February 16, 2022 Marie Clark Taylor, David Austin, the New Jersey State Flower, Sleepy Cat Farm by Caroline Seebohm, and Elizabeth Gilbert


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Historical Events

1911 Birth of Marie Clark Taylor, American botanist. In 1941, she became the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in botany from Fordham University. She spent her career at Howard University, becoming a beloved professor and mentor. Marie herself taught biology at Cardozo high school in Washington D.C early in her career. At Howard, she was passionate about training future generations of science teachers. And every summer, Marie's summer science institute helped high school teachers become better at teaching biology. Today, an auditorium at Howard University is named in her honor.


1926 Birth of David Austin (books by this author), English a rose breeder and writer. His technique was to breed roses with the best of both the old and new roses: blending the charm and fragrance of heirloom roses and the repeat-blooms and color options of modern roses. To his excellent staff, he was known simply as "Mr. A." David died in December 2018 at the age of 92. Today David Austin Roses is run by his son David and his grandson Richard. His niece is landscape architect, journalist, and radio personality Bunny Guinness. Her mother was David's sister.

David once said,

The work of the plant breeder should always be to enhance nature, not to detract from it....we should strive to develop the rose's beauty in flower, growth, and leaf.


1971 On this day, the New Jersey State Flower, the Violet, was officially adopted by the legislature after a proposal from Senator Josephine Margetts.

Josephine and her husband, Walter, owned a nursery and an apple and peach orchard. She was a crusader for the environment and introduced legislation to protect the land and waterways of New Jersey. She worked to ban the use of DDT.

By the time Josephine put forth her legislation for the Violet, New Jersey was the last state without an official state flower.

When it came time for Josephine's bill to be debated, Senator Joseph J. Maraziti, R-Morris, read this poem:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue
If you vote for this bill
Mrs. Margetts will love you.

Josephine's legislation was passed 30-1. The sole dissenting vote was Senator Frank Guarini, D-Hudson. He told the press,

I'm a marigold man.

As Josephine no doubt knew, Violets are spring flowers. They've been around for a long time - even the ancient Greeks loved violets. In floriography or the language of plants, their heart-shaped leaves are a clue to their meaning: affection, love, faith, and dignity. And the color of violets adds another layer of meaning. Blue violets symbolize love, white violets symbolize purity, and yellow violets convey goodness and high esteem.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Sleepy Cat Farm by Caroline Seebohm

This book came out late in 2021, and the subtitle is A Gardener's Journey.

The Sleepy Cat Farm Story begins in 1994 on six acres of land purchased by a retired CEO. Over twenty years later, those six acres have become a sprawling baker's dozen. With the help of landscape architect Charles stick, Fred Landman transformed Sleepy Cat into a true garden-lovers experience. (I do believe it is my new favorite garden…)

The connective tissue between the garden spaces is the golden path that swoops past signature elements in the garden like a grotto, a celestial pavilion, a garden devoted to Japanese Iris, a spirit bridge, a koi pond, a reflection pool, a maze, serpentine hedges fashioned out of European hornbeam, and an enormous Atlas statue.

The garden has become a popular stop for gardeners in Greenwich, Connecticut, and Fred is often found leading tours.

If Sleepy Cat sounds like it appeared out of nowhere, well, it kind of did. There's also a bit of a mismatch between the name Sleepy Cat and the place's grandeur. The title references a dozen cats that get to live there.

Even Ken Druse, who wrote the forward to this book, was a bit dubious about Sleepy Cat the first time he was invited to visit. 

As was the photographer for the book Curtis Taylor. As Ken shares in the forward, Curtis has a way of figuring out if a garden is worth his time. He casually asks the garden's owner, "How many daffodils have you planted recently?"
When he asked Fred this very question, the answer was, "Only 5000".

This book tells the Sleepy Cat story, and the stunning images by Curtice Taylor make that story unforgettable. In fact, if you don't want to visit Sleepy Cat after getting the book, then you are not a gardener.

This book is 192 pages of a garden transformation that would make Beatrix Farrand smile.

You can get a copy of Sleepy Cat Farm by Caroline Seebohm and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for $30.


Botanic Spark

2006 On this day, the 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, by American author Elizabeth Gilbert (books by this author) is released. Chronicling the author's trip around the world after her divorce, the book was on The New York Times Best Seller list for 187 weeks and made into a movie (2010) starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem. In the book, Elizabeth wrote,

Then there was a pop-surprise bonus side order brought over by the waitress for free—a serving of fried zucchini blossoms with a soft dab of cheese in the middle (prepared so delicately that the blossoms probably didn’t even notice they weren’t on the vine anymore).


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And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.

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