'Dauntless' gladiolus, introduced in 1940, 4 feet tall.
Unusual and gorgeous, antique dahlias, gladioli, and cannas deserve a place in every modern garden. These time-tested antique bulbs are tough and easy to grow. And like Grandma's quilt, Victorian houses, and 1950s Chevrolets, they connect us with our roots, add diversity to our lives, and offer complex emotional riches.
Sadly, many are also rare today, squeezed out of mainstream sources by changing fashions, mass-marketing, and our pursuit of the new. Their survival depends on gardeners like you. Plant a few in spring for fanciful flowers in summer. If you don't want to dig up the bulbs up and store them over the winter, treat these plants as annuals, as most gardeners do. Here are a few of my favorites to get you started.