April 11, 2022 Christopher Smart, David Burke, Elsie Esterhuysen, The Ladies’ Village Improvement Society Cookbook by Florence Fabricant, and the Desegregation Commemorative Garden


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Historical Events

1722 Birth of Christopher Smart, English poet. He was known for his pen name as the midwife "Mrs. Mary Midnight." 

The back half of Christopher's life was spent in madhouses or prisons. He wrote his long religious poem, Jubilate Agno (Rejoice in the Lamb), in a debtor's prison. It includes the words,

For the flowers are great blessings.
For there is a language of flowers.
For the flowers are peculiarly the poetry of Christ.

In this same poem, Christopher praises his beloved cat Jeoffry. The Jeoffry verses inspired Oliver Soden's whimsical biography of Jeoffry, which debuted in April 2021 to the delight of cat lovers everywhere. 

In 1752, Christopher published The Hop-Garden, a long poem of 733 lines about a hop garden that tells the reader how to cultivate hops. The poem is part personal history and part instruction. 

In The Hop-Garden, Christopher mentioned the river that ran past his childhood garden, and he dedicated the second half of the poem to his dear friend Theophilus Wheeler. Christopher was in the middle of writing The Hop-Garden when Theophilus died during his sophomore year at Christ College. 

After The Hop-Garden was published, Christopher's friend, Samuel Johnson, said the poem was proof that,

one could say a great deal about cabbage.

In the poem, when a storm threatens the harvest, Christopher writes,

Haste then, ye peasants; pull the poles, the hops;
Where are the bins? Run, run, ye nimble maids,
Move ev’ry muscle, ev’ry nerve extend,
To save our crop from ruin, and ourselves.

Christopher Smart died in debtor's prison in London in 1771, at 49.


1897 Death of David Burke, English plant collect and gardener.

The Veitch nurseries became obsessed with the painting of a Pitcher-plant (Nepenthes Northiana) by Marianne North. After Marianne's death, Veitch sent David on his first collecting trip with Charles Curtis to bring back specimens of the North Pitcher plant. During the trip, David discovered the beautiful Leea amabilis, which is now a popular tropical houseplant that features dark, jagged-shaped leaves with have white color along the midrib.

David continued to travel extensively for James Veitch & Sons, and he collected plants in British Guiana, Burma, and Colombia.

David was honored with the naming of a pitcher plant he discovered called Nepenthes Burkei. 

In the Philippines, David also collected Phalaenipsis stuartiana. He found the orchid growing abundantly along the coastline, where it thrived being sprayed by the ocean.

The Veitch firm praised Burke's writing.

This traveller (Burke) crossed a greater area of the earth's surface and covered more miles in search of plants than any other Veitchian collector, with the possible exception of the two brothers William and Thomas Lobb.

The writer Sue Shephard wrote a biography of the Veitch family, and in it, she described David as Veitch's

strangest, longest–serving and most adventurous orchid collector.

James Veitch once remarked, 

Burke was one of those curious natures who live more or less with natives as a native, and apparently, prefer[ed] this mode of existance.

In 1896, David left on what was to be his final voyage. He died of cholera on Ambon island.


1912 Birth of Elsie Elizabeth Esterhuysen, South African botanist.

Elsie's been described as the most outstanding collector of South African Flora. She collected over 36,000 herbarium species.

A botanist at the Bolus Herbariumin Cape Town, Elsie was humble, and she would never publish the results of her work under her own name.

After Elsie died, over 200 people gathered at her memorial, which featured three tributes from her botanist family.

The botanist John Rourke recalled,

It’s an astonishing fact that for the first 18 years of her employment she received no proper salary and was paid out of petty cash at a rate not much better than a laborer.
She did not collect randomly; Elsie was above all an intelligent collector, seeking range extensions, local variants, or even new species, filling voids in the Bolus Herbarium’s records, often returning months later to collect seeds or fruits that were of diagnostic importance. […] Always self-deprecating, one of her favorite comments was ‘I’m only filling in gaps’.


The botanist Peter Linder said,

She was what I thought a botanist was supposed to be. She was in the mountains every weekend, and came back with big black plastic bags full of plants, that she sorted and passed to Gert Syster to press. 

Elsie taught me that each species has an essence, a character—that it liked some habitats but not others and that it flowered at a particular time.

...She was interested in the plants themselves—she cared about them.


The botanist Ted Oliver remembered,

Her mode of transport was the bicycle (we have her latest model here today). She rode to the University of Cape Town up that dreadful steep road every day for a lifetime, come sunshine or rain, heat or cold. Now one knows why she was so fit and could outstrip any poor unsuspecting younger botanist in the mountains! Every day she would come up and park her bicycle behind the Bolus Herbarium building and then often jump through the window in the preparation section rather than walk all the way around to the front door.


Today there are 56 plant species and two genera named for Elsie Esterhuysen.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

The Ladies' Village Improvement Society Cookbook by Florence Fabricant

This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is Eating and Entertaining in East Hampton.

Well, this is another book that I wish had debuted before the pandemic because I think it would have been so much more popular had it come out, say, in 2018. Nonetheless, it's not too late to discover this fabulous cookbook.

This is a cookbook for all seasons, but I think the cover just screams summer and eating outside in your garden. So if you're going to get this book, now is the time.

Martha Stewart wrote the forward to this cookbook, and I wanted to share just a bit of what she talks about here because she's introducing us to the LVIS, or the Ladies Village Improvement Society. This group of women has done so much to make sure that the natural beauty of the Hamptons stays intact, and Martha alludes to adhere in this forward. She writes,

I bought my home on Lily Pond Lane almost thirty years ago. Much has changed in Easthampton since then.

Many new houses have been built, and countless new stores have opened on Main Street and Newton Lane. The summer populations have swelled, and the beaches have become more crowded. But some things have remained the same.

The giant Elm trees that tower over the highway leading into town are still green and stately. The roadsides are still planted with lovely Maples and Lindens, offering shady avenues and streets on which to walk or bicycle. The scenic Village Green and its iconic pond populated by pairs of plump swans are still the backdrop for many thousands of photographs throughout the year. And the Ladies Village Improvement Society can claim bragging rights for the glory of this scenery.

There is no better time to be in East Hampton than in mid-summer when the trees are leafed out, the roses are blooming, and the ocean is beautiful. And then there are the farmer's markets and the farm stands displaying their freshly harvested vegetables. It's a beautiful sight to see. And as Martha indicated, this volunteer organization, the Ladies Village Improvement Society, has done a lot to ensure that the Hamptons retain their natural charm.

Now a lot of these women are gardeners and cooks. So you can imagine the beautiful recipes -the over 100 recipes - in this fabulous cookbook, and many of them are garden to table.

The other thing that's really fun about this book is that the Hamptons is all about entertaining. And so, these women are sharing their go-to recipes for all kinds of gatherings - whether you're talking about dinner after a movie or lunch by the pool - whatever the occasion, there are delightful suggestions here.

There's a Fettuccine recipe that's got Asparagus and Blue Cheese. There's a fabulous Bittersweet Chocolate Pound Cake. Bonnie Reiff-Smith shared her recipe for Perfection Pork Chops. There's an excellent Zucchini Sausage Quiche - another great recipe for using your zucchini. There's Moroccan Carrot Salad and a fabulous Sunflower Seed Salad along with Whole Roasted Cauliflower - that's fantastic as well. Anyway, I could go on and on. This beautiful cookbook is so fun.

This book is 256 pages of more than 100 recipes for food and drink, and it's all put together in 20 different menus with directions on how to make any of your gatherings extra special. And it really is a beautiful cookbook for summer - and the price is right, too.

You can get a copy of The Ladies' Village Improvement Society Cookbook by Florence Fabricant and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $9.


Botanic Spark

2014 On this day, a dedication ceremony was held at the University of South Carolina in honor of the new Desegregation Commemorative Garden on the side of the Osborne building.

The garden was established to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of
desegregation at the college.

Student Government President Lindsay Richardson read a poem by USC Poet Nikky Finney called The Irresistible Ones, which is inscribed on a granite plaque in the garden and reads,



They arrive knocking at Osborne’s great garnet door.
They want to
study mathematics, join the debate team, and sing in the choir.
They are three
in a sea of six thousand.
With each step they pole vault shards of doubt, sticks
of dynamite, and stubborn hate mail.
With them arrives the bright
peppermint of change.
The new laws of the new day can no longer resist
these three irresistible ones, in a sea of six thousand, stepping through a door
now garnet and black.


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

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