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1711 Birth of John Mitchell (books about this person), American physician, botanist, and polymath.
John was educated in Edinburgh. As a young man, John returned to Virginia and settled in Urbanna - about seventy miles from Richmond. There, he began botanizing throughout Virginia, and he corresponded with most of the colonial botanists of his time. For instance, John sent a list of Virginia plants to Peter Collinson for inclusion in his book on new world plants.
John Mitchell and John Clayton both botanized in Virginia. The American writer Henry Theodore Tuckerman once wrote,
Mitchell and Clayton together gave to the botany of Virginia a distinguished lustre.
John also corresponded with Linnaeus, who named the sweetly trailing Partridgeberry Mitchella repens ("Mi-CHEL-uh REE-pens") in his honor. The word repens means "creeping" and describes its growing habit. Partridgeberry is in the Madder family. The berries are red and sport two bright red spots.
By 1746, John and his wife had returned to England. He arrived utterly penniless after losing all of his botanical work on the voyage over from America. He paused his botanical work to create a map to help Britain identify their colonial territories. The Mitchell Map took five years to complete and became the most detailed and largest 18th-century map of eastern North America.
The Mitchell Map also is regarded as one of the most significant maps in American history. Published before the Seven Years' War, the Mitchell Map was used in the Treaty of Paris (1783) and (ironically) helped define the boundaries of the newly independent United States. And Lewis and Clark used the Mitchell Map on their expedition.
1743 Birth of Thomas Jefferson (books about this person), American statesman and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809.
Thomas loved plants and gardening. He once wrote,
The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.
He also once wrote,
On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally's cellar.
1851 Birth of Helen Maria Winslow (books by this author) (pen name Aunt Philury), American writer and poet.
Helen's nature poems are charming. Here's the beginning verse to her poem, Spring Song.
The bluebird from the apple-tree
Pours forth a flood of melody ;
The sky above as blue as he.
Shimmers and shines, an azure sea.
And the robin sings, 'What cheer, what cheer ?'
Summer is coming, and Spring is here!"
1909 Birth of Eudora Alice Welty (books by this author), American writer and photographer who wrote about the American South.
Eudora's novel The Optimist's Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973.
She famously wrote,
One place comprehended can make us understand other places better.
Today, Eudora's house and garden in Jackson, Mississippi, is a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public. The home was built by Eudora's parents, Christian and Chestina. Eudora lived in her family home for seventy-six years and wrote all her major works there.
In the 1930s, Eudora hosted the 'Night Blooming Cereus Club' of Jackson, Mississippi, in her moon garden to watch the annual blossoming of the flower known as the 'Queen of the Night.'
Eudora learned to love gardening from her mother, Chestina. Chestina designed the garden at Eudora's home in 1925. The two spent the next two decades working in the garden - planting, digging, weeding, and harvesting. Today, the gardens are beautifully restored based on Eudora's photos and letters and Chestina's garden journals. The garden is not a show garden - it's a gardener's garden - and that's the way Eudora wanted it to be maintained for future generations.
Eudora found inspiration in the natural world. Over 150 different plants are mentioned in her various works.
In 1931, Eudora and her mother turned to the garden after the sudden death of her father. During that time, she wrote short stories, including a story inspired by the garden called A Curtain of Green.
Looking back at the years following the loss of her dad, Eudora wrote,
No experience could have taught me more about grief or flowers, about achieving survival by going, your fingers in the ground, the limit of physical exhaustion.
In Delta Wedding (1946), Eudora wrote,
The evening was hot; it was the fragrance of the lemon lilies that was cool, like the breath from a mountain well.
Gardeners often say that gardening is cheaper than therapy. Eudora knew that garden time had benefits that were on a higher level. She once wrote to a friend,
I like the work in the yard, never get tired, and can think out there... or maybe it’s dreaming.
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
This book is an oldie, but goodie - it debuted in 2009 - and this is a fiction book that should definitely be part of your garden fiction collection.
Now, as with most of the fiction books that I recommend, this book has a beautiful cover and bonus points: it has the word garden in the title.
In addition to all of that, Harriet Evans is a wonderful writer.
Now the publisher of this book pitched it this way.
One house for women And the secret that binds them all.
Lose yourself in this unputdownable tale of the enduring power of family love told by three generations of extraordinary women.
Now I bought this book back in November of 2020, and I know that because Amazon was kind enough to remind me when I went to find what year this book was published.
Anyway, I remember reading it over Christmas break, and I would say it's part mystery and part thriller.
So if you're looking for something to read over spring break- or maybe for a beach read over the summer- this would be a fantastic option.
And by the way, this is a big book. It is 560 pages.
I thought I'd give you just a little bit of a teaser here. It starts with the setting at Nightingale House in 1919:
Liddy Horner discovers that her husband, the world-famous artist Sir Edward Horner burned his best-known painting called The Garden of Lost And Found. And he did that just days before his sudden death.
And then, of course, we're off to the races.
So there you go.
Here's an excerpt from HLV Fletcher's book of garden gossip called Purest Pleasure. This is from his chapter for April, and it includes an exchange with a 70-year-old friend and fellow gardener named Micah. He wrote:
I had been working in the garden almost as long as the light lasted, and when dusk fell I went down to see Micah. He had a sore throat and was treating it with boiled Nettles, and we got to talking about them. Everywhere now the young Nettles were growing, their strong new growth making a mat of rich green. To most people, accustomed to think of them only as weeds, the sight is hateful, but I don't know. As weeds I do not find them very hard to destroy; as herbs there are less handsome plants.
It certainly makes an excellent green vegetable about this time of year, went the tips are young and tender. The Romans are said to have used it like Spinach.
Micah had a riddle to ask me.
"What did Adam first plant in the Garden of Eden?"
I tried a number of plants and then gave up.
"Well, what was it?"
He grinned triumphantly. "His foot, of course."
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And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.