February 23, 2022 William Chambers, Henry David Thoreau, John Lewis Russell, Seasons at Highclere by The Countess of Carnarvon, and Georges Bugnet


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Historical Events

1723 Birth of Sir William Chambers (books about this person), Swedish-Scottish architect, based in London. 

William designed Somerset House on the Strand in central London.

He also designed Great Pagoda at Kew (1761) as a gift for Princess Augusta. The Great Pagoda was built with grey brick and is ten stories tall. It took just six months to build. Initially, the various roofs of the Great Pagoda featured eighty golden dragons. But by 1784, the dragons were removed. And although they most likely deteriorated naturally from the elements, rumors swirled that they were sold to satisfy the Prince Regent's gambling debts (scandalous).

William Chambers had a special admiration for Chinese gardens. He went to China on three occasions in the 1740s. He even published a Dissertation on Oriental Gardening. Here are a few of his takeaways from Of the Art of Laying Out Gardens Among the Chinese,

Nature is their pattern, and their aim is to imitate her in all her beautiful irregularities.

The Chinese are not fond of walking, we seldom meet with avenues or spacious walks.

The Chinese artists, knowing how powerfully contrast operates on the mind, constantly practice sudden transitions, and a striking opposition of forms, colors, and shades.

Their rivers are seldom straight, but serpentine, and broken into many irregular points.

When there is a sufficient suply of water, and proper ground, the Chinese never fail to form cascades in their gardens.

The weeping willow is one of their favorite trees, and always among those that border their lakes and rivers... planted to have it's branches hanging over the water.

Another of their artifices is to hide some part of a composition by trees, or other intermediate objects. This naturally excites the curiosity of the spectator to take a nearer view.

The Chinese generally avoid straight lines; yet they do not absolutely reject them.


The Great Pagoda underwent a 12-year renovation period that began in 2006. On July 13, 2018, the grand reopening revealed a fully restored Great Pagoda complete with 80 chinoiserie dragons perched on the roofs. The dragons were back. And since the roofs would not have supported wooden dragons or other heavy materials, the dragons were ingeniously made of nylon with the help of a 3D printer. Only the bigger dragons on the lowest roof are made of cedar.


1856 On this day, Henry David Thoreau writes in his journal:

9 am to Fair Haven Pond upriver –
A still warmer day –
The snow is so solid
that it still bears me – though we have had several warm suns on it.
I sit by a maple on a maple –
It wears
the same shaggy coat of lichens summer & winter.


1863 On this day, John Lewis Russell, an American botanist and Unitarian minister, sent a letter to his adult nephew.

By all accounts, John was a lovely man, a great conversationalist, and a font of wisdom regarding the natural world.

John Lewis Russell was an expert in lichens and cryptograms. The fungus Boletellus russelli was named in his honor. His friends included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

John's letter to his nephew illustrates his love of nature and personal charisma.

When this reaches you spring will have commenced, and March winds... will have awakened some of the sleeping flowers of the western prairies, while we shall be still among the snow-drifts of [the] tardy departing winter.

As I have not learned to fly yet I shall not be able to ramble with you after the pasque flower ("pask"), or anemone, nor find the Erythronium albidum ("er-rith-THRONE-ee-um AL-bah-dum"), nor the tiny spring beauty, nor detect the minute green mosses which will so soon be rising out of the ground.

But I can sit by the Stewart’s Coal Burner in our sitting room and... recall the days when ... when we gathered Andromeda buds from the frozen bushes and traversed the ice-covered bay securely in the bright sunshine of the winter’s day.

I will not trouble you to write to me, but I should like a spring flower which you gather; any one will be precious from you to your feeble and sick Old uncle and friend, J.L.R.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Seasons at Highclere by The Countess of Carnarvon

This book came out late in 2021, and the subtitle is Gardening, Growing, and Cooking Through the Year at the Real Downton Abbey.

If you are a lover of Downton Abbey and gardening, you must get a copy of this book.

This book was written by the actual Lady of the Manor, Fiona- the Countess of Highclere, and she gives the reader complete access To the English Country House and the garden. As with the fictitious Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle is governed by the seasons, which provide the backdrop to country life on this incredible estate.

Written by the Lady of the manor, this book gives complete access to the world-renowned historic country house and showcases the rhythm of the seasons at Highclere, focusing on gardening, harvesting, cooking, and entertaining.

Imagine being a guest at Highclere and having the countess, Fiona, be your host. Well, this book gives you that opportunity.

Fiona Carnarvon ("cah-NAR-vin") is a generous authority on the history and daily life of the castle. She gives us an in-depth tour of the gardens, the country folklore, the harvesting, the menus, the cooking (with the fantastic recipes - baked broccoli with parmesan eggs and pineapple cake with vanilla icing - OMG!), and the spectacular entertaining with all the little touches.

As you might expect, the photographs are beautiful. They were commissioned specifically for this book. What is sure to charm about this book are the people of Highclere, Fiona and her staff, the incredible grounds, the traditions, the ideas, the sheer pure enjoyment of the seasons, and the love of English country life.

This book is a big one - 321 pages - of Highclere - it's not stuffy, and it's not impractical - but it's something very special - authentic and unapologetically inviting.

You can get a copy of Seasons at Highclere by The Countess of Carnarvon and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for $25.


Botanic Spark

1879 Birth of Georges Bugnet ("Boon-yay"), French-Canadian plant breeder and writer.

In the early 1900s, George and his young wife left France and settled in Canada, with dreams of prosperity and hopes of returning to their homeland.

Instead, George and Julia spent the rest of their lives in Canada. In 1905, George purchased a homestead north of Edmonton in an area later named Rich Valley. Together, he and Julia built a home and a way of life for their ten children.

Despite the physical toll of homesteading in the wilds of Canada, George did not let his classically-trained intellect go to waste. In the spring of 1906, when he and Julia arrived on their desolate land, George immediately set about finding trees and plants that would grow in their northern climate. He requested cold-hardy trees and shrubs from Canada's Department of Agriculture. He began propagating his own cold-hardy plants and had no qualms asking anyone for seeds.

George thought strategically about the places on earth with climates as cold or colder than Alberta, and he began studying what they grew. The Edmonton Bulletin reported George even sent letters to

…(the French botanist) Mr. Vilmorin (“Veel-morah”), (the Canadian horticulturist) William Tyrrell Macoun, to Charles Sprague Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum,...to Kew, to the Botanical Gardens of Lausanne (“low-sahn”), Switzerland, and… to the Imperial Gardens of Petrograd, asking everywhere for seeds of flowers, trees and shrubs that were found ripening in the very far north, or at the highest altitudes in the mountains.

And from everywhere came a generous response, so generous that they had more than they could properly handle.

They at once sowed in rows… the shortest-lived seeds, and kept on sowing year after year the toughest of the tribe. The newly born seedlings were cultivated for a year or two, the plan being to give them a fair start, and after that, catch as catch can the survival of the fittest.


George became a self-taught master of plant breeding. And whenever he had success, he always shared his work with the experimental farms and research centers in Canada.

But there are three plants, in particular, that, I think, had significant personal meaning to George.

When George longed for the plums of his native France, he began breeding cold-hardy plums. The result was the Claude Bugnet plum, named in honor of George's father.

George bred an apple he called the Paul Bugnet in honor of he and Julia's 14-month-old son, who died in a fire.

His most successful effort became known worldwide: the Thérèse Bugnet ("Tur-ez Boon-Yay") rugosa rose named for his sister. Thérèse debuted in 1950 after nine years of trials and became instantly popular because it was so floriferous and cold-hardy (zone 2).

The Missouri Botanical Garden says,

'Thérèse Bugnet,' a hybrid rugosa rose, is a vigorous, dense, upright, rounded shrub that typically grows 5-7' tall and as wide.
Old fashioned form which somewhat more resembles a damask rose than a rugosa.
Features fragrant, ruffled, pink, double blooms (to 4" across).


George lived to be 102. He and Julia were lifelong devout Catholics. In 1945, he wrote these words:

Provided, I suppose, that if you pray: “Thy will be done”, and try to listen often enough, and respond sincerely, to your conscience, life, like a Christmas tree, becomes fully ablaze and loaded with marvels of all shapes and colors. Mine is no exception: Had any gypsy, when I was twenty-one… truly told my future, I would have laughed in her face. It would have sounded too unbelievable.

As a plant breeder, I thought, at first, our location not at all suitable, yet, out of the very failure in those first attempts to grow “hardy” plants, arose the discovery that we had been led to a most-carefully selected spot to manufacture special [plants], possibly the hardiest in the world.


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

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

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