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Bulb by Anna Pavord, Chicago Flower and Garden Show & new Succulents

 Wicked, Wizard of Oz garden Chicago Flower and Garden Show

The Chicago Flower and Garden Show was last week. You can see my last post on the show on Chicago Garden titled Garden Hits and Misses at Chicago Flower and Garden Show. Overall, I really enjoyed the themed gardens and walked away with some good ideas that I hope to incorporate somewhere.

Bulb by Anna Pavord, garden book

One of the highlights of the show was attending the lecture by Anna Pavord, author of Bulb. If you haven't bought or read Bulb you should because it is a wonderful garden book with great information on bulbs. The bulbs range from Amaryllis bulbs to hardy garden bulbs like tulips. I've said before that I liked Bulb because it reads like something written by a gardener who loves bulbs, corms and tubers.

My idea of Ms. Pavord as a real bulb-loving gardener was solidified after hearing her lecture. She spoke about bulbs with a passion that can't be faked. Her presentation was filled with bulb recommendations for various growing conditions from her experiences growing these bulbs in her own garden. My favorite anecdote of hers about how her Amaryllis bulb collection was blooming over the holidays and she wished that people would visit, just so that someone besides her would be able to appreciate the blooms.

Just how serious of a bulb grower is Ms. Pavord? There were hundreds of tulip bulbs in bloom at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show and she spotted this one among a sea of perfect tulip blooms. This purple and white tulip is "broken" and the coloring is caused by a virus. During the Dutch Tulip Craze, bulbs with dual colorings were highly sought-after and commanded ridiculous prices. This particular bulb gave her an opportunity to talk about the snowdrop craze that is currently sweeping England, where gardeners are paying hundreds of pounds for single bulbs. She told us about parties and gatherings with Brits crawling around gardens on all fours counting spots on the leaves of snowdrops. The snowdrop craze in England won't result in an economic crash, but it is interesting to see how even though we know our history we are perfectly content to repeat it.

I can't recommend Bulb enough, and if you are lucky enough to have Ms. Pavord visit your area to promote the book, do yourself a favor and go hear her talk about bulbs. After the presentation I got a chance to sit and talk with her for a few minutes and she even personalized my copy of her book. It reads: "To Mr Brown Thumb- it was good to meet you in Chicago. Happy blogging (& gardening) Best wishes from Anna Pavord." Yes, I got a famous garden author and international best-selling author to address a book to MrBrownThumb. I hope she chuckles over it for years to come, I know I will. 

seed potatoes, D. Landreth Seed Company, flower and vegetable seeds

Another lecture I attended during the show was about the history of the D. Landreth Seed Company by owner, Barbara Melera. The D. Landreth Seed Company is America's oldest seed house. She sells some really interesting herb, vegetable and flower seeds. If you're an African-American gardener check out the company's African-American Hertiage Collection of seeds. I picked up a few seed packets and some Maris Piper seed potatoes.  

From the Dutch bulb growers I bought a Eucomis Comosa, a Pineapple Lily with pink to burgandy blooms. The circular corm is for a hardy cyclamen and the smaller one is a Dracunculus vulgaris. Last year I purchased a Voodoo Lily from these guys and it bloomed before it was warm enough to put it outside. The smell that took over the house was horrid. Here is last year's bulb with the original bloom fading and a new one emerging.

voodoo lily growing in Chicago

The greater Chicago cactus & Succulent Society booth, was awesome. I purchased a new Euphorbia obesa. Albuca longipes (bulb in the center) and a Tephrocactus articulatus, on the left. 

Ted's Greenhouse, Euphorbia obesa, Albuca Longipes, Tephrocactus

Kedrostris africana, the bulbous plant on the left. Fockea crispa center top and a Cyphostemma juttae (Tree grape) on the left. The green mound in lower half of the center is Selaginella K. Brownii.

Ted's Greenhouse, Kedrostris africana, Fockea crispa Tree Grape, Selaginella K. Brownii

Did you go to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show? What did you think and what did you bring home with you? I have a photo gallery of the Chicago Flower and Garden Show on Chicago Garden.


  1. I know you were in heaven at that show, for sure!!! LOVE all your new succulents!!!!!

  2. Love the Kedrostris africana. I bought potatoes from Landreth, too, Bintje, which I'm growing for the first time this year. Just noticed they sprouted because my extra room (where heat is turned off) is getting too warm. DOH!

  3. I missed Ms. Pavord's lecture. We arrived at NP late and there was no available parking for us so we had to park somewhere. I bought a Voodoo Lily from the Dutch bulb growers. I didn't know that it has foul smell. I even chose the biggest bulb I could find!!!

  4. It sounds like you had a lot of fun. I actually just finished reading gardenfaerie's post about CFGS -- wish we had something like that here. We used to have a Detroit garden show, but it was canceled for this year (hope it's back soon. I hate having to drive out to the burbs for everything!)

    Love all the little succulents you got, too. I never used to like them, but that's because all they sell around here is Jade plant and cacti with fake flowers on them. ;-)

  5. Thanks for the recommendation. I struggle with bulbs - clay, hot humid summers, and warmish winters - so maybe I can learn something that will really help from "Bulb". Thanks.

  6. Julie,
    I love the show every year because I get to see some great succulent plants. I'm guessing in FLA these must be easy to come by but here in Chicago it can take some searching, so I appreciate the opportunity to show at Ted's during the show.

    I was thinking of buying the Bintje seed potatoes but I think they were like 2 bucks more than I wanted to spend. I hope she comes back next year and I'll buy them there.

    OMG. That's hilarious. If you have an unused room or attic space you can toss the bulb in there until the smell goes away. It isn't too bad, but you don't want to spend a whole day in the same room as one of these blooms.

    I hope you get a show next year. I felt the same way about cacti & succulents before. Although, I disliked them because I thought they were all round and full of spines. Now that I know different I can even appreciate some of the spiny cacti.

    No prob. You may also have some plant/bulb societies in your area that could help you choose good bulbs for your growing conditions.

  7. Anonymous3:10 PM

    How nice she signed the book for you and in such a fun way too, you lucky man, you.

    Bulbs are great, aren't they? Would be very strange if I didn't like bulbs coz Hello!Dutch!

    Will probably do a post on bulbs next month on Bliss.

    Yolanda Elizabet

  8. I will look for the Bulb book as I can't seem to plant enough of them! It sounded like you heard some interesting speakers at the Flower and Garden Show.


  9. This is a fun post, Mr Brown Thumb. Your new plants are cool and congrats on the autograph. You sure make me want to read Bulb. I loved the Anna Pavord story about the Snowdrop Craze from England and bonded over her wish for company to come and see her amaryllis in bloom. Making other people look at our plants is a main reason to blog, isn't it?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    (PS Any hope there'll be a photo of you with Ms Pavord? Now making fast escape...LOL)

  10. I'm sure this must be a wonderful show. Glad you are able to get there! (And share with us!) :-)

  11. Oh, that's just wonderful! I met Anna Pavord in Toronto many years ago when she had written her book about the Tulip. She gave a great talk at the Toronto Botanical Garden, (formerly the Civic Garden Centre), and she was just lovely!

    I have to laugh at your comment about the Voodoo Lily! Didn't realize is smelled so bad!
    : )

  12. Hi Eileen,

    There were some really cool speakers. Hope you get a chance to go next year.

    That's a really good point! I guess that a big reason to have a garden blog. Although, I've found myself letting blooms go without bothering to document them or show them off on the blog. I must change that. I thought asking her to pose for a second but didn't want to push my luck!


    I'm glad you all are interested in reading ;0) You should make a trip to the show next year.


    That's great. I yet have to pick up Tulip, but it is on my list. Last year when the Voodoo Lily bloomed I only tweeted about it, I should've blogged about it. "Horrid" doesn't begin to explain the smell. It smelled like death, homeless guy living under a bridge and some mixtures of body fluids. It was BAD!

    But it was worth it to witness some a beautiful bloom. I wish I would've photographed it.

  13. Yolanda,

    Sorry I missed your comment. This blog post is kind of incomplete...after Anna Pavord's lecture I got to interview her and we were talking and I wanted to bring up Piet Oudolf but didn't because I couldn't remember how to pronounce his name. Afterwards I was kicking myself for not paying closer attention to your post where you explained how to pronounce his name.


    I walked around for the rest of the show wishing you'd been there so I could consult with you on the pronunciation.

  14. Hello MBT!

    You are so fortunate to have an autograph from the author. I am happy for you! Bulbs always do not do well with me. I am still learning how to grow them well.

    Btw, that Euphorbia obesa looks very interesting. If I see this plant selling here, I will definitely get one for my garden.

    Happy growing your purchases yeah.

  15. Ms. Pavord has beautiful handwriting! It was very tempting to go back to listen to her talk. I need the motivation when it comes to planting bulbs in the fall. I'll have to pull out my copy of the book in about August to start getting motivated!

  16. that is a fabulous tulip color... i'm not a huge fan of tulips in general but that one is gorgeous! thanks for sharing... cheers!

  17. Anna Pavords book has been on my to buy book list for years. After reading your recommendation I think I will get it asap, the next time I buy books.

  18. So many things to comment about! I'll stick to just a few.

    Your new plant purchases look great! I keep avoiding buying scabiosa for some reason... Can't wait for the photos!

    This is my first year growing bulbs. I have had an extremely positive experience! Some tulips I'm growing in my living room have little purple spots on some of the petals--I don't think they're supposed to, but I like them better for it!

    Also, about D. Landreth, Michael Twitty helped develop the African American Heritage seed collection. He is an impassioned speaker, and it's not just African-American Heritage--the way Americans garden today and the food we eat were heavily influenced by the enslaved population. It's everyone's heritage!

    At the Washington Gardener Seed Exchange, he gave me Sea Island Cotton, Maryland Gourdseed Corn, Cowhorn Okra, Cushaw, and Red Ripper Cow Pea, some of which are in the African-American Heritage collection. I'm uber-excited to try them this year!

    And I am jealous of your Dracunculus vulgaris.

    Maybe I'll just buy one and grow it in my living room. I don't mind smells, but my neighbours might... I can't wait until I own some sort of edifice that I can landscape!

  19. Stephanie,
    Some of the "indoor" bulbs I grow would do really good in your climate. You should try some of them and avoid the stuff we grow in the West. I'm jealous of the kinds of bulbs you could grow in your garden that would get huge that I couldn't get away with in mine.

    Start adding Spring & Summer bulbs and by the time fall rolls around you'll be in the swing of things. I didn't start buying bulbs like alliums and tulips until I started buying the tropical & tender bulbs. By the time Fall rolled around I wanted to add bulbs I didn't have to dig up.

    You're welcomed. Thanks for stopping by.

    You should check it out. Along with her book, Tulip.

    Good point. It is everyone heritage. You're right about MT. I first read about him when I wrote about Landreth Seeds for my "Chicago Garden" blog and looked around his site. Really interesting fellow. I'm even more impressed with him after learning he's a seed trader.

    I think everyone should grow this plant at least once. But I'm telling you, the smell is going to be horrid, funny but horrid!!!

  20. Thanks for that tip, MBT :-D

  21. I wonder if the beautiful handwriting came first or the fame of the author? Maybe the two of them go hand in hand. Thanks for sharing your passion for the Chicago show with us, MBT. One of these days (soon), you will be up at the podium delivering a lecture and then signing your books!

  22. It's great that you got an inscription to your book by Anna Pavord. I will have to track down 'Bulb' since I have enjoyed reading 'The Naming of Names', 'Flower Power' and 'Tulip'. She certainly knows her stuff.

    I am curious about the Albuca longipes. I think I may have picked up a pot of them. There was no tag and they were on a clearance table. I figured my cat would like their foliage. Nope.

  23. Stephanie,
    No prob. Really look into some bulbs like Sea Onion, Climbing Onion and

    I was wondering the same thing. I think maybe it is a schooling thing? I've never seen such interesting and pretty penmanship like this before.

    Mine should be blooming by tomorrow and if I catch I'll take a picture of it so you can see if it is the same as the one you got.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  24. Looks like you had a very well-rounded experience!

  25. Lisa,

    I certainly had a lot of fun at the show this year.

  26. Wonderful travelogue for the show! I always enjoy your posts, learn a little something and then go back to my plastic succulents and strawberry pot with fake herbs...but they are high end fakes, and fare much better than live plants for me...I am great at tending kittens, not so much plants...

  27. Now I am craving spring! I love that you had the book inscribed to mr brown thumb, that sounds like something I would do.

  28. Hi Laura,

    Thanks for commenting, I thought it was funny to get it inscribed to the blog name. :0)



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