Heirloom bulbs are perfect for an old house

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog best pickwick'Pickwick' crocus was released the same year my house was built. It's fun to grow things from that era. Photos by Doug Oster

blog sidways pickwickWhen I discovered 'Pickwick' crocus was released in 1939, the same year my house was built, I had to grow it.

It doesn't hurt that it's one of the most beautiful flowers in the early spring garden. 'Pickwick' is also readily available at local nurseries in the fall. Like all things in the garden it's ephemeral, often only lasting a few short days when temperatures rise.

I'm always adding bulbs from the pre-war and WWII era. I think it's interesting to plant things which were grown when my house was new. To me the bulbs compliment my old Tudor house. When they bloom, I'm the only one who knows about the connection, unless I happen to have a visitor. Then they'll have to endure the history tour. Good friends don't mind, others might get a little annoyed, but that's the requirement for seeing the spring garden.

One of the coolest bulb catalogs is Old House Gardens, run by Scott Kunst. His catalog is a wealth of information and heirloom treasures which will fill your garden with character and beauty. I can shop by date on the web site, which is perfect for what I'm doing. 'White Triumphator' is a beautiful tulip from 1942 which fits the bill for my spring garden.

Even though we are inundated each season with new improved varieties each season, cultivars which stand the test of time are always a must for my garden.

There are plenty of spring planted bulbs in the Old House Gardens catalog too that work for me. 'Kidd's Climax' dahlia from 1940 produces large pink and yellow blossoms. Dahlias are the queen of the summer garden. Often times people don't plant them because the don't want to lift the tubers at the end of the season. It's a easy garden job, and once you've figured it out you'll be storing lots of bulbs and tubers like I do. I'll cover how to save them at the end of the season.

I also have my eye on 'Blue Rhythm' iris from 1945. It won the 1950 Dykes Medal, the highest honor an iris can win. The blossoms are bluish purple and offer a lemony fragrance.

Growing plants from the same era as my house was built is fun twist to gardening. Old House Gardens has bulbs dating back to the 1500's, maybe even earlier. You can certainly find something which will work in your garden.

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