April 14, 2022 Helene Cramer, Harry Saier, Jim Zampini, A Naturalist’s Book of Wildflowers by Laura Martin, and Kathleen Drew-Baker


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Historical Events

1844 Birth of Helene Cramer, German landscape and flower painter. 

Helen and her sister Molly were both painters in Hamburg, Germany. Their father, Cesar, disapproved of them as painters, so the two women didn’t start painting until middle age. (Helen was 38 when she first picked up a brush.) 

Helen and Molly exhibited their art throughout Germany and at the 1883 World's Fair in Chicago. Most folks say that their favorite Helene Cramer painting is her work called "Marsh Marigolds and Crown Imperials."

In 1916, Helen died at 72. She and Molly are buried in Plot 27 of the "Garten der Frauen," or the Garden of Women at the Hamburg Ohlsdorf cemetery.


1888 Birth of Harry Saier, American nurseryman, printer, and garden writer.

In 1911, Harry started his seed company in Lansing, Michigan. A 1916 newspaper ad encouraged women to "help beautify Lansing by a pretty home garden." Harry pledged, 

We supply everything necessary for making your home and lawn a beauty spot. We have assembled a rare collection of beautiful shrubs, trees, flowers and seeds. Lovers of horticulture will find much to interest them here.

By the fall of that same year, Harry posted an ad for:

[A] lady to canvass city for shrubs, seeds and garden supplies.

Harry acquired a new building at 3 West Michigan Avenue for his florist shop three years later. Newspapers reported that,

A resplendent posy shop [was] to open.

One of the features of the... shop will be an icebox, which will be the largest in the state of Michigan for its purpose. It will measure twelve [by six and made] entirely of glass and... decorated with German silver trimmings.

...The new marble tables... will be arranged about a large fountain which will occupy the center of the building. 

In 1926, Harry moved his operation to the century farm he bought on highway 99 in Dimondale.

Harry was known for producing his exceptional and exhaustive garden catalog. He included a pronunciation list, plant descriptions, and miscellaneous advice. 

Throughout the 40s, 50s, and 60s, if someone were looking for a plant or seeds, they would usually find their way to Harry as their last best hope.

Katherine White wrote about Harry's work in her book Onward and Upward in the Garden:

Consider the case of Harry E. Saier, who issues three or four catalogues a year, each of them listing as many as eighteen hundred genera and eighteen thousand kinds of seed.

Mr. Saier is not a grower but a collector and distributor of seeds... [he] primarily depends on his two hundred seed collectors, who are stationed all over the world, and on commercial growers from many countries.

There is nothing beautiful about his latest catalogue and its hundred and seventy-six pages of small-print lists, interspersed with occasional dim photographs, but it is fascinating to browse in, translating, if you can, the abbreviations made necessary by lack of space.

...His global lists of clients include nurseries, greenhouses, seedsmen, universities, botanical gardens, and drug manufacturers, but a third of them, he tells me, are amateurs like you and me.

And just to spark your nostalgia for simpler times, listen to Elizabeth Lawrence describe ordering from Harry.

I find most plantsmen send their wares without cash, even when they have never heard of you, but I certainly would never ask them to. I am always in debt to Mr. Saier because he sends things at odd times, and I wake up in the night and remember that I have owed him a quarter for three years.

After Harry died in 1976, JL Hudson inherited Harry's seed collection. Harry's Dimondale property is now a cemetery.


2017 On this day, the Beijing Crabapple Conference began.

Conference-goers toured the Crabapple Garden, which featured many American cultivars like Brandywine, Cinderella, Molten Lava, Lollipop, and Madonna - all varieties created by Jim Zampini, a beloved nurseryman from Lake County, Ohio.
During the conference, attendees learned that Jim had passed away at 85.

Today, Jim’s legacy lives on in his fantastic crabapple varieties like Centurion, Harvest Gold, Lancelot Dwarf, Sugar Tyme, and the Weeping Candied Apple.

Generally speaking, a crabapple tree takes two to five years to bear fruit. Crabapples differ from standard apple trees in that they offer smaller fruit. Apples that are less than 2 inches in diameter are considered crabapples. And, Crabapples rarely grow taller than 25 feet high.

If you want to plant a mini-orchard of Crabapple trees, space the saplings six to fifteen feet apart depending on the variety - plant tighter if you are planting dwarf or more upright varieties.

Right now, crabapple trees are just starting to bloom in our 2022 gardens. Most gardeners agree that few flowering trees can rival the charm of a crabapple tree in flower.

In Polish folklore, apple trees were considered dream trees. Sleeping under an apple tree was sure to cause a dream-filled sleep. And, placing an apple under a maiden’s pillow could induce a dream of her future husband.

In English folklore, crabapple seeds (called pips) were thrown into the fire on Valentine’s Eve while chanting your true love's name. If the pips explode, your love will be true and will last forever.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

A Naturalist's Book of Wildflowers by Laura Martin

This book came out in 2021, and the subtitle is Celebrating 85 Native Plants in North America.

Great topic.

Before I tell you about this book, I want to point out Laura's incredible talent. She got her degree in botany from the University of Georgia, and she has worked as a naturalist at Georgia's Callaway Gardens. She even has a certificate in botanical art and illustration from the New York Botanical Gardens. And get this — she's published 25 books.

When you see the cover of Laura's book, it's all the more special when you realize that she did all of the illustrations herself. Laura dedicated this book to her grandchildren, and I wanted to share with you what she wrote in the introduction because it gives us a little insight into Laura as a person.

She writes.

I have spent my entire life loving wildflowers. I grew up in the woods on the outskirts of the city and because my mother was a wildflower enthusiast, I became one too.

So we have another great example of the love of flowers, the love of gardening, being passed down from one generation to the next.


And then Laura continues.

I eventually acquired a bachelor's degree in botany and then a certification in botanical illustration. And the result is a naturalist book of wildflowers, celebrating 85 native plants of North America.

And the celebration features scientific text, interesting folklore, detailed botanical drawings and whimsical sketches I have learned to look at plants from many different angles. And I'm happy to share this perspective with you.


As a gardener, I know you are going to love Laura's book, but even if you aren't all that much into gardening, don't be bashful about cracking open this book. Laura introduces us to these plants in a very, very friendly fashion. She's got one little paragraph called just a little botany, and she writes,

Although it's not essential to know botany to appreciate wildflowers, it might make it a little more fun and interesting. And botany is just the study of plants.


It's that gentle, conversational tone that I think you're really going to like in Laura's book. There's one other aspect that I want to share with you about this book. Laura adds all these little images - these little doodles - in the margins. Laura also includes these incredible drawings of her subjects. She has the plant's name, and then underneath, in a script font, she has the Latin name for the plant. While the drawing of the plant is beautiful, of course, it is the text that she puts around the plant and the way that she places this information that I think makes these drawings extra unique.

For instance, when she's talking about the Bellwort at the very top, she says it's 12 to 20 inches high in a script font, making you feel like you're looking at somebody's scrapbook. These little snippets are just marvelous and full of information and Laura's gentle perspective that you won't find in many other books.

The publisher writes,

A charmingly illustrated, keepsake and guide to native wild plants of North America.


This book is truly a delight.

It's 288 pages of North American wildflowers in their myriad colors. By the way, Laura organized this book by plant color, which is so helpful. So if you have a blue garden or a pink garden, you'll be able to find the wildflowers of that color and then look up the ones you want to grow in your garden.

You can get a copy of A Naturalist's Book of Wildflowers by Laura Martin and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $8.


Botanic Spark

1963 Every year on this day, April 14th, Japan celebrates Drew Day in honor of Kathleen Drew-Baker, a British phycologist.

Phycology is the study of algae, and Kathleen was the first president of the British Phycological Society.  She was utterly devoted to learning everything about these often dismissed sea plants.

Although she was forced to give up lecturing at the University of Manchester after getting married (the college did not allow married women to work), Kathleen continued as an unpaid researcher.

Two decades later, in 1949, Kathleen figured out the mysterious life cycle of a red algae known as Welsh Porphyra ("POR-fer-ah") - commonly called laver ("LAY-vur"). Kathleen had tried repeatedly to grow laver in the lab to no avail. In a stroke of luck, she decided to toss some oyster shells in the bottom of the tank with the laver spores. Soon the oyster shells were covered in pink sludge. Unsure what to make of it, Kathleen feared she had contaminated her work. But she soon realized that the sludge was simply the juvenile part of the laver life cycle. The shells provided shelter for the seeds.

When Kathleen's discovery was published in Nature magazine, a Japanese biologist named Sokichi Segawa realized that she had probably just cracked the code on cultivating seaweed.

For centuries, Japan had harvested a sister variety of laver to make sushi. But the Japanese seaweed variety was getting harder and harder to source in the wild. It had all but disappeared after WWII. What the Japanese didn't realize was how important shells on the seafloor were to the seaweed lifecycle. American underwater mines from WWII, typhoons, and pollution meant that bivalves like oysters, scallops, and mussels were in scarce supply. Without the shells, the Japanese red seaweed called nori couldn't reproduce.

Kathleen's understanding of the seaweed lifecycle meant that the Japanese now knew how successfully farm nori seaweed, creating a stable supply for sushi. It also meant that Japanese fisherman could feed their hungry, recovering nation and make a living. Her discovery also led to the commercial practice of collecting oyster shells for seeding seaweed.

After Kathleen's work proved successful, Japanese nori fishermen took up a collection for a statue to honor Kathleen. But before she could sit for the artist, Kathleen died of cancer at 55.

On April 14, 1963, the Japanese unveiled a memorial to Kathleen - a slab of granite inset with a metal plaque with Kathleen's likeness that overlooks the Ariake Sea. Kathleen's scientific papers and graduation garb were buried on site. To this day, the Japanese lay an offering of seaweed at Kathleen's shrine every April 14th.  While the rest of the world is largely unaware of Kathleen Drew-Baker, in Japan, Kathleen is remembered as the Mother of the Sea


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