March 8, 2022 André Michaux, Michael Foster, Elizabeth Lawrence, Private Gardens of Santa Barbara by Margie Grace, and Joseph Pla


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Historical Events

1746 Birth of André Michaux (books about this person), French botanist and explorer.

André grew up on a royal farm in Satory south of Versailles. His father trained both he and his brother in horticulture, and after his father died, André carried on at the farm. André married a prosperous farmer's daughter from a nearby farm named Cécile Claye. A month shy of their first wedding anniversary Cécile delivered a son, Francois-André. Later in life, André would name an oak in his son's honor.

Tragically, Cécile died after the delivery. André battled through the next decade by studying horticulture. His friend, the naturalist Louis-Guillaume Le Monnier ("Lew-ee Ghee-ohm Lew-moh-nay"), urged him to focus on exotic plants, and the great botanist Bernard de Jussieu gave André a solid understanding of botany. The next step for André was travel.

In 1786, André was asked to go to North America. As a single father, he brought François-Andre, then 15, along with him. André's mission was to establish a botanical garden in America. The goal was to set up a botanical clearinghouse of sorts and send seeds and specimens back to France. André established his nursery on the land where the Charleston Area National Airport exists today. In fact, at the Charleston airport, there is a stunning mural installed in 2016 that honors Andre and his son. In one panel, Andre-François and his father are depicted in the potager or kitchen garden. The central scene shows the rice fields along the Ashley River and the Charleston Harbor, where Michaux introduced one of the first Camellia plants.

Native to Asia, Camellias are small, evergreen flowering trees or shrubs, and Camellias are in the Theaceae or tea family, which is why Camellias are commonly called tea plants.

In Floriography ("FLOOR-EE-ah-grah-FEE") or the language of flowers, the Camellia represents love and loyalty. Camellia blossoms are beautiful and come in various colors, sizes, bloom times, and forms. And, best of all, Camellias are long-lived and can grow for 100 to 200 years.

Finally, here are two fun facts about the Camellia:

In California, Sacramento is nicknamed the Camellia City, and the Camellia is the state flower of Alabama.


1836 Birth of Sir Michael Foster, English physician, and iris breeder. He's regarded as the father of iris cultivation.

In the late 1800s, Michael became the first person to crossbreed new varieties of Iris. He started his work with purple and yellow iris and made a beautiful blend by the third generation.

Soon Michael had large wild iris specimens arriving from all over the world. He found that missionaries could be a great help to him. They sent Trojana, Cypriana, and Mesopotamica varieties from the Near East.

In time, Michael's iris creations had bigger flowers and grew taller. He crossed Irises in every conceivable way, and he once wrote to the plant breeder William John Caparne, "In hybridizing, be bold."

Michael once said,

Nature is ever making signs to us; she is ever whispering to us the beginnings of her secrets.


April 26, 1970, Elizabeth Lawrence (books by this author) reflected on the spring, writing,

This spring, I was asked if I am bored. How can anyone ask that of a gardener? No Gardener could ever be bored, for ...
Every season is new and different from all those that went before.
There always is something new in bloom, something expected and something unexpected, something lost that is found, and there is always disappointment, but being sad is not the same thing as being bored.

“It acts like spring, but I dare not hope,” Carolyn Dorman wrote on Saint Valentine's Day.
"It was about this time in 1899 that the temperature here in Northern Louisiana was 20 degrees below… God spare us, daffodils are beginning now, and Magnolia Alba Superba will soon be in bloom.”

It is the white form of Magnolia x soulangiana that Caroline calls “alba superba”. She thinks it more beautiful than the Yulan.

In my garden the Yulan (Magnolia denudata) and two of its hybrids M. x soulangiana and M. x veitschii, came into bloom together on March 8th. I can't think of when, if ever before, all three have bloomed at once when the weather was warm but not hot, when there was no frost and no rain, and when only a few petals were whipped off by wind.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Private Gardens of Santa Barbara by Margie Grace
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is The Art of Outdoor Living.

Margie is a two-time-named International Landscape Designer of the Year. She has worked in the field for over three decades, and she is the perfect host to showcase these magnificent private gardens in Santa Barbara, which is often called the American Riviera. 

This book features eighteen gardens designed by Margie and representing a range of spaces from large estates to surf retreats.

This is an elegant coffee table book - a total escape - to the lush spaces of Santa Barbara's private gardens, and they are water-smart, maintenance-smart, and fire-smart.

This book is 256 pages of incredible private California gardens showcased by one of the country's top designers.

You can get a copy of Private Gardens of Santa Barbara by Margie Grace and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for $28.


Botanic Spark

1897 Birth of Joseph Pla (books by this author), Spanish journalist and a popular author.

His seminal work, The Gray Notebook, was a diary he wrote in 1918 during the onset of the Spanish flu pandemic. Joseph was a law student at the University at Barcelona, but when the school shut down, he was forced to return home to Palafrugell ("Pala-frew-yay") on the coast of Spain. Realizing he would rather be a writer than a lawyer, he kept a journal to improve his writing skills. It was Joseph Pla who once said,

Cooking is the landscape in a saucepan.


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