The Heirloom Flower Gardens: Rediscovering and Designing with Classic Ornamentals

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9781890132620: The Heirloom Flower Gardens: Rediscovering and Designing with Classic Ornamentals

Favorite old varieties of plants are a lot like old friends: easy-going, dependable, and enduring. Even with all of the dazzling new flowers that appear every spring in catalogs and garden centers, most gardeners still treasure those time-honored plants that have proven their worth over many years and earned an abiding place in our hearts.

Heirloom Flower Gardens celebrates more than 300 classic ornamental plants, and explores their uses in the landscape and the home. This charming and influential book is now back in print, and even better than before. It features more than 25 additional plant portraits, as well as expanded information on growing, landscaping, and preserving flowers and herbs for culinary and craft use. Other new sections provide information on creating period plantings and designing specialty or theme gardens.

Author JoAnn Gardner defines the word "heirloom" broadly, and includes a wide variety of plants—flowers, herbs, shrubs, and vines—that were introduced to North America between 1600 and the 1950s. All of them have a simplicity and elegance that make them valuable additions to the home landscape. Most are also known for their hardiness and undemanding natures. Sections on growing under each plant portrait give specific instructions that will ensure success.

Even the common names of these plants sound poetic and evocative, from the airy foliage of love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) to the delightfully descriptive flower known as policeman’s-helmet (Impatiens glandulifera). From foxglove to primrose, bee balm to sneezewort, these heirloom flowers offer a living link to our rich garden heritage, and they exhibit a grace and beauty that never grows old.

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About the Author:

JoAnn Gardner has written extensively about herbs and ornamental plants. Her books include Herbs in Bloom (Timber Press, 1998), Living with Herbs (Countryman Press, 1997), and The Old-Fashioned Fruit Garden (Nimbus, 1989). She has also written articles for The Herb Companion, Horticulture, and other magazines. For three decades she and her husband Jigs have operated a small, horse-powered farm on Cape Breton Island, specializing in dairy, fruit, and herb products.

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(excerpt #1)

I believe that qualities such as easy, tolerant, robust, and enduring are virtues in which many gardeners are interested and that these values are most in tune with the kinds of gardens they want to create: informal, low-maintenance, attractive landscapes in harmony with the surrounding environment. As I have learned, the plants that fit that description include the silver-leaved Lungwort, tending to itself under the filtered shade of my old Lilac tree; the broad border of colorful Hybrid Dahlias that thrive at the edge of my neighbor’s potato patch; and the 1942 ‘Blue Shimmer’ Iris, an indestructible Bearded type that I acquired in the 1970s and have moved more times than I care to remember, now regarded as an "old favorite" and "antique" in the world of Iris fanciers.

If one of the greatest pleasures of gardening is sharing, then how much greater is that pleasure when the sharing includes such a rich world of interesting and varied plants, our collective valued possessions.

{excerpt #2}

"The Japanese Hydrangea [Peegee] bids fair to be the most valuable of the Hydrangeas," one 19th-century authority asserted. A down-home type of shrub, whose overuse is the despair of landscaping authorities and the delight of those who grow it, it is still a hallmark of rural and small-town North America, as immune from fashion as the people who grow and admire it: dependable, easygoing, and highly decorative, with large, fluffy, oversize blooms of changing color, always anticipated with fresh joy each summer when new blooms, particularly on shrubs, are most wanted in the garden. Even with age, and entirely dried up on the bush, the Peegee’s pinkish flower clusters are eagerly sought for use in winter bouquets.

{excerpt #3}

Peonies, like Roses, epitomize the heirloom quality inherent in certain plants that seem to embody cherished family ties and associations. I have discovered many venerable clumps, lovingly planted by young brides more than fifty years ago from a few pieces of roots carefully brought from the home farm. Peonies, also like Roses, often endure neglect, living on long after the people who planted them, surviving among weeds, even in light woods (unblooming), a mute testimony to former human activity.

{excerpt #4}

According to ancient tradition, Lungwort exemplifies the "Doctrine of Signatures" whereby a plant advertises its uses. Thus, splotched or lung-shaped leaves suggested an antidote for lung or bronchial ailments. All Pulmonaria species do contain a mucilaginous substance suggestive of healing properties, and it may be for this reason that the common Lungwort was grown in early American gardens. In this connection, Audrey O’Connor passed along one of her favorite stories about a Belgian nun who lived among the Sioux at the time of an outbreak of tuberculosis. She is credited with having sent to Europe for seeds of P. saccharata, thereby saving so many lives that the Sioux named the plant "Sweet Ann" in her memory.

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Jo Ann Gardner
Published by Chelsea Green Publishing Company (2001)
ISBN 10: 1890132624 ISBN 13: 9781890132620
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Gardner, Jo Ann
Published by Chelsea Green Publishing Compa (2001)
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