February 11, 2022 Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, Oklahoma State Flower, JA Bates, William Morris’s Flowers by Rowan Bain, and Eliza Calvert Hall


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Historical Events

1715 Birth of Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, Duchess of Portland, British aristocrat, naturalist, plant lover, and botanist. Her family and friends called her Maria. She and William Bentinck had five children; one of their sons became prime minister twice. When William died after their 27th anniversary, Maria threw herself into her passion: collecting.

As the wealthiest woman in England, she cultivated an enormous natural history collection. She hired two experts to personally attend each item: the naturalist Reverend John Lightfoot and the Swedish botanist Daniel Solander. There was so much activity at Maria's Buckinghamshire home; it was called the hive. Maria shared her collections in her Portland Museum. In 1800, Maria received a beautiful red rose dubbed The Portland Rose from Italy. Today, all Portland Roses are descended from the original rose gift.


1893 On this day, the territory of Oklahoma officially recognized Mistletoe as the State Flower. The decision was made fourteen years before Oklahoma officially became a state.

A symbol of Christmas, Mistletoe grows throughout southern Oklahoma and can be found growing in the tops of hardwood trees. Since it can be challenging to reach, Mistletoe is often shot out of trees with a shotgun.

Oklahoma was the first state in the country to adopt a State Flower. But over the years, Mistletoe became an increasingly controversial choice. The tiny flowers are almost invisible to the naked eye, and Mistletoe is actually a semi-parasitic subshrub. And so, after 111 years, Oklahoma selected the red Oklahoma rose, Rosa odorata, as its new State Flower in 2004.


1896 On this day, the Burlington Free Press in Vermont published an account of the winter meeting of the state botanical club.

During the Meeting, the Reverend JA Bates gave a presentation. He began his speech by telling of a boy who wrote a paper titled The Snakes of Ireland. The piece began, There are no snakes in Ireland.

As the Reverend began to speak, he bluntly pointed out the obvious: botany is not taught in schools.

In 1896, Reverend Bates said that "only one in forty students have studied botany." Then he attempted to explain why botany was not taught:

First, most of the teachers are poorly prepared for teaching botany. And second, botanists are conservative and conceal the charms of their study behind the long Latin names.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

William Morris's Flowers by Rowan Bain

This book came out in 2019, and the author Rowan Bain is the senior curator at the William Morris Gallery.

Born in 1834 to a wealthy family, William was the leading figure of the Arts and Crafts Movement. As a designer, William Morris remains popular, and his designs have a timeless quality in terms of their appeal.

William grew up on the edge of Epping forest. He played and sketched in the family garden. At college, he became inspired by John Ruskin and the art and architecture of northern Europe, William ditched a plan to pursue life as a clergyman, and he started to pursue art.

As industrialization was taking hold, Morris sought to counter the smoke and grime advancement with design and art that celebrated the beauty of medieval times.

A singular talent, Morris collaborated with artisans, craftsmen, and people from many different trades. Today his carpet, fabric, and wallpaper patterns remain aesthetically captivating. The majority of Morris's work is based on nature and gardens. Trees, plants, and flowers figure prominently in his designs and patterns.

In this book, Rowan guides us through Morris's floral designs and his inspiration, which includes his own gardens at the Red House in Kent; sixteenth- and seventeenth-century herbals; illuminated medieval manuscripts; late medieval and Renaissance tapestries; and a range of decorated objects - including artifacts from the Islamic world.

This book is gorgeously illustrated with over one hundred color illustrations of Morris's centuries-old work and is sure to delight and inspire gardens still today.

You can get a copy of William Morris's Flowers by Rowan Bain and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for $15.


Botanic Spark

1856 Birth of Eliza Calvert Hall (books about this person), American author, women's rights advocate, and suffragist from Bowling Green, Kentucky. In Aunt Jane of Kentucky, she wrote:

Each of us has his own way of classifying humanity.

To me, as a child, men and women fell naturally into two great divisions:
those who had gardens and those who had only houses.

...The people who had gardens were happy Adams and Eves
walking in a golden mist of sunshine and showers,
with green leaves and blue sky overhead,
and blossoms springing at their feet;
while those others, dispossessed of life's springs, summers, and autumns,
appeared darkly entombed in shops and parlors
where the year might as well have been a perpetual winter.


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