Gardening adventures,  Heirloom Plants,  Photos

Heirloom Plants

Fragrant Antique Freesias and Cyclamen
Little Witch Daffodil

I am so fortunate to live here in Northern San Diego County, where Spring has come and gardening weather is wonderful.  I may be a cold-weather wimp, but that’s okay. A morning filled with the scent of freesias and the repetoire of a mockingbird in love fills and feeds my inner self.  I wish that I could waft that incredible fragrance to you from the photo!  I was born in New Jersey, the youngest of five, and we came West when I was five years old.  My mother never wanted to even look at snow again in her life, and my dear dad made that possible.  I published a fiction story some years ago in the premier children’s magazine, Cricket (, called Taking Tea with Aunt Kate.  In it I wrote about a lush, mixed-up garden.  The illustrator for the story lived in some cold state, and emailed the  editor with alarm that I had daffodils blooming at the same time as squash was in the garden.  It took me a little to convince her that our narcissus bloom in early Fall when squash is still being harvested, and daffodils are still blooming when we can transplant squash starts out in the Spring. 

Early Louisiana Jonquil
Van Sion (1620)

Despite the fires, drought, and cost of living, we live in an Eden most of the time, in my opinion.  But I’m well off the track of what inspired me writing this morning.

I revere heirloom plants.  I became involved with heirloom varieties when I was a Senior Park Ranger for the County of San Diego, and was in charge of the newly restored Rancho Guajome Adobe in Vista. .  If you haven’t visited, you really need to.  Its right next to the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum and open for tours on weekends and for special events.  The most common comment has always been, “I’ve lived in Vista for years and driven past this place almost daily and never knew it was here!” 

Tommies crocus (1847)
Anyway, for the Adobe’s grand opening after it’s restoration, I was asked to create a Victorian wedding area using period-appropriate plants. In about 8 weeks.  And, in one of the fastest group efforts ever, I did.  Since different areas of the Adobe were built and interpreted for different times, I researched and planted gardens in the inner courtyard and in the front which reflected the plants available in San Diego at those times.  The gardens have changed plant materials over the years, but have been lovingly kept by docents and staff.  Two wonderful resources (among many) which I still shop from and refer to today, are Old House Gardens Heirloom Bulbs , and Heirloom Roses  These are two mail-order plant suppliers who research and care for their stock, listing introduction dates and histories.  Old House Gardens is particularly warm and fuzzy to deal with; they add personal notes onto the orders, want feedback about how the bulbs do in your area, and make sure that you know if
Cherokee Rose
A cutting from the Cherokee Rose planted at Rancho Guajome Adobe circa 1880.

So in my gopher-populated garden at home, I have been building bulb beds which are set on landscape fabric (to try and keep out the Bermuda grass which can grow anywhere) and lined with aviary wire.  This is the time of year when these beds make my heart soar, because one after another these incredible flowers tell me more than anything that Spring is here.  Daffodils aren’t supposed to be appetizing to gophers, so in January I bought a couple of bags of the common King Alfred variety (45 in a sack for about $7!) at Home Depot, and planted them all over.  I got them in the ground a little late, so I may have to wait until next year for blooms.  I love the explosion of daffodils all over Santa Ysabel and Julian. 

Rosa rugosa, our native rose

 I have far too many roses planted; but I have to confess,  one of the real perks of the permaculture work that is being done on the rest of the property is that I get to have more roses!  🙂  My side yard has the destinguished personages of Agatha Christie, William Shakespeare, along with Double Delight, Blue Girl, 

Blue Girl

Mirandy, and some big red rose that was here when I moved in.  Two Damask roses (which they use to make Attar of Roses) that my nephew gave to me are in the front, along with Rosa rugosa (our native) and some unidentified ones.  The driveway is filled with artistocratic names along with Joseph’s Coat, and beginning to work its way up the post that stands outside the bedrooms is Kiss of Desire. (Sigh).  In the back are many more which were here when I moved or came to me free and unlabeled, including two spectacular red roses which are side-by-side, are now enormous and lush, and whose bloom colors clash so loudly you could hear it inside! 

Although they aren’t native, many of these heirlooms need to be saved from extinction, are often much hardier than any modern hybrids, and are gorgeous and unique.  They have to be hardy, because my plants need to thrive on some neglect.  I also fertilize them with Roses Alive natural fertilizer from Gardens Alive .  Organic fertilizer doesn’t build up salts in the soil or destroy the soil microbes that are essential for good plant health.

Unidentified David Austin rose

About the recommendations: I don’t work for any of these businesses.   I recommend them as a friend, for I have found them to be excellent in my dealings with them and they support good causes. I hope that you enjoy their breathtaking catalogs!  (I actually have to go through the catalogs a little at a time because I get too excited and my heart rate goes up and I want all they have!).

Ice Follies daffodil

So this was a long post, when actually this beautiful bird-song-filled morning I just wanted to bring you photos of Spring flowers, to brighten your day.   Also, I’ve been trying to learn this user-friendly (ha!) blog thing, and I think I’ve made it possible to leave comments without you having to go through so many hoops (to prevent spamming.)  I’d love to hear what you say!  Have a great day. 

Wisteria chinensis

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