Save Our Bulbs! Save Our Bulbs!

February 24, 2010 | By | Comments (7)

The first daffodils peeking up through the soil during this long, cold winter (even in Alabama) reminds the Grump that it’s time to get ready for spring planting. And so I want to commend to you a great mail-order source for bulbs — Old House Gardens.


Catalogs 007

I’ve written about Old House Gardens before and the reason I’m doing so again is because I love this company. It specializes in rare and heirloom bulbs — daffodils, tulips, lilies, dahlias, glads, and much more — that in many cases have been grown and handed down for centuries, but are in danger of disappearing forever in the tsunami of mass-marketed modern varieties.

Old House gets it name from the old house that founder and landscape historian, Scott Kunst, lives in with his wife, Jane. How could you not like a company with a place like this as its headquarters?


SpartansIn case you’re wondering, this charming 1889 Queen Anne is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan — which is, of course, the home of the Michigan State Spartans. Scott is a die-hard Spartans fan and sends pansies to all the Wolverines’ fans every year when the two teams play.

(OK,OK, I made that up. It’s the Wolverines who play in Ann Arbor and Scott’s a fan. So you Michigan lineman over there, stop giving Scott a wedgie.)

Leafing through the Old House catalog is a treat. I love the old Victorian illustrations that accompany the color photos — kudos to the designer. Plus, there’s an interesting story that goes along with every bulb.

Most bulb vendors buy the majority of their stock from Holland. Not Old House Gardens. Eighty-five percent of the bulbs they sold last spring came from growers all over the good old U.S.of A. So maybe instead of bailing out Goldman-Sachs, our glorious government should give us tax credits to buy bulbs.

One thing the Grump really appreciates about Old House Gardens is that even though they operate in the frozen tundra of Michigan, they give good cultural advice to those lucky souls like me who live in warmer climes. In fact, they say they offer more heirloom bulbs from growers in USDA Zones 8-10 than anyone else. ByzantineGlad

This means hot weather gardeners can still enjoy daffodils and tulips that come back every year, along with freesias, oxblood lilies, spider lilies, grape hyacinths, snowflakes, and my favorite Southern passalong bulb, the Byzantine glad (shown at left). This incredibly gaudy, deep magenta flower multiplies year after year with very little care from you.
Garden Watchdog, a web forum that allows gardeners to express their opinions on the quality of plants and service provided by hundreds of mail-order nurseries, gives Old House Gardens glowing reviews.So thanks, Scott, for making it your mission to save rare bulbs from extinction. And before I forget — go Spartans!


  1. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    So do I get a review copy or what? Tell Chris to get it in gear.

    June 24, 2010 at 1:46 pm
  2. cherie colburn

    Hey Grumpy, Chris Wiesinger and I have a book coming out this fall: HEIRLOOM BULBS for TODAY. Hopefully it will encourage more folks to get on the bandwagon for these time-tested treasures!

    June 23, 2010 at 6:15 pm
  3. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    His name is Chris Wiesinger and he owns the Southern Bulb Company in Golden, TX. His website address is: Here’s a link to the story:

    March 15, 2010 at 1:45 pm
  4. Fran W. Ginn

    Steve, I have been searching for the young man featured a couple of years ago in S.L. He was rescuing old bulbs from abandoned home sites. Can’t locate the article. Any suggestions? Thanks.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:39 am
  5. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    The Grump actually visited Terra Ceia Farms (on the NC coast) some years ago and recommends them highly. You can find them on the web at

    February 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm
  6. NC bulb nut

    I can recommend Terra Ceia Farms for bulbs, too. They’re here in North Carolina, grow their own bulbs and are a pleasure to work with. I’m new fangled, so love their on-line catalog. They say they’re wholesale, but I ordered about 1500 bulbs (about 8 or 10 varieties in total, some fall and some spring planting) and they were happy to sell to me. Gorgegous stuff and it’s all come up.

    February 24, 2010 at 2:11 pm
  7. Deirdre

    I order a few (Ha!) bulbs from them every year. They’ve got wonderful stuff I haven’t seen anywhere else. They’re also pleasant to deal with. I can hardly wait to see the bulbs I bought last fall bloom.

    February 24, 2010 at 1:50 pm

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