March 11, 2022 Pierre Turpin, Katherine Sophia Kane, Jean White-Haney, Life in a French Country House by Cordelia de Castellane, and Douglas Adams


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Historical Events

1775 Birth of Pierre Jean François Turpin (books about this person), French botanist and illustrator.

Pierre was friends with the botanist, gardener, and botanical artist, Pierre Antoine Poiteau. And although we know that he learned a great deal about botany from his friend Poiteau, Pierre was self-taught when it came to his botanical illustrations. And Redouté's work was an obvious influence on him. Pierre created over 6,000 magnificent botanical watercolors. He was an expert on fruit trees, and his fruit prints are considered some of the best in the world.

There are two fascinating stories about Pierre I wanted to share with you today.

First, Pierre created a fictional plant for Goethe that was an amalgam of different angiosperms.
Goethe wanted an illustration to show the diversity of angiosperms, and when Goethe saw Pierre's drawing, he named it the Urplant.

Goethe wrote,

The Urplant would be the most wondrous creation in the world, for which nature itself would envy me.
With it, one could invent plants to infinity...

I've shared his image of the Urplant in the Facebook group for the show. So you can just head on over there, and it should be at the top of your feed for today.

The second Pierre story that I wanted to share with you is about his son, Pierre Jr.

No doubt Pierre taught his son how to draw. But tragically, Pierre Jr. died young, and his final drawing was of an Amaryllis.
After his death, Pierre made sure his son was credited for the work, and then he did something unusual for botanical illustrations: he made a little personal remark on his son's passing, writing:

This original illustration was painted by Pierre John Frederick Eugene Turpin.
The illustrator, who was 18 years and six days of age, ceased to live on the 21st of August in 1821

Less than 20 years later, Pierre himself would die in Paris in 1840 at 65.

Now, speaking of Amaryllis, this is the time of year when gardeners get all kinds of questions about them. My neighbor Jan, up at the cabin returned from a trip to Las Vegas to find her Christmas gift, an Amaryllis, in full bloom - and she's utterly captivated by this gorgeous Amaryllis, but of course, she called me to say,

What do I do with it after it's done blooming?

And this is the question that's on everybody's mind because they're wrapping things up about now. So what are your options if you have an Amaryllis?

Well, number one, you can throw it away. You can simply be done with it. If you choose to, you could put it in the compost pile and so forth.

Or, if you're committed to trying to get your Amaryllis to bloom again next year, it is possible to do. You can force it to flower again next year.

Keep it on a sunny window inside until June when things warm up and then harden it off, the way you would any of the houseplants that you bring outside, take it outside for a few hours, and then bring it back in. Gradually increase the amount of time it stays outside until it's out all day. Make sure that it's in a sunny spot.

And then, in the fall, you can bring it back indoors. This is the time when you're going to impose dormancy. Put the Amaryllis in a cold area. (If you have a dark cellar, that would be ideal). And remember that during dormancy, you don't want to water your Amaryllis. Think about your Amaryllis like a sleeping beauty that you'll wake up in time for the holidays. And then, at that point, you can resume watering, and your Amaryllis, with any luck, will flower again.

So there you go—a little Amaryllis care 101 inspired by the son of Pierre Turpin.


1811 Birth of Katherine Sophia Kane, Irish botanist, and horticulturist.

Orphaned as a little girl, Katherine was raised by her uncle, who fostered Kate's love for the outdoors and, ultimately, her focus on botany.

When Kate was 22, she anonymously published a book that became the first national flora of Ireland, called The Irish Flora Comprising the Phaenogamous Plants and Ferns (1833). Kate's book not only described all the Irish flowering plants but also ferns and other cryptograms.

Accurate and informative, Kate's book became a textbook for botany students at Trinity College in Dublin. Three years later, in recognition of her work, Kate became the first woman to be elected to the Botanical Society of Edinburgh.

The story of how Kate met her husband Robert is similar to how John Claudius Loudon met his wife, Jane Webb: through her book. In Kate's case, proofs of The Irish Flora had mistakenly landed on Robert's desk. Robert tracked down Kate's address and personally returned the proofs to her. The rest, as they say, was history. The two were married in 1838, and they went on to have ten children.

In 1846, Robert was knighted, and Kate became known as Lady Kane. An economist, a chemist, and a scientist, Robert was hired to serve as the President of Queens College. Although Kate was happy for her husband, she refused to move to Cork. She'd designed a magnificent garden with many exotics planted all around their home in Dublin, and she was reluctant to leave it.

And so, much to the school's dismay, Robert commuted to work until the College finally insisted he reside in Cork during the school year in 1858.

And here's a fun little side note about Kate and Robert: since they were both scientists, Kate and Robert would send messages to each other in Greek.


1877 Birth of Jean White-Haney, Australian botanist.

In 1912, as a young botanist, Jean was asked to deal with the non-native Prickly Pear problem in Australia. The plant had been introduced to Australia 100 years earlier, and it became invasive once it was established.

Tackling the Prickly Pear was a massive undertaking, and Jean's appointment marked the first time a woman held a scientific leadership position in the Australian government. Jean knew she would have to power through the hardships of the job to prove herself. She recalled the experience this way:

[I lived] amid the thickest pear. A desolate little place where living was primitive. I was young then and still rather nervous, but I insisted on not being given any special privileges because of being a woman. ...Failures of women who can not rough it would naturally be magnified.
I lived in the little public house there. [I] worked on my fascinating job with all the enthusiasm of those who see small beginnings to great ends. And the methods chosen for experiment were the introduction of suitable insects and poison.

Many gardeners are surprised to learn that the Prickly Pear is actually an excellent pollinator plant.
Charles Darwin noticed that the flowers of the Prickly Pear Cactus had thigmotactic anthers, which means the anthers curl over and drop their pollen when touched. And yes, the bees love it.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Life in a French Country House by Cordelia de Castellane
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is Simple Ideas For Small Outdoor Spaces.

Cordelia is France's favorite host and the artistic director of Dior Home and Baby Dior.

This book is organized into four seasons - one of my favorite ways to organize a book that covers all the basics like at-home entertaining and decor. Cordelia shares her tips and secrets to imbuing your home with style and flowers. Architectural Digest's review of this book highlights Cordelia's five things every home needs: meaningful objects, books, flowers, scent, and children.

If you love French Country and want to know how to recreate the look in your own home and garden, you can't go wrong with Cordelia's guidance. Cordelia even includes some of her favorite recipes, flower arranging, and table setting tips.

This book is 240 pages of French Chic combined with Cordelia's eclectic but elegant vibe that has been refined to perfection over the past three decades.

You can get a copy of Life in a French Country House by Cordelia de Castellane and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for $34.


Botanic Spark

1952 Birth of Douglas Noel Adams (books by this author), English writer, satirist, and dramatist. He's remembered for his radio comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which became a trilogy of five books. He was an environmentalist and a conservationist.

In his book, Last Chance to See, Douglas wrote,

As zoologists and botanists explore new areas, scrabbling to record the mere existence of species before they become extinct, it is like someone hurrying through a burning library desperately trying to jot down some of the titles of books that will now never be read.

And in Richard Dawkins' best-seller The God Delusion, his dedication was to Douglas Adams in memoriam, and included this quote by Douglas, who was an atheist:

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

Finally, in his book Life, The Universe and Everything (1982), Arthur Dent's old friend Ford Prefect, says,

....I decided I was a lemon for a couple of weeks. I kept myself amused all that time jumping in and out of a gin and tonic....I found a small lake that thought it was a gin and tonic, and jumped in and out of that. At least, I think it thought it was a gin and tonic.


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

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