic flowering bulbs.
If you've ever ordered bulbs from Old House Gardens in Michigan then you probably know about the Bulborum as OHG carries around three dozen Tulips from them. These are tulips that have a history, are stunningly beautiful and are only available from a specialty nursery like OHG. One of the Tulips mentioned in the article that OHG carries is T. 'Insulinde' from 1914 (below).
Of course, reading and thinking about spring-blooming bulbs made me wonder if my favorite sources had their latest offerings on line yet. I can report that Brent and Becky's Bulbs and OHG both do — and some things already are sold out! Of course, since I was trolling the listings I had to order a few more varieties of white daffodils. And yes, I realize how crazy this is: ordering fall-planted bulbs before last year's fall-planted bulbs are even up!
Narcissus cantabricus: B and B was offering this beauty and it's the first time I've ever seen a Daffodil with this "megaphone" shape that was a Zone 5, so I had to order a few. They say it stays in bloom a long time and is "tougher than nails." They also noted that they only have a limited supply so I decided not to wait. This is a tiny daff — only about 6 inches high — so I should be able to squeeze them in.
N. Keats, 1968, Rarest and It's Back!: That's how Old House Gardens describes it in their catalog, going on to say that it has "six narrow, green-tinted 'petaloid segments' that thrust out of the middle of its cup looking like tiny fingers or horns or tentacles." What's not to love?!
N. Polar Ice, 1936 Rarest and New!: Also from OHG. Another white daff with a bit of green. This is one I used to see offered a lot but now is disappearing and so OHG is stepping up to keep it in circulation.
Frankly I know that OHG and the Hortus Bulborum are correct when they talk about bulb varieties disappearing. When I looked at the Daffodil offerings on Brent and Becky's site it seemed to me that there were not as many choices as in the past. They used to list both Tulips and daffs by categories and now they are all together in one big listing of all Tulips and all Daffs.
It also tells me that those of us who love unusual plants and bulbs need to support nurseries at home and online who offer these specialized choices.
(Though I am writing this blog post because I like the flowers these companies offer, I should mention that I do get a journalist's discount from OHG.)