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The Bulb Hunter

Chris Wiesinger

Publication Year: 2013

Dubbed the Bulb Hunter in a 2006 New York Times feature story, Chris Wiesinger took his passion for bulbs to vacant lots, abandoned houses, cemeteries, and construction sites throughout the South in search of botanical survivors whose descendants had never seen the inside of a big-box chain store. The vintage specimens Wiesinger sought came from hardy, historic stock, adapted to human neglect and hot climates, reappearing faithfully over decades without care or cultivation.

Traveling back roads, speaking to strangers, looking for the telltale color of a remnant iris or lily, Wiesinger started digging, then began trying to grow and share the bulbs he collected. From its humble beginnings on an East Texas sweet potato farm, his Southern Bulb Company has now grown into a full-fledged business known throughout the world, propagating and selling the rare, tough, heritage plants Wiesinger still seeks out and champions.

Nicknamed “Flower” by his fellow cadets at Texas A&M University, Wiesinger relates his adventures in bulb hunting, telling stories of the bulbs he has discovered and weaving in his own life story as a student, plantsman, and small business owner. He then teams with veteran horticulturist William C. Welch to provide advice on how to grow and appreciate the bulbs that have been rescued and reintroduced. This “primer” gives gardeners information on what bulbs to grow where, when to plant them and when they bloom, and how to incorporate them with other plants in the landscape.

Finally, Welch describes how bulbs have enhanced his personal gardens and brought him and Wiesinger together in the common cause of heirloom gardening. Entertaining, informative, and loaded with beautiful photographs, The Bulb Hunter is sure to be a favorite of gardeners and plant lovers everywhere.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Service Series


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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The Bulb Hunter, by Chris Wiesinger

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pp. 1-2

I did not understand this at the time, but there is a difference between an adventure and a quest. An adventure, according to J. R. R. Tolkien, is a “there and back again story.” One leaves home for an adventure and, while gone, has exciting and daring experiences but then returns home to life as it...

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Introduction: The Cabin

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pp. 3-10

The piece of land looks and feels like a winter wonderland at times, with a gray sky, geese flying overhead, and ice everywhere leading up to the little seven-acre lake. Other days it could be a tropical rain forest in monsoon season, very wet, but hot and sticky at the same time...

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1. A Little Red Tulip

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pp. 11-23

My story began with a red tulip and is how I begin my talks to garden clubs and organizations: “When I was young, my family moved to California. We had gardens everywhere we lived, from my birthplace in Lafayette, Louisiana, to our old hometown of Houston, Texas, to the very hot town of Bakersfield, California. Most...

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2. People Are Like Crinums

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pp. 24-42

In the late spring and early summer of 2005, my business was to the point that either it needed more funds to continue growing or it needed to be shut down. Searching for the tulip continued but so would hunts for other hard-to-find bulbs. My hunt for bulbs and my hunt for money to keep me afloat went...

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3. Lilies and Bulbs That Are Called Lilies

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pp. 43-65

Soon pressure increased to grow more bulbs and more varieties. As more people heard about the Bulb Hunter and the Southern Bulb Company, the advice started to roll in, and some of it was adamant that I focus on certain kinds of bulbs. I personally enjoyed all of the bulbs but was faced with the...

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4. Rain Lilies

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pp. 66-77

By now you might have realized that much of my story is not just about the bulbs but about the people. Fast-forward several years into the business. Before I knew it, garden centers, clubs, and Master Gardener groups requested me to speak to their respective organizations. The Arbor Gate...

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5. Spider Lilies Say “Louisiana,” and Oxbloods Say “Texas”

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pp. 78-97

In many ways I am glad I did not meet Rebecca during the earlier years of my business. While I have no doubt she could have handled those building years, I am glad she was spared the years of 2006 to 2009. During those three years, I learned some of my hardest lessons in life: lessons about business, bulbs...

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6. Our Most Valuable Bulbs: Roman Hyacinths, Byzantine Gladiolus, and Hardy Amaryllis

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pp. 98-120

After the New York Times article, dozens of publishing companies contacted me. I even signed on with one agent to write a major national book about my adventures. Nothing happened because I did not write anything! I focused on growing the business, speaking to garden clubs as the Bulb Hunter, collecting bulbs, and turning the farm into...

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7. Irises, Rock Garden, and Fischer

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pp. 121-132

Throughout all of these experiences, my beloved Fischer accompanied me everywhere, including many of my bulb-hunting drives. As a puppy, he weaseled his way into my lap as I drove, something I broke him of later when he grew too big for such antics. On the farm, Fischer was right at home and curled up in a little bed made for him in the...

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8. Seasons Filled with Daffodils

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pp. 133-145

Knots formed in my stomach as I took the highway exit for Huntsville, Texas. This was the biggest step of my life. It would be forever. Was I really ready? How much did I actually know about this girl? It had only been nine months since I first met her on a blind date...

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9. The Cabin Becomes a Home

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pp. 146-158

‘‘Son, what’s the matter? I haven’t heard from you in a while,” Joe said when I called him to give him an update on the company.
“We’ve been busy!”
“I picked up the New York Times piece. We’re real proud of you! I showed it to everyone who didn’t want to invest in you down...

The Bulb Hunter’s Bulbs by William C. Welch

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pp. 159-160

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A Primer

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pp. 161-226

Heirloom bulbs have become an integral part of our sense of place in the South. As shown by the Bulb Hunter story, Chris and several other pioneers in the heirloom bulb business are now making a wider choice of authentic historical bulbs available for all of us to enjoy...

Bulbs in the Evolution of a Garden by William C. Welch

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pp. 227-228

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A Louisiana Country Garden: Mangham

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pp. 229-250

Long before Chris was known as the Bulb Hunter and first began talking about the Southern Bulb Company, I suggested that he look at our property in Mangham, Louisiana, as a possibility for farming. I proposed that he stay there and meet some of our friends. Of course, Jessie Lee Harris was the first there to greet us, and he and Chris formed an instant...

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A Texas City Garden: Pebble Creek

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pp. 251-266

In 1989, my late wife, Diane, and I wanted a smaller and lower-maintenance place in College Station. The garden home section of Pebble Creek seemed ideal. College Station is in the heart of a triangle between Austin, Houston, and Dallas–Fort Worth—major cities in the state of Texas. One can imagine then that Chris would become a frequent visitor. To...


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pp. 267-278

Back Cover

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pp. 290-290

E-ISBN-13: 9781623490027
E-ISBN-10: 1623490022
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603448215

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Service Series
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OCLC Number: 858230544
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Bulb Hunter

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Subject Headings

  • Bulbs (Plants) -- Heirloom varieties -- Southern States.
  • Bulbs (Plants) -- Heirloom varieties -- Propagation.
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