RESOURCES - HISTORIC PLANT MATERIALS
Image: Perle d'Or, an Old Garden Rose, in Petaluma. Photo: © Susan Chamberlin, 2013.
Gardens and cultural landscapes have many character-defining features in addition to plants and vegetation, yet plants can be some of the most difficult things to replace in a restoration or reconstruction. Their specific names might not be recorded, and nurseries today usually carry “improved” selections. For example, there are hundreds of dahlia cultivars, but the actual dahlia cultivar grown in a particular garden one hundred years ago may not be noted in surviving documents or available for purchase.
Many old varieties are actually lost. Others are no longer stocked by nurseries, although they can be obtained from dedicated gardeners and horticulturists. Sometimes a replacement from the same time period or that closely duplicates the qualities of an heirloom plant must be substituted, especially in situations where pests or diseases make it impossible to grow the original variety.
Plants that were grown long ago are often called “heirloom” or “heritage” plants or “antique” varieties. These terms may have precise definitions, but many people use them casually or simply say, “old” or “historic” plants
Whatever term you prefer, it is essential to choose a species, cultivar, or variety appropriate to a historic time period and not a modern selection of the same genus and species. This includes lawn grasses.
PLANT RESOURCESThe following resources can help you find information about historic plants or locate them in retail nurseries:
HELP WITH SCIENTIFIC NAMESCheck the database maintained by The International Plant Names Index: www.ipni.org