10 Historic Flowers to Add to Your Garden

If you haven’t been able to get your hands on any ancestral-heirloom flowers, or just want to add some historic charm to your garden, a surprising variety of historic flowers are still available commercially.

What I love about tracking down historic cultivars is finding some really lovely family growers, the variety, and being able to choose eras and breeders that fit what you love. Like with our house, I am drawn to cultivars of the late 1940s-1950s. I also have a huge soft spot for late 19th century cultivars.

Check out these 10 varieties (some of my favorites) that will add instant historic charm and why I love them:

  1. Blanc Double De Courbet Rose, 1892: Roses have to be hardy to survive in central Wisconsin, especially in my yard (I’m not one to baby a plant). This old variety is zone 3 hardy, has a pleasant scent, and soft double blooms. It’s been a standard for years for a reason.

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    photo via White Flower Farm

  2. Harison’s Yellow Rose, 1824: Sometimes called the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” Harison’s Yellow has a rich history tied to the Gold Rush and Oregon Trail, which is why it’s also known as the “Pioneer Rose.” For me, that’s enough to want it my yard. Yellow roses over a white picket fence is classic. This rose is rugged and hardy for sure. For some, the drawbacks include a tendency to sucker and spread, plus it definitely sports some serious, prickly thorns.

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    via The Garden Diary  which has a great post about the rose!

  3. Beverly Sills Tall Bearded Iris, 1979: When I first started falling in love with Iris, I knew I wanted a pink one. I lived with my Mom at the time and we found Beverly Sills at a local nursery. It was love at first sight. It has grown in her garden since, and now has several splits throughout my yard. Bright, beautiful, and prolific.

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    Growing in my own yard. One of the very first Iris I ever chose for myself!

  4. Alcazar Tall Bearded Iris, 1910: I struggled to find commercial growers selling the old-style, historic Iris that everyone pictures in their grandma’s yard. I think this is because so many people have them growing in their yard already? Most of my old standards have been given to me by friends. That’s where I would look first. That being said, if you want a really traditional iris, Alcazar fits the bill.

  5. Evelyn Claar Day Lily, 1949: I have a few daylilies in my yard and hope to add more. Aside from the classic orange ditch-lily, some historics have a softer look to them. Evelyn Claar would look spectacular blooming in front of a traditional 1950’s ranch.

  6. Duchesse De Nemours Peony, 1851: I love Monet. What gardener doesn’t? This peony is said to be a variety he grew and painted. Done. I want it. Plus, it’s gorgeous.

  7. Thomas Edison Dahlia, 1929: Someday, I am going to post about a photo I have of my grandmother standing in front of giant Dahlia. It’s intrigued me for years. I want to find a Dahlia that could stand in for that one.  Until then, Thomas Edison stands out in the historic dahlia department. Saturated colors, huge blooms, easy to find.

  8. Black Parrot Tulip, 1937: I didn’t know Black Parrots were as old of a cultivar as they are until recently. I fell in love with their drama and ease. Of the many tulips I’ve planted, these guys have fared the best. They bloom very late, and occasionally, like last year, overlap with my Iris blooms for a beautiful show.

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    In my own garden

  9. Gas Plant, Native to Southwest Europe and Asia, grown often in early and Victorian American gardens. Definitely, not on the top of the list for popular perennials, I discovered this plant when I worked at the garden center. I had the chance to take a less than desirable plant home. I plopped in the ground and was pleasantly surprised. They can be hard to find now, but at one time they were quite popular. The blooms are beautiful and attract pollinators. I’ve been slowly adding more, whenever possible.

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    A close up of the white gas plant in my garden. 

  10. Dutch Master Daffodil, 1938: Daffies are the flower that brings joy in spring. You cannot be unhappy when you see a mass of them. There are several really beautiful historic varieties, but Dutch Master is the classic for a reason. They are easy to find and naturalize. They are a perfect addition to any heritage garden.

 A couple of tips about buying online:

  • Look for reviews. check out the Facebook pages of a company, and join garden groups. Garden groups geared toward Iris, daylilies, and just gardening in general have helped me weed out what online garden stores to avoid.
  • If you can, buy from nurseries in the same growing zone as you. The plants will have an easier time adapting to your garden’s conditions. If you buy out of zone, just be sure to give your plants a bit more attention until they establish (this is 100% a tip I need to work on myself).

 

2019 Seed Starting

Every year, towards the end of the holidays, I start looking forward to seed catalogs. This year, I think I had the majority of my seeds already bought before the new year, or at least in January. I evaluate what I liked about the previous year’s choices, keep my favorites, and archive or share the varieties that didn’t make the cut.

The number one factor in what I continue to grow is taste. If it doesn’t taste good, what’s the point? After that, I look for care-free, interesting, and short-day. Central Wisconsin was a bit of challenge after the longer, hotter summers of central Indiana. Most of the seeds I buy are heirloom, for the ability to save seeds (even though I never get to it) and the huge variety. Every year, I pick out one novelty to grow just for fun.

I am sucker for the occasional $.25 seed packet at the hardware store but for the most part I buy my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange. I also have quite a collection from Jung’s because I used to work there!

I also buy a few plants in the spring mostly herbs, Jet Star tomatoes (grown in honor of my Grandma Pete), and a few peppers.

Here’s what I’m growing this year (with a link to where I purchased it, if still available, I keep seeds for years!):

These are seeds I started March 18:

These seeds I started April 18 in peat pots:

Seeds that are going to be direct sewn:

The direct sewn seeds are always a crap-shoot for me, a lot of times, I forget about them and some just get thrown into the garden. We will see how organized I am this year.

April Garden Update

Well, I still haven’t finished that gallery wall. March was just not my month. I did get seeds started though, I have a post started about what I planted and when. That should be coming up soon!

February was the snowiest month on record for our area of Wisconsin. March followed with cold and rain. My beds sat under water quite a bit during late winter/early spring. Last week we had several inches snow/sleet/ice that squashed a lot of the bulbs and iris starting to wake up. A couple of days ago, we received to inches of rain. It’s been gloomy and depressing here.

That being said, I am pretty happy with what survived. There are few iris that I’m a bit worried about, but so far they are hanging in there. Most have a handful of nice increases. I am most excited to say that as of right now, my grandmother’s peony survived, as did her iris, which sat under water a good portion of the winter.

Bulbs are coming up and plans are being finalized for bed improvement and expansion! This year it’s all about getting more planting space and better drainage!

Below is a quick look at how things are looking as of today!

 

And yes, I have totally gone off the rails for my new year’s resolution of posting each Sunday. Be prepared for some random, rapid-fire posts coming your way! I plan to get back on track and keep on working!

2019 Garden Plans

Last week, I wrote about my dreams for my 2019 garden. In my mind they are pretty grand. Because Todd said he would help me with the hardscaping and remodeling of the garden…my imagination took off with big ideas. Now that we’ve talked more, and I’ve gotten my head out of the clouds, I feel like my plans are maybe not super exciting, but within in reach.

So…some of the basic plans:

  • Create a “holding bed” with good soil and good drainage while better permanent beds are made
  • Paint my existing shed, add better shelves inside
  • Move plants from the “Big Bed” to holding bed, and dismantle “Big Bed”
  • Replace the Big Bed with space/pad for new shed (coming in 2020?) and two new 8×8 square beds flanking each side
  • Replace existing raised beds with better quality materials, refreshed soil, and good drainage
  • Add two large 8×15 spaces with landscape timbers and mulch as pads for my grow bags
  • Add large row for cut flowers in front of the garden
  • The most expensive but the most important addition will be the privacy fence. It will probably the big project of the year
  • Pour cement for new patio slab (this is all Todd)
  • Extend and clean up the rock area along the backside of the house

All of these plans concern our backyard, I have some thoughts on the front of the house, but I haven’t really put any on paper, yet. Our biggest constraint is budget. This little house has been quite the ‘fixer upper’ and we are still working on the inside. Not to mention, this year we hope to replace the doors and windows, and get the fireplace working again. It leaves very little money to throw into the yard. Fortunately, most of our work will be rearranging. I have to remind myself, we are going into our 4th Summer here, and all great gardens take time. I’ve also focused this year’s garden plan to mostly the large backyard garden. I hope to eventually add a lot more beds along the fence lines, but will wait for the fence to be built.  I am sure there will be plenty of amendments to the plan and some final measurements need to be made too. Below is my basic plan for the year, some of last year’s map, and my garden sign hope to add at the front!

Aside from the practical and basic layout, I’ve been thinking about the aesthetics too. Todd and I sat down and tried to figure out what my garden style is. I have no idea how to pin it down…except for tons of pins on Pinterest! Above all, I like gardens that look like they’ve existed a long time. Old gardens are the best. Some are kind of wild, nothing overly shiny and new which is perfect. I like structure and neat lines, but nothing sterile or overly-suburban-cookie-cutter-landscaped. I love color and texture too with bright flowers and soft grasses.

I am of the belief that you should decorate with things you love, no matter if the styles conflict…so long as you like it and don’t cram a million things in, most things will balance out. I feel the same way about gardens.

Here are a handful of my favorite inspiration photos. All of these images and the links to their content and credit can be found on my shamefully huge Farm & Garden Pinterest board. 

2019 Garden Dreams

Todd and I got Netflix this week (yes, we are behind the times, way behind). I have been watching British gardening shows non-stop. My productivity is non-existent. My friend, Steph, got me started watching any Monty Don show. Considering how gloomy and cold it is in January, in Wisconsin, the garden shows have been wonderful. So much green. So much life.

Seeing the other gardens has really sparked my imagination. It’s also given me a little, much-needed, break from my genealogy research.

My 2019 garden dreams begin with a complete remodel of my established garden beds, which are really just old beds that I’ve stuck my plants into.

I have had two winters of really horrible flooding in my flower beds. This flooding doesn’t happen in the Spring or Summer, but this past year many of my precious iris have sat under frozen puddles for many weeks. Last spring, I lost nearly half of my varieties. It’s not a very old garden, but I have collected quite a few rare, and personally special plants that need safe homes. The beds have had little love other than me stuffing my new and old finds into every available space.

The plan is to level, build up, and to add drainage and space to my beds. One of our biggest purchases and projects will be adding a privacy fence. We plan on adding a few more beds a lot more hardscaping. Todd is all about hardscaping.  More importantly, we plan on making it feel like a proper garden with some sort of plan. After all is said and done, we hope to have a several beds worthy of the heritage flowers I have already collected and plan to collect.

Next week, I will share with you our plans for the garden and some inspiration images. I can’t share the plans this week because while we planned on adding a few beds this year, a complete redo was just decided last night. If you need to get your spouse on board with a garden upgrade, just watch some Monty Don together! What are your 2019 garden dreams?

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Above: the old large bed and make-shift new beds in Spring of 2016, our first year at the house. Below: last summer’s garden.

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