I have had a fairly high success rate with bulbs and decided it was time to add a few more to the garden. As in the past, I again ordered from Brent and Becky Heath and Old House Gardens. Both have unusual varieties that you are not going to find at a big box store and probably not even at a quality local nursery.
My main perennial garden has orangey Lilium henryii on one side of it. I decided it was time to branch out colorwise and opted to add Lilium leichtlinii from Brent and Becky on the opposite side. It is fairly similar to the henryii except in color.
I was going to mix it with this L. canadense (below) but B&B could not get them from their supplier. Maybe I'll try again next year as it is so dramatic looking.
As a history buff I like dates and names and stories attached to the things that attract me, so there are few bulbs sold by OHG that don't appeal to me — since preserving heritage plants is their mission. Garden space and light conditions help to keep my spending in check. My orange "Henry's lily" came from OHG and this fall I added some classic turk's cap lilies (Lilium superbum, 1665, below) as I have what I think are the conditions they want (well-drained, acid soil and plenty of moisture).
I can sit for hours reading the descriptions in the OHG catalog and on the web site so I am including them here, so you can see what I mean about history.
"The American turk’s-cap lily is one of our most impressive natives, growing in moist meadows from Massachusetts to Indiana and Alabama. In 1665 John Rea called it the 'Virginia Martagon,' and in 1738 colonial botanist John Bartram sent it to his 'brothers of the spade' in London where it caused a sensation."
The Tulips I've planted out in my Traffic Island Garden have done well and continue to return. Losses out there tend to be related to odd circumstances. I decided I have space to plant a few more so I am adding 'Purperkroon' from 1785, one of OHG's "Web-Only & Rarest" offerings. I am very exicted about this Tulip!
OHG: "Tulips from the 1700s are exceedingly rare. To last that long, they have to be both wonderful and tough — like ‘Purple Crown’, a raggedy double tulip of dusky, purplish crimson that’s also called ‘The Moor’. We like to imagine a crystal vase of it sitting by Beethoven as he wrote one of his dark, somber movements. It was grown way back then, so it really could have happened."
I tried growing 'General De Wet,' a Tulip from 1904 in my driveway border with only moderate success, just too shady there as the trees and shrubs have grown up. So I am going to put a few out in the Traffic Island garden. Another long-lived, early variety that is also very fragrant. I never thought of Tulips as fragrant until I started growing some of these special varieties from OHG.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Old House Gardens generously offers a discount to garden writers. I've been ordering bulbs from them since my newspaper days. The fact that I get a discount means that I can afford to order bulbs to learn about them, see how they match up to their description and just generally experiment with assorted bulbs in my garden. I pay the same prices as any customer for my B&B bulbs.
I love both of these plant purveyors and am writing about them because I think it is important to support independent, specialty mail-order nurseries as much as local independent sources. I am not receiving any remuneration for this column.