The Largest Flower in the World
1826 Today is the anniversary of the death of Sir Stamford Raffles.
Eight years before he died, Raffles described the Arnold's rafflesia, the largest flower in the world.
"The magnificent plants have no leaves, no roots, and no stem. The entire flower measures about a yard across and weighs about fifteen pounds. And, the Rafflesia flower lasts for only a few days before it withers and dies."
The Rafflesia arnoldii, commonly called the corpse lily or stinking corpse lily, is named to honor Raffles and his dear friend Dr. James Arnold, who was with him during the discovery of the plant on the island of Sumatra. Arnold was a surgeon, botanist, and a naturalist in his own right, but sadly he died shortly after seeing the bloom. The Rafflesia arnoldii was named in honor of them both (Raffles and Arnold).
The Rafflesia flower is still regarded as the largest in the world.
1838 It's the birthday of the Irish practical gardener and journalist, the passionate William Robinson.
A horticultural powerhouse, Robinson helped change the English landscape from formal to much more relaxed and attainable for the masses. Robinson wrote,
"The Medici Gardens in Rome, [offers] clipped walls of green, formal walks, numerous statues, and the ever-present Stone Pine. It's difficult to imagine anything more monotonous or uninteresting than [this] type of garden."
I always say of Robinson that his gardens were chill, but the man was hot - as in he was hot-tempered, opinionated, hoppin', and happening. He developed the practice of planting the herbaceous border, and he was an advocate for the wild garden. He wanted everyone to do their own thing in their gardens - no need for a cookie-cutter approach or formality.
And, Robinson had an artistic mindset; he wanted people to be free to express themselves in their own way in their garden. Robinson was ahead of his time, as is evidenced by the fact that many of his ideas remain relevant and commonplace.
In 1867, Robinson visited the gardens of France and came home to write his first gardening book. He called it Gleanings from French Gardens.(I love that title!) Robinson's work and books brought him financial security. By the age of 45, he had enough money to purchase the Elizabethan Manor of Gravetye in Sussex, along with almost two hundred acres of pasture and woodland.
Now, Robinson became great friends with Gertrude Jekyll. In 1896, Jekyll offered this summary of Robinson's impact on gardening:
"[Thanks to William Robinson] ... we may see how best to use and enjoy the thousands of beautiful plants that have been brought to us by the men who have given fortune, health, and often life in perilous travel that our gardens may be enriched and botanical knowledge extended. We cannot now, with all this treasure at our feet, neglect it and refuse it the gratefully appreciative use that it deserves."