Today we celebrate the one of the 19th century’s top orchidologist and the birthday of a man who used his wealth to purchase an American garden treasure.
We'll learn about one of the most prolific female plant collectors and the florist who shocked London with her floral displays.
Today’s Unearthed Words feature a beloved American poet and children’s book author celebrating her 93rd birthday.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that helps us grow edibles indoors - an excellent topic for January.
I'll talk about a garden item that can help define the look of your garden space,
and then we’ll wrap things up with the birthday of a master storyteller who incorporated descriptions of real and fictitious plants in his landscapes.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
The orchid – Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis – is in bloom for the first time in a glasshouse at @Cambridge_Uni Botanic Garden. The orchid’s natural habitat in western Papua New Guinea, where it grows at altitudes of around 500 meters, is under threat.
The English Garden @tegmagazine shared this great post about growing Amaryllis. If you are hesitant to try growing it - don't be. They are lovely & "It’s very straightforward to coax them from a bulb into a towering plant producing colorful trumpets of flowers."
After the flowers have faded, cut back the flower stalk to the base. Continue to water and give the bulb an occasional feed – the leaves will continue to grow.
Now, if you'd like to check out these curated articles for yourself, you're in luck, because I share all of it with the Listener Community in the Free Facebook Group - The Daily Gardener Community.
There’s no need to take notes or search for links - the next time you're on Facebook, search for Daily Gardener Community and request to join. I'd love to meet you in the group.
1823 Today is the birthday of the orchidologist Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach.
The orchidologist Frederick Sander wrote a masterpiece on every variety of orchid, and he named it Reichenbachia in honor of Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach.
In 1882, Heinrich honored Sanders by naming the “Queen of Philippine Orchids” after Sanders - naming it the Vanda Sanderiana, which the locals call the waling-waling orchid. The waling-waling is considered one of the rarest, most beautiful, and most expensive orchid, and it is also one of the largest species of orchids in the world.
Heinrich’s father was also a botanist, and Heinrich grew up helping his father with his work. Heinrich grew up fully appreciating the competitive aspects of the flower business. During his lifetime, Heinrich was one of the top orchid collectors in the world. Heinrich named more orchids than any other person, and in his will, he asked that his herbarium be closed for 25 years to protect his work from his competitors.
1856 Today is the birthday of Augustus Van Wickle - the man who established the Blithewold ("Blithe-wald") Mansion and Estate in the 1890s.
Augustus was born into a well-to-do family who had a coal-mining business. As he took over the reins, Augustus turned the company into a stunning success and Augustus became enormously wealthy.
When Augustus purchased Blithewold from a family with the last name of Gardner, it was so that he could have a home on the water that could accommodate docking his new steam yacht named Marjorie after his only child. Blithewold would be a summer residence for Augustus and his family.
The following summer, Augustus’ wife, Bessie, hired the landscape designer John DeWolf to design the grounds of Blithewold - which had previously been used for farming.
Three years later, in the Spring of 1898, Augustus and Bessie learned they were expecting another child. They had been trying for fourteen years, and the baby was due in November. Sadly, midway through Bessie’s pregnancy, on June 8th, Augustus died. He accidentally shot himself during a skeet-shooting trip with his buddies. His last words were, “Don’t tell Bessie.”
Today, Augustus & Bessie’s 33-acre estate, known as Blithewold, is considered an American garden treasure. It’s one of the top gardens in New England, and Trip Advisor gives it a nearly-perfect rating, saying:
“[Blithewood is] an exceptional collection of rare and unusual plants, specimen trees, an accessible greenhouse, and whimsical stonework [that all] project a character that is romantic, fresh and inspiring - and unique to Blithewold.” And, the estate is drop-dead gorgeous.
Btw, After Augustus died, Bessie gave birth to a healthy baby girl with dark eyes and black hair. She named her Augustine, and she was stunningly beautiful, and she charmed everyone who knew her during her 78 years on this earth.
1873 Today is the birthday of the botanist and prolific plant collector Mary Strong Clemens.
When she was 19 years old, she married a minister named Joseph Clemens. Joseph was a chaplain in the United States Army, and he served in the Philippines, and later in France - during World War I.
Mary was a maniacal plant collector, and wherever Joseph was stationed, she would collect plants. A faithful pastor’s wife, sometimes Mary, would offer lessons on biblical scripture or sing hymns in exchange for lodging. The years spent in the Philippines were particularly productive for Mary.
When Joseph retired, he became Mary’s assistant, and they worked together as a team. They had a system worked out; Mary collected the plants, and Joseph processed them - he dried them and then boxed them up for shipping.
Joseph and Mary traveled the world together, spending time in Asia, between the first and second world wars. By 1935, they were in New Guinea. Joseph ate some food that was contaminated by wild boar meat. The food poisoning was too much for his system, and he died on January 21st, 1936.
This past year, the New Zealander citizen scientist, Siobhan Leachman (pronounced “Sha-vonne”), stumbled on a specimen of a tree that Mary had collected six days after her husband died. In the lower left-hand corner of the specimen sheet is a label titled Flora of New Guinea. Mary labeled it M. clemensiae. There, in her own handwriting, Mary wrote:
“It was under this tree that my soul companion for over 40 years of wedded life, bade me farewell for the higher life.”
1960 Today is the 40th anniversary of the death of the florist Constance Spry.
In 1929, Constance - who went by Connie - unveiled her first floral shop window display, and she shocked London by using hedgerow flowers.
Ever the trailblazer, Connie began creating flower arrangements for dinner parties. Her work made her an immediate hit with the socialites of her time. Her success led her to go into business, and she opened a flower shop as well as a flower-arranging school. Connie designed the flowers for the coronation of H.M. The Queen in 1953. During WWII, Connie gave lectures encouraging people to grow their own food.
A June 20, 1945 article on Connie from the Corsicana Daily Sun out of Texas, said:
"Constance Spry, the English woman who not only arranges and sells flowers - but also grows them - carried on all through the blitz. On one occasion, a bomb struck her house - it trembled - the roof sagged, but the building held, and Constance went right on working.
At the corner of Berkeley Square, in the most elegant district of London, lives Constance Spry with her flowers... [and her] new-kind of flower shop. There is a bridal department and a department for boutonnieres and corsages, a department for fresh flowers, one for trimming on hats, and a department for day and evening dresses.
In her greenhouse, Constance cultivates some rare and exotic beauties. They are used to decorate the homes and tables of clients, and they are also sent to recreation homes for soldiers - spreading joy to many.”
1993 The American science fiction television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered. The show gave us 176 episodes over seven seasons. The episode, called “The Wire,” included a botanical riff on the famous catchphrase “I'm a doctor, not a…” when Dr. Julian Bashir said:
“I'm a doctor, not a botanist.”
1926 Today is the birthday of the American poet and children's book author Joan Walsh Anglund.
Anglund wrote these lovely garden-inspired words:
A bird doesn’t sing because
it has an answer, it sings
because it has a song…
Friendship is like a rose...
opening one petal at a time,
only as it unfolds...
day by day, it reveals its true beauty.
A leaf is a letter from a tree
That writes, in gold,
Grow That Garden Library
The subtitle to this book is: Turn Your Home Into a Year-round Vegetable Garden - Microgreens - Sprouts - Herbs - Mushrooms - Tomatoes, Peppers & More.
This book came out in 2014 and was named one of the "Best Garden Books of 2014" by the Chicago Tribune.
Elizabeth teaches you how to grow edibles inside your own home, where you won't have to worry about seasonal changes or weather conditions - but you do need to make good plant choices and create the right environment.
Elizabeth owns Bossy Acres, a 100-member community-supported farm in Minnesota that provides produce to members and area restaurants. Elizabeth also leads workshops on vegetable and herb gardening - so she knows of what she writes.
One reviewer wrote:
“I bought this book after I borrowed my daughter's copy and tasted the peas sprouts and broccoli sprouts she has been growing. They are delicious and help us to eat organic and local even in the winter in New England. I already have light stands and am very excited about starting sprouts in a few days. I have read most of the book, and love how specific the directions are.“
Hands-on experience, easy to understand directions, and matter of fact guidance - that’s Elizabeth Millard.
You can get a used copy of Indoor Kitchen Gardening and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $7.
Great Gifts for Gardeners
Weathervanes are more than just decoration. They can pay homage to the essence of your garden, your location, your family, and so forth. They add character and charm to any garden shed or outbuilding. At our cabin, I bought a copper mallard duck for my garden shed because the house is on a lake that is home to so many birds and waterfowl.
Today, I’ve included a link to the Landing Duck Cottage Weathervane in Polished Copper I bought last summer. It’s from a company called Good Directions, and they sell such quality products.
Today’s Botanic Spark
1892 Today is the birthday of J. R. R. Tolkien.
Gardeners will appreciate the Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J. R. R. Tolkien's Legendarium by Walter S. Judd and Graham A. Judd.
The natural landscape is a major part of Tolkien's work.
When Tolkien created Middle-Earth, he was incredibly detailed about the plant life; “in total, over 160 plants are explicitly mentioned and described… Nearly all of these plants are real species, and many of the fictional plants are based on scientifically grounded botanic principles.”
The father-and-son author team is Walter Judd and Graham Judd. Walter is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology at the University of Florida, and Graham Judd has a Master’s in Printmaking and teaches at Augsburg College and Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
NPR’s review of this book says
"Moved by Tolkien's passion for plants, the retired botany professor (Walter) spent years cataloging every plant that appeared in his writing, eventually compiling a list of 141 different species. He teamed up with his son, Graham, a professional illustrator. And together, they embarked on a quest to transform that list into a botanical guide to Middle Earth."
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