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.
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?
In 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.
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!