Saturday, December 31, 2016

Heirloom gardening

While growing up, pulling into my grandparents' farm held promises of time with family, wonderful meals, and among other things, enjoying the beautiful plants my grandmother so lovingly grew.

I remember the apple orchard, picking pecans in the fall, but the variety of beautiful flowers hold a special place in my memory.

I once told some friends that my grandmother had 2 green thumbs!  Her flower beds were not filled with manicured scrubs, but with gorgeous flowers of all sorts and colors. If I only had photos of those flower beds, I'd love to "visit" them once again.

Such old family memories came rushing to the surface several years ago when I heard about a business that specializes in selling the treasures found by some very determined rose rustlers.

The Antique Rose Emporium north of Brenham, TX was developed by one of those people. Mike Shoup, along with others including a professor from Texas A&M University, was instrumental in changing how the rest of us view garden roses.  After hearing Shoup speak, I quickly purchased his beautiful coffee table "Empress of the Garden," a vital resource for the home gardener who wants easy to care for roses.
Until the discovery of old garden roses, I shared the prevailing bias that roses were hard to grow, were fussy, needed to be sprayed, needed to be pruned in a certain way and were short lived.  Roses we have since discovered have changed my bias and made me an advocate of these easy care roses and I truly believe they are the ultimate garden plant. - Mike Shoup
Antique roses are not only beautiful, but they are survivors that have been around for decades, abandoned in old cemeteries, around foundations of old homes, or maybe even along fence rows.

Several years later I picked up a Southern Living magazine to discover a story of a young man, an Aggie, who had a dream of his own. Instead of searching for old roses, Chris Wiesinger was searching the countryside for heirloom bulbs that would live in our gardens for more than one season. Among those who helped Chris was a Texas A&M professor who loves heirloom gardening.

If you guessed it was the same professor, you are correct. William "Bill" C. Welch's story is linked with both men. This professor has not only taught a generation of horticulturists, he has given an incredible gift to the southern United States by changing the way we see gardening.

Google search any of these men's names and their fascinating stories can be found.

Recommended books:

  • "Empress of the Garden" by G. Michael Shoup is not only a valuable tomb for the antique rose gardener, but a feast for the eyes with the beautiful photos filling the pages of the book. An investment in antique roses not only adds beauty to a garden, but also a sense of history.

    Photo property of The Antique Rose Emporium

  • "The Bulb Hunter" by Chris Wiesinger & William C. Welch tells Wiesinger's story of how The Southern Bulb Company got it's start, including the tiny cabin in the woods that was home to Chris while starting his business. This is more than a story of heirloom bulbs, but also a love story that started in Chris' youth. Becoming fascinated by a single bulb that would move with him from house to house as his family relocated, the love for that bulb became the backbone of his college project, and later of his business. Throw in a love story of meeting, dating and marrying his beautiful wife, and the book is both a delightful and informative true-life "love story" woven into pages of information that is valuable to every gardener who wants to invest in a sense of permanence in the outdoor spaces of their home and yard. Why buy new plants every season, only to pull them all up and toss them in the trash a few months later? Plants that last not only make life more beautiful, but less wasteful as well.

    Photo property of The Southern Bulb Company

  • "Heirloom Gardening in the South" by William C. Welch & Greg Grant is an essential resource for anyone wanting to grow time-honored and pass-along plants.

    Photo property of Texas A&M University Press
  • "Tough Plants for Southern Gardens" by Felder Rushing (Low Care, No Care, Tried and True Winners)

    Photo property of Amazon
  • "The Southern Kitchen Garden" by William D. Adams and Thomas R. LeRoy

    Front Cover
    Photo property of Google Books

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