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1492 Birth of Pietro Aretino (“Pee-et-tro Air-ah-TEE-no”), Italian writer, poet, and blackmailer.
He was critical of the powerful and sympathetic to religious reformers. He once wrote,
Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.
1646 Birth of Charles Plumier, French priest and botanist.
He was born in Marseille and was regarded as one of the most important botanical explorers of his time.
Charles served as a botanist to King Louis XIV of France. He traveled to the New World many times, documenting plant and animal species. During his third expedition to the Greater Antilles, Charles discovered the Fuchsia triphylla on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (modern-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Charles named the fuchsia plant after the 16th-century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs. And because he named the Fuschia, Charles is sometimes referred to as the Father of the Fuchsia.
The Fuchsia has colorful upside-down blossoms that hang from the stems, and this is how Fuchsias get the common name Lady's Eardrops. The drooping habit is also reflected in the Irish word for Fuchsia - Deora Dé - which translates to “God's Tears.”
And it’s worth noting that the fruit of all the species of Fuchsia is edible. However, many Fuschia fruits are bland and have a terrible aftertaste. But the Fuschia variety Splendens has flavorful fruit and can be used to make jam.
In addition to the Fuchsia, Charles discovered and named both the Begonia and the Magnolia. Charles named the Begonia after Michel Begon, who was the governor of the French Antilles for three years, from 1682 to 1685. It was Begon who recommended Charles for the position of plant collector in the Caribbean to King Louis XIV. So this naming of the Begonia was a little payback by Charles to Michel Begon. On the other hand, the naming of the Magnolia was in recognition of the great botanist Pierre Magnol - who introduced the concept of plant families.
Carl Linnaeus and his wife were huge Plumier fans. They used Charles's artwork to make wallpaper for their home.
Today, Charles is remembered by the genus Plumeria. A tropical, the Plumeria grows in shrubs and trees. Plumeria is sometimes called the common name Frangipani. An Italian Marquis named Frangipani used Plumeria blossoms to create a perfume used to scent gloves during the 16th century.
1826 Birth of Peter Barr, Scottish nurseryman, plant hunter, and merchant.
Peter is credited as the man who popularized the daffodil. In America, Peter’s promotion of daffodils inspired a daffodil craze after the Civil War ended.
Over his lifetime, Peter bred over two million daffodils in his Surrey nursery, which earned him the moniker "The Daffodil King." Each spring, people would travel from all around to see thousands of daffodils representing over a hundred unique daffodil varieties blooming at Peter's nursery.
At one point, the Peter Barr daffodil - a white trumpet variety - commanded $250 per bulb.
During his seventies, Peter gave the nursery to his sons, and he went out and traveled the world in search of daffodils in Asia and South America.
After seven years of searching, Peter finally retired. He went home to his native Scotland, and once there, he pivoted away from daffodils and began cultivating primroses.
Two years before his death in 1909, Peter famously mused,
I wonder who will plant my grave with primroses?
Today, the Royal Horticultural Society awards the Peter Barr Memorial Cup for excellence in daffodils.
And in 2019, there was a Grand Blue Plaque Unveiling at Peter’s English nursery along Garratt Lane.
1849 On this day, Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Swiss philosopher, and poet, was in Geneva and wrote in his journal:
It is six years today since I last left Geneva. How many journeys, how many impressions, observations, thoughts, how many forms of men and things, have since then passed before me...
Three snowstorms this afternoon.
Poor blossoming plum trees and peach trees!
What a difference from six years ago, when the cherry trees, adorned in their green spring dress and laden with their bridal flowers, smiled at my departure along the Vaudois fields, and the lilacs of Burgundy threw great gusts of perfume into my face!
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
This book came out in 2021, and the subtitle is Heirloom Vegetable Recipes from Roughwood.
Of course, Roughwood is a reference to the Roughwood Seed Collection of heirloom food plants that William maintains at the historic Lamb Tavern in Devon, Pennsylvania.
William is an expert not only on gardening but also on food history. And he is a four-time winner of the prestigious Julia Child Cookbook Award.
Now, what I first noticed about this book is the gorgeous cover, which features a simple yellow plate with a beautiful tomato salad on it, and then that is set on an old table painted and patinaed with a very light teal. It's a gorgeous cover.
William creates recipes that are all about plants, and so in this book, you will find 80 seasonal recipes- everything from fresh salads and stir-fries to soups and fantastic baked goods, where the bounty of the garden harvest is the star of the show.
Now William has arranged this book to follow the seasons, which means you can dip in and out as appropriate and then head to the garden to pick the in-season produce needed to make these beautiful dishes that include items like Saffron Corn Soup. There's a Ramp Pesto, and wild harvest ramps are one of the hottest new trends in pesto over the past decade.
Now two things I always think of when I see a book by William Woys Weaver are heirloom gardening and herbs - and you'll find both of those featured in this cookbook.
This book is 208 pages of eighty recipes that take vegetables from the garden to the kitchen and the table.
1739 Birth of William Bartram, American botanist, artist, and naturalist known as The Flower Hunter.
The son of the Quaker botanist John Bartram, William - or Billy (as he was known to his family) - was the first American to pursue a life devoted to the study of nature.
Together, William and his father were the leading American plant collectors and horticulturists of their time. The two men explored colonial Pennsylvania and New York.
Now in his heart, William was an artist, and his nature art was eventually widely-acclaimed. But before William’s artistic success, his father, John, worried that Billy would end up a starving artist. And so, John attempted many times to no avail, to steer William toward other more lucrative endeavors.
Ultimately, John came around, and he and William went on their final adventure together in Florida. During the trip, John collected specimens while William wrote and sketched.
In a happy moment of discovery, John and William came upon a unique specimen, a tree that John named the Franklin tree after his dear friend Benjamin Franklin. The botanical name for the tree is Franklinia alatamaha ("frank-LIN-ee-ah ah-lah-tah-MAH-hah."), And if you're working with student gardeners, this is a fun name to teach them - just break it down for them into smaller parts: "allah-toe-ma- ha." Then put that together, Franklinia alatamaha.
Now, the discovery of the Franlinia Tree became a bit of a legacy for William Bartram. In a twist of fate, William revisited the tree later in life to collect seeds for propagation. Unbeknownst to William, his seed collection of the Franklinia would prove to be his most botanically significant endeavor. By the turn of the century in 1803, the Franklin tree was extinct in the wild. And so, all of the Franklin trees that are cultivated and prized in gardens and herbariums today are descended from those seeds that William Bartram collected and cultivated over 200 years ago.
And here's a little botanical fun fact: William Bartram was also the first person to describe a name, the Oakleaf Hydrangea - the hydrangea quercifolia. (Hydrangea quercifolia “kwer-sih-FOE-lee-ah”).
After his trip with his father, William returned to Florida to farm. This was another career move that worried his dad.
But In 1791, William's book Travels was published. In the book, William shared his 2,400-mile exploration of the American south. Travels became an immediate sensation in Europe, where people were over-the-moon curious about flora and fauna of the new world.
Finally, in BJ Healey’sbook, The Plant Hunters, there is a charming summation of William's lifestory:
Through his [book] Travels — one of the earliest and certainly the most finest record of American experience, landscape, and people in the eighteenth century; a book that achieved world-wide recognition and profoundly influenced Wordsworth, Coleridge, and many later writers — [William] more than proved himself a worthy son of the Old Quaker pioneer. John Bartram need not have been troubled in his later years, he would have been proud of Billy in the end.
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And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.