April 12, 2022 Georg Joseph Kamel, William Kent, Gladys Taber, National Licorice Day, The Five Minute Garden by Laetitia Maklouf, and Clare Leighton


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Historical Events

1661 Birth of Georg Joseph Kamel ("CAH-mel"), Czech pharmacist, naturalist, and Jesuit missionary.

Georg was born in Brno (pronounced "burr-no"), the city where Gregor Mendel lived in a monastery and experimented with peas. In 1688, after graduating from a mission school in Vienna, he was sent to the Philippines, which was then a Spanish colony, and he ended up spending the rest of his life helping the people as a doctor and botanizing in his free time. Early on, he once confided in a friend.

There is no physician here but four brorthers who know little more than my pair of trousers.

Georg also worked as a pharmacist and a botanist at the College in Manila. He set up the first pharmacy in the Philipines, and he ran it according to Austrian standards.

Georg Joseph Kamel was a true naturalist. He enjoyed learning everything he could about the natural world. His work as an herbalist led him to explore the medicinal potential of the plants he encountered, and he valued the way locals treated ailments. For instance, he believed that low doses of the Saint Ignatius bean - the source of strychnine - had medicinal value since Filipinos used it to treat cholera. But modern research has proved otherwise, and even trace amounts of strychnine damage the liver and the kidneys.

Thanks to his work treating the sick, Georg was well known. He treated the poor for free, and he happily received many plants from grateful locals to plant in his medicinal garden.

Between his own collecting efforts and the plants received from locals, Georg completed the first flora of the Philippines. Georg sent a copy of his flora to his peer and friend, John Ray, who, in turn, included the Philippine flora in the appendix of the third volume of his great work-  the Historia Plantarum - the history of plants.

Georg also named several plants. He called the ubiquitous ornamental houseplant the kalanchoe ("kal-an-KOH-ee"), which was based on the Philipino name for the plant. Georg also was the first person to describe the tea plant or the Camellia, which is why Carl Linneaus named the Camellia in honor of Georg Joseph Kamel. He used Georg's Latinized last name, Camellus, for the genus name Camellia, which translates to "helper to the priest."

Sadly, Georg Joseph Kamel died young at 45 from an intestinal infection.


1748 Death of William Kent (books about this person), English landscape gardener, artist, and designer.

Before William's picturesque approach to landscapes, gardens were formal, following Dutch or French design principles that used a geometric and orderly layout.

But William started out as a painter and not a landscape architect, and when he worked on landscapes, he approached them as a living canvas. He once wrote,

All gardening is landscape painting.

For William to make art out of the earth, he needed scenery, and he went to great lengths to accomplish his visions. He moved soil to create rolling hills; he used swaths of land for lush lawns, groves of trees for interest and contrast, and paths with benches for the characters/visitors that he envisioned arriving on the scene. William planned for people to walk or ride through his landscapes in the same way that people might dot the landscape of one of his paintings.

William often placed elements in the garden against a green backdrop, a hillside, or a group of evergreens, to accent the piece's beauty. Much of what William Kent attempted to do has become mainstream.

As gardeners, we often must contend with unattractive areas in the landscape: fences, sheds, or utility areas. Well, William Kent faced these same concerns for his beautiful landscapes. At Rousham, William employed a haha or wall sunken into a ditch instead of fencing to keep the gardens separate from grazing land. He also improved the exterior of an eyesore - an old mill - by adding gothic elements. He also added a folly to look like a ruin with three arches that William called the eye-catcher. William wanted visitors at Rousham to look off in the distance toward the eye-catcher and feel the expansiveness of the property.

It was William Kent who said,

Garden as though you will live forever.


1899 Birth of Gladys Taber, American author, columnist, and animal lover.

Gladys wrote over fifty books that ran from fiction to cookbooks, children's books to poetry.

She once wrote,

Nothing decorates a room like books.
There they are, waiting to decorate the mind, too!

She's best remembered for her series about life at Stillmeadow, her farm in rural Connecticut. She also wrote about her smaller Cape Cod home called Still Cove.

Stillmeadow and Still Cove were the most common topics of her columns for Ladies Home Journal (1937 - 1957) and Family Circle (1959 - 1967). 

Gladys was a gardener, and she once wrote,

A garden is evidence of faith.
It links us with all the misty figures of the past who also planted and were nourished by the fruits of their planting.


Two other quotes offer a glimpse into Gladys's humble spirit. She wrote,

As long as you have a window, life is exciting.


Traveling is all very well if you can get home at night. I would be willing to go around the world if I came back in time to light the candles and set the table for supper.


National Licorice Day

The botanical name for licorice (books about this topic) means "sweet root," In Dutch, the word for licorice means "sweet wood." The secret to the flavor (which is 50 times sweeter than sugar) is hidden in the plant's very long roots and rhizomes. In Holland and elsewhere, children who grew up chewing on licorice root would suck out the sweet sugars and spit out the pulp.

The licorice plant is a perennial shrub in the legume or pea family - don't confuse it with the annual trailing dusky licorice plant that gets popped in summer containers.

In addition to its culinary uses, licorice has been used medicinally. The glycyrrhetinic acid in licorice causes the body to hold salt and water. Armies gave licorice to soldiers and horses when water was in short supply. In ancient times, Hippocrates used licorice to treat cough. Licorice is also used for digestion. It helps regulate the activity in your stomach. in fact, Napoleon used licorice to treat his tummy troubles.

So there you go. Happy National Licorice Day — whether you enjoy it as a sweet treat or a natural aid to help you feel better.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

The Five Minute Garden by Laetitia Maklouf

This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is How to Garden in Next to No Time.

Laetitia is a garden writer, a garden communicator, and a content creator, and she's a very busy mom. Laetitia's active lifestyle was the impetus for her to develop ways to maximize short bursts of time in the garden.

Now before you dismiss her book out of hand and say, "Five Minutes? That can't be done," Laetitia's book may surprise you.

I think what Laetitia's done here is ingenious because this book is packed with five-minute ideas - tasks to do in the garden for big impact. So readers can pick and choose at random what they have time to do or what they're interested in doing. 

Don't forget that we're using discretionary effort when we garden, which means we are making a choice. And while some of us may not be able to get enough time in the garden (as in, we would love to spend every spare minute in the garden), that's just not the case for everyone. I know, I know. But that's just the truth of it.

Now, of course, not everything in Laetitia's book will apply to your garden. We all have different gardens but never fear — there are plenty of ideas in Laetitia's book. Laetitia's to-dos may spark even more ideas that pertain just to you, which is the whole idea.

If you are at a loss for where to begin in the garden, this book is your mix and match idea generator. The bottom line here is that you can tackle your garden with little bursts of energy every day. And, that's way better than just throwing up your hands and saying, forget about it - because we all know what happens then - then you're not in the garden at all. Next, the garden grows out of control, and a doom spiral of plants and weeds commences, which becomes a problem for you and your garden and your neighbors. So I like this five minutes strategy. It's not overwhelming, and it's very, very simple.

The other thing that I enjoy is how Laetitia organized the book. She's used those headings to group tasks together. So you'll see headings like Spruce Up or Chop or Nurture or even Project. Laetitia herself says that she tends to do one activity from each of those heading areas over the course of a week. 

But Laetitia reminds us that the important thing here is just to begin - pick one thing at random from the relevant month in the book - and then go out and start on that because at some point, your future self will thank you, and you'll look back, and realize how far you've come in your garden.

Come to think about it, that's exactly what I do in the summer with my student gardeners — just on a bit bigger scale. Instead of five minutes, I'm out there for two hours, with between six and eight student gardeners. It's actually not even two hours because we spend about fifteen minutes talking about the state of the garden and the day's tasks. Then we always spend the last fifteen minutes taking pictures of the garden and downloading what we just accomplished.

Essentially, what I'm doing is taking Laetitia's book and then enlisting the aid of helpers. This is how I get things done in my garden despite my arthritis. To me, it is all about short bursts of time and helpers. 

And, you know, taking it slow and working in short bursts is essential this time of year (in spring). Then when you are finished and come back into the house, you still have the energy to do all the other things that need to get done in your life. And you don't resent your garden - that's the last thing you want to do. Just this week, I was reading posts on Twitter from gardeners I know in England who are out gardening because spring has sprung there, and the flowers and the spring bulbs are blooming. Plants are popping up, and the garden accelerates very quickly. Of course, people are out in force in their gardens, satisfying their pent-up desire. But these Twitter posts are loaded with gardeners who also say,

"Oh my gosh, I went out there, and I totally overdid it. Now I can't walk. I can't move."

And so now they have to pay the price for that, and they have to take it easy for the next couple of days. So, this is where Laetitia's approach is not only smart but effective, and it can spare you from potential injury.

And, if you're someone who struggles with garden overwhelm and you don't know where to start or what to do, then Laetitia's book just might be the ticket for you.

This is a lovely little book with an adorably illustrated cover. It's got all these cute little flowers in a garland, and then there are garden tools, like a shovel and a watering can. It's very, very sweet. So I also think that this book would be a great little gift book. For instance, if you have a garden club, this book would be perfect for giving to a new member; something to keep in mind...

This book is 232 pages of garden to-dos month-by-month so that you, too, can enjoy a five-minute garden. 

You can get a copy of The Five Minute Garden by Laetitia Maklouf and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $10.

Great deal. Helpful book.


Botanic Spark

1898 Birth of Clare Ellaine Hope Leighton, English American artist and writer.

Although Clare was an excellent writer (and both of her parents were writers), she is remembered for her wood engravings of rural life.

In 1935, she wrote and illustrated Four Hedges, A Gardener's Chronicle.

Clare's book is chock-full of beautiful images and her experiences creating a garden in the English countryside.

Clare's book is full of little nuggets like,  

It is better to have a few weeds and untidy edges to our flower beds, and to enjoy our garden, than to allow ourselves to be dominated by it.


She also wrote,

It is a greater act of faith to plant a bulb than to plant a tree.


Finally, Clare shared a little story about a friend who had just lost her father in a moving passage about the therapeutic powers of nature.

The massacre of dandelions is a peculiarly satisfying occupation, a harmless and comforting outlet for the destructive element in our natures. It should be available as a safety valve for everybody. Last May, when the dandelions were at their height, we were visited by a friend whose father had just died; she was discordant and hurt, and life to her was unrhythmic. With visible release she dashed into the orchard to slash at the dandelions; as she destroyed them her discords were resolved. After two days of weed slaughtering her face was calm. The garden had healed her.


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

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

The Daily Gardener
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